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Jaime B's Blog

The Blessings of This Life and the Joys of the World to Come

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Once in a while, I remember all the good things I have not done anything to deserve, but enjoy nevertheless...

The only appropriate response to this is deep gratitude. The sheer generosity of our friends and loved ones is so precious, and we so often take it for granted or fail to repay it in kind, that we absolutely must remember to be grateful or risk losing our humanity altogether.

Even beyond human love and kindness, consider the beauty of the world, its rich color, sensuality, flavors, and aromas, its spectacular sunrises and sunsets that can fill our minds, if only we take the time to be surprised by joy! What a poor life it would be if we never saw life's possibilities and opportunities wide open to us just for the finding!

Now you're going to say that I'm some kind of sentimental sap, living in a fantasy land, a fool's paradise, looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. You'll tell me that I don't really see how people are out to screw me and take me for whatever they can get.

And I'll tell you that I'm not blind, and I'm nobody's fool. I'm not fool enough, in fact, to focus chiefly on what's wrong if I can't fix it, and I surely can't live other people's lives for them, or (beyond reasonably defending myself and others) influence the evil that's callously done every day. I would let myself be defeated and not be motivated to try to make the world a better place if the wonder of every act of kindness and the marvel of every lovely place and time didn't inspire me to love this precious gift as much as I possibly can.

The world could be so much better — yes, it's true. Better with more justice, kindness, caring, and generosity. Better with less exploitation, greed, cruelty, and violence. Yet if we do not see its essential goodness and bounty, why would we bother to make it a better place at all?

Hope and faith in better tomorrows are not empty luxuries, but the very stuff of humanity's aspirations and future happiness. Believe the world to be a flawed and corrupted place if you want, but in spite of a fairly long life and more than a few disappointments, I'm not buying that worldview.

For me, gratitude for the good things is not only pleasure, though it certainly is that; yet it's more than just that. It's the inspiration for the further joy of
accepting responsibility to pass it on by my own kindnesses and caring for others. Every gift I enjoy is an invitation to pass its joy on to others, to make sure they too have a chance to live a life that has thankfulness for love and beauty as its grounding and strength. I will never to allow any suffering or hardship life may hand me to rob me of the essential joy of being alive.

Just for fun, think of this: In Doug Adams's sci-fi series Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the fourth novel is named for the dolphins' message to humanity when they depart planet Earth as it's about to be destroyed to create a hyperspace bypass. Book four is called for the dolphins' message: So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish. Gratitude is, after all, the best good-bye any sentient being can express.

Updated 7th September 2011 at 08:02 AM by JaimeB

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Personal Reflections

Comments

  1. Diamondflame's Avatar
    Thanks for this timely lovely reminder, Jaime. I agree 100%. People tend to focus so much on on life's negatives that they often overlook the beautiful things that come free-of-charge. I used to be that way. It took the birth of my daughter to renew my sense of wonder and acknowledge the existence of infinite possibilities. Life is still very beautiful.
  2. mr. reasonable's Avatar
    I look forward to your posts, Jaime.

    I think consciously bringing a sense of gratitude and wonder into one's daily life is probably the most practical thing one can do. An open mind and and undefended heart give us a shot at experiencing, and contributing to, what is real. And I loved that book, thanks for all the fish, indeed
  3. ECaruthers's Avatar
    Thanks, Jaime,

    A couple of additional thoughts on our good luck:

    Luck is more important in our lives than most of us are comfortable admitting.

    Our actions are important. But we live in the world around us and that world provides both opportunities for our actions and constraints on them.

    Maybe the right way to express gratitude is with actions that increase the richness and variety in the world.
  4. JaimeB's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ECaruthers
    Thanks, Jaime,

    A couple of additional thoughts on our good luck:

    Luck is more important in our lives than most of us are comfortable admitting.

    Our actions are important. But we live in the world around us and that world provides both opportunities for our actions and constraints on them.

    Maybe the right way to express gratitude is with actions that increase the richness and variety in the world.
    I'd be the last to deny that I've been lucky in my life, in the usual sense of that word. I have had many wonderful opportunities for prosperity and learning. I could also say that I haven't always known when and how lucky I've been. I could have taken advantage of more good luck if only I'd realized at the time what opportunity there was and taken it. Unfortunately, I haven't aways been able to foresee how advantageous certain choices could have been; "Hindsight," as they say, "is 20-20."

    The odd thing about luck is that it depends so much on point of view. If I lose a twenty-dollar bill, that's bad luck for me, but good luck for the person who finds and keeps it. I'm certainly grateful for my good luck, but often I don't think about how that same eventuality may be disastrous for another. Yet, I think that kind of consciousness is vital for keeping an accurate moral calculus.

    So much in life is haphazard, or to put it another way, gratuitous. That is why I sense that good experiences of one's own carry a moral consequence of responsibility to others. Self-interest, even the enlightened kind, doesn't always meet that standard, in my understanding.

    Luck is great when it's good for me, but as the great Cicero reminds us, we have an obligation always to ask with his admired arbiter, Lucius Cassius, "Cui bono?" "For whose good?"

    Certainly increasing "the richness and variety in the world" is, as you point out, an effective approach to supporting goodness for all.
  5. queen cupcake's Avatar
    I just stumbled across this post while I was looking for something else and I am so glad I did! These thoughts are so beautifully and clearly expressed. I would like to print it and show it to my husband, if you do not mind. He is a bit cynical and depressed just now but has a sentimental and sweet nature. I think it would do him a world of good to read your words. Hugs & very best wishes, Elizabeth (Queen Cupcake)
  6. Primrose's Avatar
    Our awareness of mortality teaches us to enjoy the moment. To carry out acts of good, great and small.

    Yesterday, I found the body of a tiny hummingbird in the yard, fully intact. Clearly not a cat-kill. Perhaps he was killed in a mid-air duel, in which these birds are known to be fierce. Perhaps he hit a plate glass window.

    I picked him up in a Kleenex and he was still limp. What a tragedy; what a fragile little fellow. I marveled at his tininess, a perfection of aeronautical and avian creation. I said a prayer and disposed of his body in a wrapping in the trash as burying him would have invited cats into the yard and also the dogs.

    It's all part of a grander Plan, IMO. We should live for now, yet look to the beyond.
    Updated 7th September 2011 at 10:00 PM by Primrose
  7. dollars&scents's Avatar
    [QUOTE=Primrose;bt5583]Our awareness of mortality teaches us to enjoy the moment. To carry out acts of good, creat and small.

    Yesterday, I found the body of a tiny hummingbird in the yard, fully intact. Clearly not a cat-kill. Perhaps he was killed in a mid-air duel, in which these birds are known to be fierce. Perhaps he hit a plate glass window.

    I picked him up in a Kleenex and he was still limp. What a tragedy; what a fragile little fellow. I marveled at his tininess, a perfection of aeronautical and avian creation. I said a prayer and disposed of his body in a wrapping in the trash as burying him would have invited cats into the yard and also the dogs.

    It's all part of a grander Plan, IMO. We should live for now, yet look to the beyond.[/QUOTE]




    In the trash .... how horrible ! :shocked:
    Perhaps, God's creature deserved a better burial; and your focus should have been on that, not the inconvenience of your yard being invaded by cats and dogs.
    A plastic baggie would have confined any smell.
    Is man so self-centered ?
  8. Primrose's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dollars&scents
    In the trash .... how horrible !
    Perhaps, God's creature deserved a better burial; and your focus should have been on that, not the inconvenience of your yard being invaded by cats and dogs.
    A plastic baggie would have confined any smell.
    Is man so self-centered ?
    I find your reprimand harsh and self-righteous. And you have the nerve to call me self-centred. Judge not lest ye be judged.

    I did very much respect the life of this little creature. Ideally, I would bury him where his body would decay and his remains go back to the Earth; that is in God's plan. A plastic (unbiodegradable bag) would have harmed life on this Earth even more.

    My concern was for our dogs. You don't have all the facts and you judge me. For the record, for domestic dogs to eat wildlife infected with heaven-knows-what (ever heard of West Nile virus and dead birds??) would be unwise. I would not jeopardise their health for the sake of your pompous, self-righteous "burial."

    I gave this bird all the respect accorded to one deceased. I tenderly wrapped him up and said a prayer. I ached for the loss of one small, beautiful being of Creation. And for cats coming into the yard to scavenge on this buried bird had I simply dug a hole and put him in it? Those stray cats put their feces in our yard, turning it into a litter box, again jeopardising the health of our dogs. Great way for your dog to get parasites by exposing them to the feces of unknown animals.
    Updated 7th September 2011 at 10:13 PM by Primrose
  9. 's Avatar
    [QUOTE=dollars&scents;bt5585]In the trash .... how horrible ! :shocked:
    Perhaps, God's creature deserved a better burial; and your focus should have been on that, not the inconvenience of your yard being invaded by cats and dogs.
    A plastic baggie would have confined any smell.
    Is man so self-centered ?[/QUOTE]

    Um.......you do know that the bird is not in pain, whether in the trashcan or under inches of dirt. You also fail to see the consideration of the person who posted the response. They felt bad and marveled at how well constructed the bird was in life.

    They also took the time to wrap and discard the animal as opposed to leaving it rot in full view. You need to lighten up a notch.
  10. Mimi Gardenia's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dollars&scents
    In the trash .... how horrible !
    Perhaps, God's creature deserved a better burial; and your focus should have been on that, not the inconvenience of your yard being invaded by cats and dogs.
    A plastic baggie would have confined any smell.
    Is man so self-centered ?
    I really don't see how these actions by Primrose are self centered. She has acted with kindness and with practicality. I would have done the same for the little hummingbird. As Aromi said - lighten up a notch .
  11. kbe's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dollars&scents
    In the trash .... how horrible !
    Perhaps, God's creature deserved a better burial; and your focus should have been on that, not the inconvenience of your yard being invaded by cats and dogs.
    A plastic baggie would have confined any smell.
    Is man so self-centered ?
    A plastic baggie a better choice? Self-centered because of not using a hydrocarbon burial shroud? Do you secretly represent the petrochemical industry ..or perhaps the Flat Earth Society?
  12. Leesee's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by dollars&scents
    In the trash .... how horrible !
    Perhaps, God's creature deserved a better burial; and your focus should have been on that, not the inconvenience of your yard being invaded by cats and dogs.
    A plastic baggie would have confined any smell.
    Is man so self-centered ?
    Your reply seems unnecessarily harsh and combative. Perhaps you should choose your words more carefully next time.
  13. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Primrose
    Our awareness of mortality teaches us to enjoy the moment. To carry out acts of good, great and small.

    Yesterday, I found the body of a tiny hummingbird in the yard, fully intact. Clearly not a cat-kill. Perhaps he was killed in a mid-air duel, in which these birds are known to be fierce. Perhaps he hit a plate glass window.

    I picked him up in a Kleenex and he was still limp. What a tragedy; what a fragile little fellow. I marveled at his tininess, a perfection of aeronautical and avian creation. I said a prayer and disposed of his body in a wrapping in the trash as burying him would have invited cats into the yard and also the dogs.

    It's all part of a grander Plan, IMO. We should live for now, yet look to the beyond.
    Your heart is in a good place, Primrose.

    If I can be so brash as to speak for our animal friends, they are likely less concerned with their own mortality than we are with ours, and probably not at all with their final rest. What probably concerns them most is that we remember them, as you have done. The simple fact is that animals are not so worried about dying, as they are with not having had the chance to have lived.

    The best thing we can do is to remember them. Create places for them to live, and keep the existing places clean and welcoming to them. Leave out some seed, and maybe even some sugar water for the hummingbird's children. Try to be as much of a blessing to them, as they are to us. Give up just a little of our great claim on the Earth, so they can have some, too.

    The hummingbird's body - dust to dust. But if you let its beauty and spirit in, like you have done, that part lives on and grows. Like you say, a grander plan.
  14. JaimeB's Avatar
    I have read some of these posts thinking that the original message of my own post may have been drowned out by controversy, but now I see that I was wrong. The storm came and went, and ended with the sunshine of Red's beautiful and serene words.

    I know hummingbirds here in San Francisco where I live, and they seem to be made of brave energy and fierce dedication to life. It would seem to me that death might well be of little concern to them, caught up as resolutely as they are in the fervor of living. If we lived our lives as much in the moment as they do, perhaps death would seem inconsequential to us as well, for all that we are so wrapped up with fear for our own ending.

    “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” In the speech which Shakespeare puts in Prospero's mouth in The Tempest, the true measure of our life is compassed, and even for the greatest among us, in comparison with having lived, death can seem truly inconsequential.
    Updated 8th September 2011 at 06:06 AM by JaimeB
  15. Primrose's Avatar
    Jaime, I was struck with the title of your original post. If we live well in this life, the beyond does not hold fear for us.

    Gratitude was here, too, for the little hummingbird--in all of his minute perfection--taught me again the perfect order of all things--finite as life itself, and infinite as the spirit.
  16. AnthonyDG's Avatar
    I'd like to start by thanking Jaime for his blog entry, many of which I really have enjoyed. And Primrose - your hummingbird story was touching. What I mainly got from it was just how how truly delicate and fragile life is... but how spirit is infinite and really the true essence of something, beyond that finite vessel which is the body.

    Quote Originally Posted by Primrose
    Jaime, I was struck with the title of your original post. If we live well in this life, the beyond does not hold fear for us.

    Gratitude was here, too, for the little hummingbird--in all of his minute perfection--taught me again the perfect order of all things--finite as life itself, and infinite as the spirit.
  17. Leesee's Avatar
    JaimeB, your post is just lovely. I've been thinking about gratitude lately, and all that I have to be grateful for, but you expressed your thoughts in a way that really made sense to me, so thank you.

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