Gratitude So Close to the Bone of Life

Craig Jones 

It’s November once again, seriously autumn, and the year is seriously elderly and seriously coming undone. Can a year be in its senescence?  We’re in the month of Thanksgiving, by fiat of Abraham Lincoln. This nation will by God stop and celebrate all the good things. It’s a habit, even if practiced without that much attention paid to anything but food or football.

What a legacy from our 16th President from his own grateful soul and whatever other confluence of factors caused it. It’s right that we approach it in the same spirit as Indigenous Peoples Day (AKA Columbus Day) and know that what we have has come at a great cost to many people. I am grateful for a day when more people pay some attention to being thankful and remember to focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have. That is the simple heart of a gratitude practice, after all.

In another part of my writing life I publish a blog twice a week called Notes From the GratiDude–It’s all about gratitude and the subtitle is “An Inquiry Into a Gratitude-Inspired Life.”  It’s an inquiry, because I’m not sure I have any answers, but I sure have a lot of questions. I’m on a path and I like to imagine that readers are looking over my shoulder as I reflect about being on that path. Sometimes, just like the Dude in The Big Lebowski, I lose my shit, whether I am the GratiDude or not.

What’s inspirational about the Dude is that he can lose his shit and he’s OK about it then and he’s OK about it the next day, too, when he’s got his shit back together, when “the Dude abides.” That’s one reason The Big Lebowski is often listed as one of the great Buddhist movies ever made.

I was reading Dostoevsky’s Notes From The Underground at the time I was working on a possible name for the blog. I’d come up with a couple that were already taken and I was musing on it when I began to focus on the “Notes From the” part. I like The Dude (“El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing”) and kind of fancied myself being like that. Something clicked about changing the second “T” to “D” in gratitude and I was off and running.

On February 9, 2009, I began writing daily in what I called a gratitude journal. I had no clear idea of what form to give it, how long I would continue, or a really big why, in the service of which, I was doing it. I’d always liked the idea of a devotional practice in principle, but what actually made me sit down and start doing it was really more like sound business advice. I’m not proud of this, but I originally started doing it because I was under the impression that living a life of gratitude and keeping a journal would help me become more financially secure, maybe even wealthy. I don’t think it was from the purest of motives.

People wiser than I, with respect to money and overall abundance, seemed to think it worked and recommended it. The form and guiding spirit have morphed over these years and, from time to time, friends and family suggested that this gratitude work might be useful and inspirational to a wider circle of readers and seekers. Thus, the blog.

I think it is important to stress, repeatedly, that this GratiDude is a learner, an inquirer. One favorite story of mine is about how the founder of judo, when near death, asked to be buried with his white belt, signifying the rankest beginner, because he wanted to be remembered as a student.

Thanksgiving occurs to this Dude like I’ve been on these nice quiet side streets for 364 days meandering in my thoughts and poking at gratitude deeply and slowly and in whatever way I choose, but I’m now approaching a very busy, well-trafficked five-laner each way with a seventy mile-per-hour speed limit. Suddenly – for a time – gratitude and thanks are everywhere. This is rush hour, commuter hour for gratitude.

Author Regina Sara Ryan wrote that: “Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true, that it instantly stops the rational mind, and all its planning and plotting.” It would be a win if we could all get to that personal place, close to the bone and find a personal, quiet place of gratitude all this month, not just Thanksgiving Day.

There will be a lot of gnawed bones at tables all around the land at the end of that Thanksgiving. My challenge to us all is to also gnaw on one of a different kind.

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