Giving Thanks

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift
.

Mary Oliver Contemporary American poet

As we look back into the tunnel of darkness that we are cautiously tiptoeing out of, one step at a time, the overwhelming emotion that many of us are experiencing, is that of thankfulness. We are grateful to be fortunate enough to have come out of a very dark and difficult period to face a new day.

The last year-and-a-half has led most of us to re-evaluate our life and our priorities. It has humbled us to be grateful for what we have, rather than always aspiring for what  we do not have. It has opened our senses and sensibilities to the smaller joys of living, and simply, just to count our blessings.

Well before the unprecedented pandemic taught us how to look for, and appreciate, the small rays of light in dark skies, wise people had recognised the power of gratitude. In 1965, during a Thanksgiving gathering at the International East-West Center in Hawaii, Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual leader and meditation teacher, had suggested that a day be designatedwhen the entire world came together for the message of thanks. After the meeting in Hawaii, many attendees began marking Gratitude Day in their own countries on the autumnal equinox in September. In the following years, Gratitude Day became bigger and bigger, and in 1977 the United Nations Meditation Group requested a formal resolution to give recognition for World Gratitude Day to be celebrated every year on 21 September.

The ideal of World Gratitude Day is to give people the opportunity to offer personal gratitude, but also to remember that gratitude is an essential emotion that should be universally shared.

While we usually think of giving thanks to people for all the happy things, we also need to think of situations and experiences that may have seemed difficult or painful, but that have taught us something, and made us wiser and stronger. This is a gift that makes us realise that no one person is an island, and that we are all interconnected in one way or another. Gratefulness shapes how we relate to each other, and to our circumstances. It stems out of generosity, compassion, and respect…towards those things that nurture peace.

Feeling and expressing gratitude imbues both the giver and the receiver with a sense of peace. When the emotion transcends the personal to embrace the universal, it could be the first step towards a peaceful global order. Perhaps this is what prompted the United Nations to also designate 21 September as the International Day of Peace–a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace. In a time when so many parts of the world continue to be ravaged by so much violence, in all its explicit and implicit forms, the theme for the United Nations International Day of Peace this year is “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world”. This reminds us to be grateful for what we may be fortunate to have, as individuals and as communities and nations, and to join hands for a world that is more equitable, inclusive, sustainable and healthy.

Human memory is short. Even as we rapidly try to regain the “old normal” and the climb back onto our treadmills and into the rat races, this is a good week to remind ourselves to give thanks for the new day, and all that it may bring. 

As the Sufi poet Rumi beautifully puts it:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–Mamata

Living Together in Peace

In 1900 the poet Rabindranath Tagore dreamt of a world that has “not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls…a world where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.” Several generations of students (including yours truly) recited the stirring lines with passion.

In 1971 John Lennon imagined a world where “There’s no countries…Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.” A whole generation of young people (including yours truly) joined the chorus in a spirit of optimism and hope.

Sadly the world seems to have gone in the completely opposite direction. Today people seem to exist in a state of war…not just a war between nations but an insidious war between every kind of difference imaginable—colour and creed, race and religion, gender and age…what you wear and what you eat… Anything to kill or die for.

What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”  Albert Einstein

Imagine—the United Nations has to dedicate a special day (16 May) as the International Day of Living Together in Peace. And to remind us that living together in peace is all about accepting differences and having the ability to listen to, recognize, respect and appreciate others, as well as living in a peaceful and united way.

Peace Poem

If there is to be peace in the world

There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations

There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities

There must be peace between neighbours.

If there is to be peace between neighbours

There must be peace at home.

If there is to be peace at home

There must be peace in the heart.

Author Unknown

 

If only…..

 

–Mamata