October 19, 2012

Gratitude without god

When I first heard of this idea, a decade or more ago, I was in a psychological place where I was learning more and more about the idea of gratitude.

But, at the same time, I was pretty well down the road to my secularist, contra-metaphysical philosophical naturalist stance of today. I had tried “working with” ideas of “spirituality” but found what I was seeing promoted under that guise was New Agey-type metaphysics that, even if technically not religious, was indeed metaphysical and impossible to square with my re-emerging philosophical naturalism.

But, I was still trying to wrestle with this issue.

Having heard the phrase “an attitude of gratitude” in both New Age-type settings and from traditional ministers, and it being, for various reasons, an idea that I agreed with, I was trying to figure out how to be grateful if there wasn’t anyone to whom to be grateful.

Finally, I realized that I was mentally enshackled by the New Agey “present situations” that I had recently been in, plus my childhood religious preacher’s kid background.

Instead, why couldn’t I simply have an “attitude of gratitude” without a personal object for my gratitude?

And, so I do today. Little mental tools such as reminding myself of three good things that have happened for/to me today, especially if I had an active part in any of them, help this process.

The new job I have is reason to be grateful. I don’t have to listen to a boss asking me to resign (and himself not being grateful for me not doing so, since another person did leave a week after I would have completed my 30 days notice), threaten to “forget” my paycheck, or other things. I have work that’s fairly easy, still OK on pay, and fairly non-stressful while leaving open a growth curve.

I have the possibility of thinking about new work-creative outlets with the “timing” of the economy continuing to improve, as seems likely, albeit still slowly.

I have a life free from debt, the ability to live frugally without living stingily. That includes being a smart grocery shopper and knowing how to cook healthily while on a budget.

I’m grateful for modern medicine, including psychological counseling and medications as needed. Being a methodological and philosophical naturalist, I’m grateful for the scientific mindset behind it.

I’m grateful for the Internet. I’m grateful for the skeptical, critical thinking ability to recognize the dark side of the Internet itself, as well as seeing through most all of the spam, urban legends and such to which the Internet has given impetus.

Anyway, I don’t need to show you all my “gratitude list,” though I do believe journaling like this is a helpful psychological tool.

Let’s get back to my main point. Just as one can be moral without god, religion or metaphysically-oriented spirituality (karma is just as evil a “stick” as hell), one can be grateful as a state of being without needing a good to whom to tell that.

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