Earlier this morning I put out the audio and the video of a New Podcast Episode.
Last month I wrote a blog called “I Am Grateful for the Insight of the Other“. In many ways that essay opened some creative flood gates. It’s been the catalyst to much of my recent creative work, so I thought it might be interesting to talk about it on the podcast.
Realizing that November is the “National Month of Gratitude” prompted me to take a hard look at myself and my propensity to be “ungrateful”. I began to think, what would it look like for me to be more intentionally grateful? What would happen if if I made it a point to purposefully practice gratitude? What would I find? What would I see?
One of the first things that I found myself incredibly grateful for are the countless conversations I’ve had with so many inspiring people; people who have brought me to insights I would have never arrived at on my own, people who taught me so much about myself and the world.
I remain presciently grateful for the insight of the Other…
Everywhere we look we are told that who we are, what we have, and what we do is not enough. We are told that we need more, we need be more, we need to do more. And all too often these sentiments are expressed most ardently within ourselves to ourselves.
Usually, the loudest voice in the room telling me that I’m not enough is my own. As a result, we become afflicted by the disease of what Daniel Midson-Short calls “comparison-itis”.
In fact, not long ago I sent out a tweet admitting that the trap of “comparison” is one that I fall into often, actually “often” may be an understatement.
These unhealthy comparisons not only render us unappreciative of our living particularities, they also leave us feeling ungrateful.
As a result we overlook our own anomalous nature. We take our lives, and almost everything within them, for granted but, gratitude is a protest against the autocracy of comparison. Instead, it is a celebration of the “overlooked”, a commemoration of the “taken for granted”.
All the metrics and measurements, though helpful at times, are imaginary and ultimately inconsequential.
“Moving the needle” simply means that we’re making the effort to make it work.
Gratitude says that wherever our feet land as we walk upon our path is a landmark. Every move we make within the process is a milestone.
In that essay, I wrote that “Maybe gratitude is a kind of mutiny”, because it “refuses to be submissive or obedient”.
I didn’t think much about those lines at the time but, the imagery of gratitude as a mutinous activity, a rebellion against authority, a refusal to take orders, has really stuck with me.
The picture at the top of this post is proof of that admission. A couple days ago I sat down at my desk to test out some new brushes in Photoshop, and that picture is what arrived. I can’t say it came from “nowhere”. An image like that has been in my head for a while but, I didn’t plan on making it when I began doodling with the new brushes but, I’m grateful that it showed up anyway.
I suppose that also proves how rebelliously insubordinate “gratitude” is.
Gratitude is an active resistance against apathetic passivity. Gratitude subverts the status quo by refusing to see anything as “status quo” . It is a mutiny against the mundane. Through the treachery of thankfulness the mundane is elevated to a place of magnificence.
Our morning coffee becomes an Opus Dei, every commute becomes a pilgrimage. With profane gratuitousness everything becomes sacred…
What’s even more interesting is that we find things to be grateful for in unexpected places and in the strangest of forms.
I was walking my son to the bus stop, as I do every morning. We traversed the same crumbling asphalt road as we had every school day for almost two years. Nothing had changed. Everything was the same, and yet I saw something different. Maybe only because I was different. Maybe because “I saw” differently.
Stabbing upwards through the fractures and fissures of the road were these subversive blades of grass. In piercing their way through the pavement they had lacerated their way into a portion of my own experience. They were unapologetic in penetrating their way through the gravel and pitch of my mind.
On my walk back home, I stopped and took this picture:
I’ve spent what some might say is far too much time staring at this photo, staring at these blades of grass. There is something so bold, so defiant, so rebellious, about the way the foliage finds a way through the ordered obstruction of the asphalt. And yet, there is also something so graceful about its poise, balanced perfectly upon the edge of strength and vulnerability.
Maybe that’s what gratitude does. Maybe gratitude cuts through the breach of our concrete defenses. Maybe when our callousness begins to crumble just enough, the recalcitrance of grace and gratitude finds a way to reach through.
Maybe gratitude is obstinate. Maybe grace is insubordinate. Maybe gratitude is a kind of mutiny. Maybe, as Jay Baker says, “Grace is Anarchy“. Gratitude refuses to be submissive or obedient. Grace resists “staying in line” and objects to “staying in its place”.
The grace of gratitude says “fuck you” to the authority of the “No Trespassing” sign and finds a way to slip through the fence anyway. Sometimes we are cut deeply by the barbed-wire that stands between us and where we are told we are not allowed to go. With radical noncompliance we wear our scars with pride, knowing that the scars of grace are our gift to the world.
Francis Su explains that “our shared struggles” are opportunities for “extending and sharing grace”.
Sometimes its the seemingly crushing conditions that create the perfume of our existence, fragrance of our aliveness, a sweet savor unto our collective human condition.
I am grateful for the grace that grows through the cracks and crevices of our fractured Being.
I am thankful for gratitude found in unexpected places and in the strangest of forms…
Today marks the beginning of National Gratitude Month. I am a person guilty of harboring a multitude of character flaws but, if there is one thing I am especially guilty of it is being an ungrateful @$$hole. There’s a lot that hasn’t been going “well” for me lately, and I am a naturally “Glass half-empty” kind of guy but, I still have so much to be thankful for. While I can’t hope to radically alter my deeply ingrained habit of ingratitude in 30 days, I can make it a point to create spaces and opportunities to be more purposefully and intentionally grateful.
“When a person views the world only through his own experience, he divorces himself from the polarized flow of existence, that persistent dialogue between self and other, familiar and unfamiliar.”
I am grateful for Eric Wilson’s writing. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from it. Grateful that he was actually willing to be a guest on my podcast. And, I am so grateful for what I learned from the insights garnered from our conversation together.
When we fail to engage with the perspective of another, when we neglect the opportunity to see the world from an alternate view, we fail to see the fullness of the human experience, the fullness of the world, the fullness of “Being” itself.
Every one of us are on our own specific journey. Everyone knows something individually that we collectively don’t. Everyone has experienced something that I haven’t. Anytime we get to bridge the gap between ourselves and another person, it can only be fruitful, it can only be enlightening, it can only be insightful.
We live in an amazing time. The opportunities for connection and communication have never been more abundant, more alive, more vibrant, and more readily available. Kwame Anthony Appiah writes that “the worldwide web of information…means not only that we can affect lives everywhere but that we can learn about life anywhere”. Tim Harford explains that “the modern world gives us more opportunities than ever to forge relationships with people who do not look, act, or think the same way that we do.”
Every encounter with another person is an opportunity to get an insight that we didn’t have before, to get access to knowledge we wouldn’t have come across any other way.
The insight of the Other is insight into ourselves. Revealed in the portrait of the Other is a picture of who we are. To gaze into the eyes of the Other is to glimpse into the reality of Being. To begin to understand the Other is to begin to understand everything.
I am grateful for all the “Others” I’ve been lucky enough to meet and deeply encounter, people who have given me their time to have discussions that continue to teach me so much about myself. I am grateful for the insight of the Other…