Gratitude; A Lengthy Definition From Wikipedia Including Empirical Studies Showing Benefit; Gratitude Central to the Islamic Faith; Gratitude a Topic in Forty-One Prior Blogs; Idiom Ahead of the Game Defined; A Instagram Tribute to a Dead Friend by Jean Paul Langlois; Estrangement Defined, Estrangement Can Make Death Easier; Photo of JPL and Alexis and His Painting

Gratitude is going to be the theme of today’s blog. You can read about it or not, it is totally up to you. That is what I want to write about, it gives my life meaning and direction and I am very grateful that I can write about what I want to write about.

First we shall define gratitude. Gratitude is a positive emotion that involves being thankful and appreciative and is associated with several mental and physical health benefits. When you experience gratitude, you feel grateful for something or someone in your life and respond with feelings of kindness, warmth, and other forms of generosity.

Nothing wrong with that, you must admit. Gratitude is so powerful because it
helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Of course Wikipedia has a great deal to say about it. Gratitude, thankfulness or gratefulness, from the Latin word gratus, meaning “pleasing” or “thankful”, is regarded as a feeling of appreciation (or similar positive response) by a recipient of another’s kindness,] gifts, help, favours, or other form of generosity[ to the giver of such gifts.[ The absence of gratitude where gratitude is expected is called ingratitude[ or ungratefulness. Historically, gratitude has been a part of several world religions. It also has been a topic of interest to ancient, medieval, and modern philosophers.
The systematic study of gratitude within the field of psychology began in 1998 when Martin Seligman introduced a new branch of psychology, positive psychology, which focuses on reinforcement of positive traits. The study of gratitude in psychology has included the attempt to understand the short term experience of the gratitude response (state gratitude), individual differences in how frequently gratitude is felt among individuals (trait gratitude), and the relationship between these two, as well as the therapeutic benefits of gratitude.”

Wikipedia goes on to speak of gratitude in world religions. I shall focus on the Islamic faith, because I am a Muslim and this is my blog.

“The Islamic sacred text, the Quran, is filled with the idea of gratitude. Islam encourages its followers to be grateful and express thanks to God in all circumstances. Islamic teaching emphasizes the idea that those who are grateful will be rewarded with more. A traditional Islamic saying states that “The first who will be summoned to paradise are those who have praised God in every circumstance.”[26] In the Quran it is also stated in Sura 14 that those who are grateful will be given more by God. Many practices of the Islamic faith also encourage gratitude. For example, the Pillar of Islam calling for daily prayer encourages believers to pray to God five times a day in order to thank him for his goodness, and the pillar of fasting during the month of Ramadan is for the purpose of putting the believer in a state of gratitude.”

That says it all, most succinctly. I would add that some Islamic scholars opine that the worst sin of all is jealousy. Jealousy is utterly avoided if one is grateful for what one has – why would you be jealous of another if you are grateful for the gifts that Allah has given you?  I have found  the practices of the faith do encourage my gratitude. Five daily prayers most helpful because if you only pray once or twice a day you can forget some of the things you are grateful for. The pillar of fasting during Ramadan also encourages gratitude – but Ramadan does not just involve fasting. Believers are encouraged to form Intentions during Ramadan. I did form Intentions and daily recorded my progress in meeting them. It was mind altering, it truly was. My 2022 Ramadan was during the adverse conditions of living in Abu Dhabi. Forming and meeting my intentions enabled me to survive. I left Abu Dhabi for Canada one week after Eid, which giving me time to recover from the effects of fasting (which I was forced to abandon due to illness).  But I continued to fulfill my Intentions. Do realize that I have not spoken of this aspect of my recent life but my Intentions journal is in my possession Nowadays I form weekly Intentions, journalling my successes and failures. It adds focus and direction to my life.

But back again to Wikipedia for a synopsis of empirical evidence of the benefits of gratitude. Empirical of course employs the scientific method – the topic of a prior blog.

“A large body of work in the early 21st century has suggested that people who are more grateful have higher levels of subjective well-being. Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed,[32] and more satisfied with their lives and social relationships.[29][33][34] They are found to be more joyful in the long term. Specifically, in terms of depression, gratitude may serve as a buffer by enhancing the coding and retrievability of positive experiences.[35] Grateful people also have higher levels of control of their environments, personal growth, purpose in life, self-acceptance, as well as more positive ways of coping with the difficulties they experience in life. They are more likely to seek support from other people, reinterpret and grow from experiences, and they spend more time planning how to deal with problems.[36][37] Likewise, grateful people have fewer negative coping strategies. They are less likely to try to avoid problems, deny there is a problem, blame themselves, or cope through substance use.[37] Such people also sleep better because they think more positive thoughts just before going to sleep.[38] They also tend to have better relationships because a person’s gratitude can protect the relationship satisfaction of their partner.[39] Overall, numerous studies suggest that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression.”

I encourage you to read the entire Wikipedia presentation on Gratitude, it is most enlightening. Wikipedia concludes its section on gratitude with the following words.”According to Cicero, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” Multiple studies have shown the correlation between gratitude and increased well being not only for the individual but for all people involved.[41][49] The positive psychology movement has embraced these studies and, in an effort to increase overall well-being, has begun to make an effort to incorporate exercises to increase gratitude into the movement. Although in the past gratitude has been neglected by psychology, in recent years much progress has been made in studying gratitude and its positive effects.”

Need I point out that only recently has psychology latched onto the importance of gratitude but the Quran, written 1700 years ago encouraged its followers to be grateful to and express gratitude to Allah? The Quran, in this and many matters, was ahead of the game.  Ahead of the game, am idiom, means “ahead of one’s competitors or peers in the same sphere of activity.” The ‘competitors or peers’ of the Islamic faith are the other religions of the world.

I dimly recalled writing about gratitude in prior blogs. I typed gratitude into the search engine and forty-one entries emerged. Amazing.  This is from my June 11, 2022 blog. “Decided to spent the day in gratitude. It is considered to be one of the highly esteemed virtues in the Islamic faith.  It is praised in both the Holy Quran and Sunnah (sayings from Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him). It is the Islamic belief that Allah’s blessings should be recognized in Amy situation, whether it be desirable or undesirable. There are three components or dimensions of Shukr to be considered: Shukr bi’l-qalb (gratitude expressed by inner feelings), Shukr bi’l-lisan (gratitude expressed by tongue) and Shukr bi’l-badan wa’l-arkan (gratitude expressed by body and limbs). If one is grateful, then it protects your blessings: Al-Hasan al-Basri said, “Surely Allah grants favours as He wishes, but if it is not acknowledged by giving thanks, He returns it into torment.”

Go back and read the entire blog. It is amusing and will provide some humour.I suppose you could read all 41 entries but even little old me is not going to do that.

This is am Instagram tribute written by one of my heroes – an artist by the name of Jean Paul Langlois.
“I’ve been putting off saying or sharing anything about the passing of one of my oldest and dearest of friends. Partly because its been hard to accept and because I don’t even know what to say.
Allan and I went in and out of each other’s lives since we were in grade 2 and the times we had together were some of the best, funniest and richest ever. Sadly (an somewhat mercifully for me) we were estranged for the last act of his life which was a slow and brutal, losing battle with cancer. I regret not being there for him but I also feel blessed that I will always remember the vibrant, kind and hilarious should who I got to love and enjoy most of his life. I’m just thankful he had a loving wife to comfort and care for him in his last years. Processing grief for someone who was already a ghost in your life is not easy. It takes its own time ad it takes its own path. Goodbye Brother, You were too sweet for this world.

I was incredibly touched by this and immediately responded. “ Excellent and amazing tribute. I have been experiencing this as well. A beloved friend dies but we have been estranged for so long that the pain is not as intense. It is bearable. But if I were in Marin County I would be totally devastated! Thank you for the sharing of an essential truth that is so seldom expressed. Much less so eloquently. Thanks fromYour fan, Alexis McBride. More later! “

He got several responses from people. Here is a sampling
Pin is pops: For someone who did not know what to say, you said it beautifully.
JPL: Thanks Charles, it seems weird to say it on social media but until there is some kind of memorial its more satisfying than just shouting it into the ether.

My age makes me particularly vulnerable to the death of friends. I learn about their deaths either accidentally or more frequently, by subscribing to the Marin County Association of Retired Employees newsletter. A recent death discovered through that medium was particularly poignant – Barney Griswold, a Probation Officer colleague, a great guy. I was also (at one time) a close friend of his wife’s. Through the obituary learned, not only of Barney’s death,  but the death of their son about two years ago. My sympathies went to Candice but we are no longer in touch. The two of them moved to Texas to be with their daughter and her family. Barney died of Parkinson’s disease in a Texas care facility. Then the newsletter struck another blow, the death of Tim, another Probation Officer colleague whom I had known for almost fifty years. In recent years we took Ikebana Flower arranging lessons from Yoshi. We had so much fun, also going to lunches and trips to the Wine County, the three of us. I would have been totally devastated if I were in Marin – but instead I was in London, in Vancouver, in Abu Dhabi and now Canada. Estrangement can make news of death easier in a way, I am grateful for that.
Estrangement has many synonyms, the less harsh are applicable: turning away isolation, variance, difference; parting, separation, division, distance, split, severance.
An antonym is reconciliation. Reconciliation of course not possible upon death. Well, unless you are of the Islamic faith, neither Tim nor Barney were.

Photograph of JPL and me taken in in front of his painting at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Story about that to follow.

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