Whether you are in some church or whether you are reading a holy book or any text on the nature of the divine and how one carries or behaves themselves in this vale of tears, it is common to hear about the need to love. We’re told to love our fellows as ourselves. We are told to love God. We are told of the power of love and all of us have some experience with love, though it is often confused with passion on the one hand and attachment on the other.
Love seems to be the simplest thing. As simple as it may appear it’s a feeling that no waterfall of words will ever completely describe. Still, within the seeming simplicity of love, there is a complexity that passes beyond the range of human understanding. This is especially true if we are talking about real love and not the many personalized variations that are fraught with limitation and compromise.
On the occasions when, in my experience, I have felt real love, it was a kind of piercing sweetness that rose from a well of sorrow intertwined with joy. I can’t accurately describe it except to say it was unlike anything I had mistaken for it along the way. It always provoked tears and an ecstasy of sensation. It always left me feeling bereft when it had gone and go it did. I’d not earned the right to possess it. It may be that it cannot be possessed but only experienced; still... it had an elusiveness like that of painter’s light. Whatever the brush may capture it has already turned to something new... but it is always the same and unmistakable.
Well, this isn’t about love anyway. It might be about love but it would be indirectly so. I’m not sure how I’m going to get to where I want to go with what I hope to say. I’ll have to trust that what I cannot say knows all too well how to speak for itself.
Lately I’ve been more aware of gratitude than I have anything else. I’ve come to see that gratitude is possibly the most overlooked and underestimated quality a human heart may possess. The feeling of gratitude that I am talking about is very much like what was previously said about love, with the exception that it is not so elusive and can be maintained without the fear that it will depart.
My gratitude is not for things that I may imagine I possess. It is mostly based on things I know and feel. I’m grateful that I can know certain things. I am grateful that I can feel certain things.
It is interesting how some emotions are always accompanied by others, as if they were companions who are never far away and dependent on each other as well. For instance, I’ve never experienced joy when there was not a sense of contentment to begin with. It seems that contentment arrives first and during the period of its presence, joy arrives.
Gratitude has companions also. It seems like real gratitude is always accompanied by a sense of giving and letting go. There is this impulse to scatter ones self to the four winds whenever gratitude is great. Humility is often in the company of gratitude. I often think that these higher emotions are much like angels who wander the worlds according to an inexplicable magnetism set up within the hearts of the willing.
Gratitude, like love, is a very simple thing and also impossible to define or to fix. I’ve seen gratitude grow from one emotion into another, like spiraling caducei changing tenor and color at every level on the way... or something like ethereal DNA whose twining promise is exponentially greater than any expression it will ever make.
I suspect there are many mysteries hidden in gratitude. I sense immortality there and an aura of protection which leads to contentment which results in the appearance of joy. I suspect joy then turns into love and pierces every dark place until there is no barrier or defense against an absolute and trusting surrender to the truth about ourselves.
What that truth may be is similar to the things that great teachers can never say. This is why there are so many words and so little understanding. This is why we can read so many holy writs and mystery texts and never get the point at all. There is some disconnect between the intellectual apprehension of concepts and the experience of their meaning. It’s like that comment about becoming as a little child. There’s no way the mind is ever going to get the point.
Lately I have found myself lying in bed at night, probing in my thoughts when something wonderful occurs. The first time it happened, I was very surprised. Where so many times in the past my journey would be halted or turned in a direction I had not wished to go, this time a presence appeared and gathered together all of the disparate portions of myself and made them into one being. Instantly I could go anywhere and there was a confidence of movement and an assurance that I’d never encountered before. It no longer even mattered where I was going. Any way I might go was the same as another. It was the movement itself that was miraculous.
I thought it was surpassing wonderful but I had no illusion it would come again. I just chalked it up as one of those strange anomalies that happen now and then and which I don’t see a second time. But it has returned now several times and I am thinking it might come again.
Like love and gratitude there was so much more in it than what I can express. It was like being someone else. It was like freedom. There was also the sense that anything I might wish for was made real by thinking about it when I was in this place. It didn’t make me wish for anything. It was enough that there was the impression it was so.
Nothing I have ever read has defined or explained the way this felt. Then again, nothing I have ever read has defined or explained gratitude or love either.
The idea keeps coming to me that the conscious light which made us, appreciates gratitude more than anything else. It sometimes seems now that gratitude guarantees a reason to be grateful. There is some deep and marvelous magic hidden here and I sense that it is much more than what little I have encountered so far.
Nothing in the world seems important compared to this. All of the uncertainty and trouble of the world is dissolved by it. None of it matters. And it is free for the taking, or so it seems. It may not be entirely free. It could be that you have to take some steps and change some things before it will appear... but it happened; whatever happened, without my knowing what needed to be changed or what steps had to be taken.
I am growing more convinced that you just can’t learn enough or do enough to arrive at a place where you can compel it to operate. It operates according to its own mysterious nature. I am left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and gratitude alone is a kingly gift for those who recognize its value. The sense of well being that it brings makes all of the world’s enticements seem to have no value at all. I think you will either know what I am talking about or you won’t but I suspect we all are discovered by it at some point and not due to anything we studied or accomplished on the way.
'I Got a Feeling' is track no. 4 of 12 on Visible's 2007 album 'Almost A Capella'