Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Creating gratitude

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David at Raptitude has another good post:

As a kid, whenever I stayed for supper at certain friends’ houses, I wasn’t sure what to do when they prayed.

My family didn’t say grace, but I knew a bit about the ritual from reading the Family Circus. I knew you were supposed to look down and say amen at the end, so I did.

I was familiar with the idea of God—how he made the world and watched over it, and all that. But I found it unlikely he would intervene in the pedestrian matters of cooking and groceries. Still, it made as much sense as Santa Claus and the impossible logistical feats attributed to him, so I went through the motions in the way kids do.

By the time I became an edgy teenager, I’d learned from USENET newsgroups that religion had caused all the ills of society. So I went from playing along with the grace ritual to silently resisting. I still looked down at my hands, but I didn’t interlace my fingers, and refused to say amen. It’s embarrassing to remember that phase.

“Grace isn’t really religious,” a formerly religious co-worker said to me years later. We had picked up junk food to eat on the drive to the next jobsite. It was probably the unhealthiest meal possible—energy drinks and 7-11 butter tarts—and I had joked that we should say grace.

“Yeah you don’t have to believe the food came from the Lord. All they’re saying is, ‘Before we eat this food, let’s remember that we could have no food.’”

This might not be so, in other words. This thing you have—this meal, this bed, these clothes, this friend—if it’s possible to have it, it’s possible not to have it. If you take a moment to imagine not having it, the good fortune of having it is no longer lost on you.

His clear thoughts on the matter helped me understand what was so compelling about certain obscure gratitude practices I’d meanwhile discovered on my own. They’re all based on imagining nice things disappearing.

Some nights, once I was comfortably in bed, I would imagine my bed disappearing around me and dropping me onto the bare floor. A moment later, the whole house would go, depositing me, in my underwear, onto the cold, wet grass.

I’d imagine this scenario in vivid detail. The dirt and dampness, the dead grass stuck to my arms. After a minute or so, the daydream would break, and the warmth and comfort of the covers—the happy reality of where I really was—would hit me like a truck.

I’d do this on a smaller scale too, such as . . .

Continue reading.

Do read the whole post. Later in the column:

If you do the same exercise not with socks but with your loved ones, the effect is so strong it might make you cry. If I could impress a single one of my weird ideas on the people of the world, it would be this practice, which I’ve written about many times:

You’ll need a moment in which you’re with a loved one, and they’re talking to someone else, doing a crossword, or otherwise not directly engaging with you.

Whatever they’re doing, quietly observe them doing it, paying attention to their unique mannerisms, voice, and presence.

Here’s the part that will make you cry. Try to see this moment as though it’s actually in the past, and this person is gone now. You’re remembering this one ordinary moment, in perfect detail, from that precious window of time when your lives still overlapped.

It’s important that it’s an ordinary moment, because those are the kinds of moments that often seem neutral in value. Abundant and unremarkable. You might be tempted to spend it checking your phone.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 February 2020 at 8:48 am

Posted in Daily life

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