In addition to its Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, all the Twelve-Step Programs have and use Twelve Slogans. They are short, pithy, and sometimes rhyming sayings that help recovering addicts and their enablers stay on the straight-and-narrow of recovery. Some of the better known are One Day at a Time, Denial Is Not a River in Egypt, Let Go and Let God, and the title of this week’s blog, [Have an] Attitude of Gratitude. Indeed. Gratitude has been named by some of the social and other scientists who study human happiness as a key to living a good, satisfying life. In this vein, the German mystic, Meister Eckhart (1260-1328), is credited with saying, “If the only prayer you ever uttered were ‘Thank you,’ it would be enough.”..
I’m writing about being grateful today because about a week ago I woke up with a voice, not my own, telling me I had to express my thanks to the Universe (okay, “God”) at least eight times a day. Now I have no idea who or what this Voice was or is. For sure it wasn’t my ordinary thinking voice. In fact, it didn’t sound anything like me. For one thing, it spoke with authority, something not characteristic of my thinking self. Nor did it sound like the usual chatter of the characters in my dreams. No. This was the same very certain-sounding baritone that, to my awareness, has visited me since I was five, not often but every once in a while when I apparently needed a little push to do this, say that, or refrain from both. So, how have I been doing thus far? Well, I’d give myself a sold B-/C+. (As a retired university professor I always revert to the good old-fashioned grading system.) In short, not bad; better than what we used to call at my then all-male college “a gentleman’s C.” But not that great either. Maybe by writing and publishing this blog, I’ll be better able to get more with the program, as one says in 12 Steps, and maybe even on occasion exceed the “recommended” eight times daily. And then, my critically trained mind asks, what so important about a minimum of eight times? I vaguely remember that my spiritual guide, the late Javanese sage Muhammad Subuh Sumohadjiwidjojo (d. 1987), said something about the importance of that number, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. Still, I do find myself thinking the T-word more and more these days, often for small things like remembering to take something from my upstairs office to the kitchen or to ask my wife, Cedar, something important that I was likely to forget. Ah, the wonders of the 83-year-old human brain!
Now (late January 2023) the new Israeli government’s renewed violence against their Palestinian neighbors has reminded me of the basic ethnic and linguistic closeness between Jews and Arabs. (Aren’t the worst battles those between family members?) When it comes to gratitude, for example, alleluia in Hebrew (or Aramaic?) and alhamdullilah in Arabic mean the exact same thing: “thanks be to God.” So I’ve been given my latest order from within: Live life with frequent daily gratitude. Would you like to join me?