I’ve been reading Radical Gratitude by Mary Jo Leddy. The book is rich in insight, so there may be more than one post here based on her thoughts.
“[This book] is about liberation that begins with a sense of gratitude for the most ordinary and taken-for-granted realities.”
Mary Jo Leddy, Radical Gratitude
In Leddy’s analysis, our society and most of us who live in it are held in a “captivity of craving for more”. She calls the result a “culturally induced dissatisfaction” that transforms us at a deep level of our being. We become convinced that:
- I don’t have enough
- I am not enough
- I am not good enough
Who among us has not experienced a dark night of the soul when doubts like these force their way into our consciousness?
Western culture tells us that there is only one cure for not enough, and that is more. More gadgets, more food, more friends, more love, more exercise, more spiritual awakening; each of us has at least one weak spot in our life that would benefit from more of something. Our economy works by creating dissatisfaction — wants and needs — through advertising and then selling us something to fill the gap. But whatever we buy is never enough, so we’re launched on the cycle again and again.
Leddy’s proposition is that the only cure for dissatisfaction is the liberation that comes from radical gratitude, which she says begins when we stop taking life for granted.
My wife and I are blessed to live in a neighbourhood of wonderful neighbours. Lately the tranquillity of our little corner of suburban Eden has been disrupted by road construction. It began about 6 weeks ago and is scheduled to be completed by the end of August, but no one is betting the farm on that date. The heavy equipment and dump trucks start up by 7:00 a.m. and rarely shut down before 5:30 p.m. It’s noisy and dusty beyond description. Because we live on a dead end, there’s only one way in and out, and traffic is often delayed by the excavation.
On Saturday night some neighbours wandered over to join us on our deck, and inevitably the conversation turned to the construction project. After a few minutes of predictable complaining, one of the women said, “Won’t it be wonderful to have new sewers, sidewalks and a smooth road surface?” Another chimed in, “And haven’t the crew been great? They’re so patient and polite, and they worked through that awful heat and humidity last week.” Someone else said, “How lucky are we to live in a society where, when our water is shut off for a few hours, it comes back on and it’s as drinkable as it was before!” All of these comments were made without any prompting from me.
This is why I love the people who live near us. Our neighbours have an attitude that does not take roads and sewers and clean water for granted. They appreciate the construction workers (most of whom don’t look or talk like the people you sit next to at church) who labour on our behalf under a hot sun. They are grateful to live in a municipality that provides us with all this (and much more) at the cost of a few thousand dollars a year in property taxes.
Do you have a story about finding gratitude where you least expected it?