Thinking of Gratitude and its purpose and place in life, I took up the book of essays by M. B. Theobald, The Triple Ply of Life, and opening it at the essay entitled Wed Fate, which title, by the way, seems in itself an inspiration,—my eyes met the sentence,
While at first glance one may be inclined to qualify so bold an assertion, translating the sentence into, "Gratitude is the passport to the joyous life." Looking deeper, the necessity for such qualification may disappear, for it becomes certain that life which is not joyous is not full or complete. Miss Theobald’s next sentence implies this, for it is evidently to complete life that she wishes to teach that gratitude is the passport.
"We have no right to live unless we can be grateful for life and the Fate which life carries with it, God gives unto man his life, and man’s gratitude is the return current; until we get this return current the life is not complete, there is no fullness in it. Whatever else the grateful man may lack he does possess a certain fullness which is fundamental power."
Gratitude, then, may be defined as an attitude. of the mind of joyous and gracious acceptance, and if we apply it to life in the spirit suggested by this sentence of Miss Theobald’s, we cannot fail to see that it must prove the "passport" or key to life. That it is one of the attributes of mind and character without which life is incomplete. It is an attribute of health or wholeness, typified by that of the healthy child who laughs and crows with delight, alike at dancing sunbeams or falling rain. In its fully conscious perfection, it is the attitude of mind of St. Francis d’Assissi, who accepted poverty and pain, joy and sorrow, life and death, not only in meek resignation, but in a spirit of joyous acceptance, recognizing their equal "brotherhood" and equal service to the growth of the soul.
Is it not easy to see that unless we have in ourselves something of this spirit life cannot be full or complete. Without gratitude, we shall meet our fate with the sulky whining disposition of ailing children, blind to life's beauty, missing its opportunities. Surely this is the meaning of the pregnant sentence I have quoted,
“Whatever else the grateful man may lack he does possess a certain fullness which is fundamental power."
The very disposition of the mind to gratitude, to glad acceptance, itself is power, carrying with it the gift to see and seize the best that every moment offers.
It was in such disposition that Walt Whitman cried,
"I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four and each moment then."
Such vision could never have been granted to one who sat with face turned to the wall bewailing his fate! It is gratitude for the common things of life which speaks in that cry, gratitude for daylight, for sun and rain, for the sweet air. Gratitude of which keen interest and delighted observation is the outcome.
Is it not something of this happy and child-like disposition that has inspired the minds of the scientists in their researches, which have established that most wonderful and illuminating fact of modern times, the etheric origin of the material universe—which put in simplest language means, that the common air we breathe, the air that surrounds, and interpenetrates, and permeates and pervades all the universe, invisible and intangible as it is, is yet atomic and the origin of everything. Is it not this same optimistic spirit of grateful acceptance, which leads Sir W. F. Barrett to his conviction that the indwelling "Power behind the visible universe," the power that moves through and within this marvelous "mechanism" the ether, is "The Power of Thought."
Here in the language of Science—that true Poetry of the Real!—we may hear again a glad cry like that of Whitman,
"I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four and each moment then!”
Perhaps the author of the essay Wed Fate, which is itself an appeal for gratitude for whatever fate we may have created for ourselves, knew the full significance of her advice, when she writes in her quaint, humorous fashion,
"Some people find it difficult to be grateful, but one can awaken this responsive attitude by meditation upon such thoughts as gratitude for having been born in a free country; gratitude for not being an idiot (since men consider it better to have minds than not, though even this may at a later date in evolution prove to have been only a local and temporary taste or fashion) gratitude for any health we may have, rather than grumblings at any illnesses; gratitude for sun and moon, water and air."
There can be no one who can meditate at all, however lowly his estate or however sad his fate may seem, who may not yet say, I have air to breathe and I can think! Here in two words—in the light of the knowledge of the latest science, are subjects for meditation so wide, so high and so profound that it can have no boundaries. For to meditate on air is to think upon that which is the inscrutable, ineffable "mechanism" of the Universe. And meditating on Thought, how shall we escape the blessed conviction that within ourselves, allied to us by the very nature of our being, dwells the "Creative directive Power," which ever moves that "mechanism" of the Universe, which is the common air we breathe, the very breath which is our life.
For those who have perhaps been accustomed to look upon gratitude as one of the very lowly virtues, here may be found food for thought which shall help to lift it to its rightful place among the highest and most essential.
If you have thought it a sign of a poor spirit and a too humble mind to be thankful for "small mercies" be assured there can be no deeper, more serious mistake! Rather is such thankfulness, such gratitude, a sign of the poet's vision and the disposition of the saint. To rustic ignorance, the humble flower in the crannied wall may be but worthless weed. The poet's soul grows rapt in wonder and reverence as he recognizes that within its tiny form is enclosed the symbol of all mysteries.
"Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of your crannies,
I hold you here, root and all m my hand,
Little flower—but if I could understand
What you are, root and all, and all in all.
I should know what God and man is."
Thinking of it in wonder and reverence—the spirit of truest gratitude—the humblest of us as we draw our breath in the sweet, pure air may think as we breathe inward of the joy and sustenance of life the air brings us. If we will fill each outward breath with thoughts of help and blessing for others, we may know that we are using the very instrument of the Power of the Infinite, from which all things have substance in the world of Form and Sense. Then we may know that our own thoughts are indeed in their essence one with that very
—Sir W. E. Barrell