Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Miracles and Gratitude

My neighbor’s grandson was saved by a medical miracle, or so the mother claimed. 

I read recently that gratitude is the practice for spirituality. 

I use to tell my students that it was a miracle that we have a shallow depth of field when the lens is wide open, because otherwise it would be hard to focus. Now that doesn’t matter because of autofocus.

Miracles are not rational. You need to produce three miracles to become a saint.

I found an old book at the University of Chicago libraries that I read over and over again. I was intrigued by those events that contradicted the laws of nature. I was surprised that the Jesuit/Buddhist teacher Robert Kennedy said that G_d doesn’t mess with laws of nature. And Einstein famously said that G_d doesn’t play dice with the universe.

I’ve come to see almost everything as a miracle. So much in my life seems like it is a long shot. I can’t think of anything that isn’t a miracle. The fact that I can type this post, and have it appear on my phone so that I can reread it as I’m riding a bus to hear a Dylan Thomas poetry reading is a miracle. Actually a succession of miracles. Yes we can explain these miracles. We can say that the bus is possible because we discovered the wheel and the combustion engine. And rubber and glass. They are all miracles. The fact that Dylan Thomas lived. Life on Earth. Earth. All stupendous miracles.

Gratitude seems connected with the idea of recognizing miracles. Taking gifts as something commonplace is rejecting there specialness. I hear a baby cry in the other room. A baby that was once the size of the tip of a needle. Someday he’ll write poetry or build skyscrapers. A skyscraper coming from the tip of a needle. And if I hadn’t married my wife he might have never landed on Earth 45 years later. 

Such a chance operation, as Cage would call it. See: “Chance Operations are methods of generating poetry independent of the author’s will.” Ha, do we think we are in control? I’m sure Cage knew better than believing that we could really will things to happen. A delusion. When we learned that the unconscious decides before the conscious mind realizes it then we see that we may be driving the car, but we don’t determine where it is going. It has a mind of its own. Another miracle.

But what about evil? Like stubbing your toe or worse. Do we have gratitude for that too? Is that sadism? Do we reject the gift because if doesn’t stay new and perfect forever? Or do we honor it in all its permutations?

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