Ok, this morning I sat down to meditate, as usual, nothing extraordinary but it was during this particular session that a long forgotten word arrived without questioning.
It really sparked my curiosity.
Have you ever felt it? Gratitude? Feels good, doesn’t it? In a good way, you feel the “full” in the word “grateful”.
By the end of this article, I hope I can make you understand the paramount importance of gratitude. For yourself, for your family and for the world.
Some context first.
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. ”
This quote is hard to understand, especially in the 21st century. Try to imagine a person happy and contented with “just what he has” when there is so much stuff we can get. There hasn’t been any time in human history in which we were able to get and do so many things.
How can you not want to have every new thing, trip or activity that is rubbed on your face literally every time you look at your phone, on your friend’s phone or the billboard? Facebook ads, youtube ads, mouth to mouth ads. We live in the age of advertising.
Mediocre, would be the word used to describe a person happy with what he has and nothing more.
But I think, that thinking this way, is missing the point entirely.
What is “more” exactly?
The following text was written by Alan Watts in 1987 (think about this when reading it).
Thus the “brainy” economy designed to produce this happiness is a fantastic vicious circle which must either manufacture more and more pleasures or collapse—providing a constant titillation of the ears, eyes, and nerve ends with incessant streams of almost inescapable noise and visual distractions. The perfect “subject” for the aims of this economy is the person who continuously itches his ears with the radio, preferably using the portable kind which can go with him at all hours and in all places. His eyes flit without rest from television screen, to newspaper, to orgasm-with-out-release through a series of teasing glimpses of shiny automobiles, shiny female bodies, and other sensuous surfaces, interspersed with such restorers of sensitivity—shock treatments—as “human interest” shots of criminals, mangled bodies, wrecked airplanes, prize fights, and burning buildings. The literature or discourse that goes along with this is similarly manufactured to tease without satisfaction, to replace every partial gratification with a new desire.
For this stream of stimulants is designed to produce cravings for more and more of the same, though louder and faster, and these cravings drive us to do work which is of no interest save for the money it pays—to buy more lavish radios, sleeker automobiles, glossier magazines, and better television sets, all of which will somehow conspire to persuade us that happiness lies just around the corner if we will buy one more.
Sounds familiar? This was in 1987, the internet was just starting.
We live in a frenzy for “more” all the time.
We operate, indeed, by thinking that happiness is “just around the corner”. Happiness is sold as the ultimate commodity, along with sex.
Not being happy, in fact, in today’s society, is something to be ashamed of, Black mirror depicted it just perfectly.
Once I have sushi, I’ll be happy, once I’ve got that phone, I’ll be happy, once I get that job, then I’ll be happy. There is always something more, a vague promise of happiness and we fall every single time for it.
This is called the Hedonic treadmill (hedonic adaptation) and is perfect, just perfect for our economy and especially for Facebook or Instagram which function purely on this principle.
Hedonic adaptation states that the levels of happiness of a person do not vary with positive or negative effects in his life, the person will stay at the same level of happiness even if he earns more money, he will just adapt to his new (richer) situation and will want more and more in a never-ending cycle of “hedonic adaptation”. You are adapting, constantly to your environment. This is why the endless scrolling functions so well.
We are continually running for the carrot.
This may sound funny, but really, do you find it funny?
I mean, scientists at Google and Facebook are working for you to keep chasing the carrot and feel bad for not playing the game. Kind of depressing isn’t it? Is this what life is all about? Chasing the carrot (iPhone) all throughout our lives? Is this the only shitty dream of existence there is?
But is there any escape, are there any more ways to live?
Seneca, please mate, we need some advice.
“It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor. ”
Again, what did Seneca mean by saying this?
The man who knows he has enough and is contented with his lot is rich, he is already living in abundance, wherever his stage in life may be. He can give himself space to actually live instead of waiting for something to happen to start living.
The man who craves more (as ambitious as he may be) is poor because he is living in scarcity, he needs more to start living and therefore, never lives until he realizes his paradoxical situation. The trap keeps our society in constant scarcity.
So, what am I implying here? Drop everything? Stop wanting nice stuff?
No, not at all, go buy everything you want. Just don’t let “stuff” rule your life, because you will, surely, fall into the trap.
The stoics coined the perfect term for “stuff”, the indifferents.
There are things that matter and things that do not. Your will, your capacity for action and your ability to exert power over your own life matters. That is what matters, everything else is indifferent, yes, it’s nice to have “stuff”, but that is not the point.
Let a man then know his worth, and keep things under his feet. Let
him not peep or steal, or skulk up and down with the air of a charity-boy, a
bastard, or an interloper, in the world which exists for him. But the man in
the street, finding no worth in himself which corresponds to the force which
built a tower or sculptured a marble god, feels poor when he looks on these.
To him a palace, a statue, or a costly book have an alien and forbidding air,
much like a gay equipage, and seem to say like that, ‘Who are you, Sir?’ Yet
they all are his, suitors for his notice, petitioners to his faculties that they
will come out and take possession. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gratitude is the way out.
What if I told you that gratefulness can be applied towards anything?
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Everything that happens, is a motive for gratefulness. This requires courage, in good circumstances and in bad, we can practice gratefulness, for everything contributes to our advancement.
What happens with gratitude is a change of mindset.
Gratitude makes you feel complete, it also makes you feel appreciative, it increases your presence.
When you are living in the trap, you are not present, you are always thinking of something to satiate that infinite thirst, anxiety is the modus operandi, always looking for something in the future to happen, too afraid of living with whatever is happening in the moment. This fear strips us of the capacity to catch opportunity and notice it when it presents.
When we are present we are open to possibility and opportunity. It’s obvious, isn’t it? If you are grateful for everything that happens, you turn the world upside down, you can be creative, you no longer need “stuff” to cover for the lack of courage to appreciate the opportunities you are given.
By now we can begin to understand who is richer. If you are grateful, you are living in a world of opportunity and possibility, when you are ungrateful, you are constricting yourself into a little hell of “stuff” and never-ending pursuit. There is always something that you can do, always, but if you are not grateful enough to appreciate the opportunity that is presenting to you, you will never be able to grasp it.
Complaining never helped anyone.
In the trap, you are needy and desperate, whereas in gratitude you are irradiating good energy.
It is rather obvious that we are in need of a revolution. The revolution we need does not need war and blood but it does require that we change our minds about what we think is important and what is not.
At this rate, we are going to end with everything dear to us. The hedonic treadmill is literally ending with the world, our lives and the relationship we have with others. This trap can be observed in anxiety levels, alcohol and drugs addiction and general levels of unhappiness.
The things that we think are going to make us happy are not doing its job.
It’s frustrating because, at the same time, it’s not that complicated. It’s not expensive either.
Changing our mindsets from ungratefulness and bitterness to gratitude and betterment requires individual effort. It’s just a “click”, just an “Aha! moment”.
It’s easy to forget this while living in the hedonic world, but practicing gratitude and aiding ourselves with the greats will slowly but surely make this world a better place.
I do feel the need to share the article from my friends in The Daily Stoic, superb, here it is: The daily art of giving thanks
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