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Arkady Grudzinsky

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Should we feel gratitude for our life? To whom?

Gratitude is important feeling in interpersonal relationships. Gratitude encourages giving and giving encourages more gratitude, etc. On the other side, lack of gratitude comes with a sense of "entitlement" - they mutually create each other as well. Lack of gratitude discourages giving and creates a sense that the world "owes us" a living. "We are programmed to receive." Gratitude, in my opinion, offers an exit from that proverbial Hotel California and "programs us to give".

How about our life and other things shown in this video? Religious people usually thank God for these things. The camera shows a standing round of applause at the end of the video. I very much doubt that most people attending TED talks are religious, so the video must have stirred some emotion in believers and non-believers alike.

Do non-believers feel gratitude for these things? If yes, to whom?

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    Dec 23 2012: I don't agree that you have to come from a safe or luxurious place, it could be quite the opposite. I think there are plenty of examples where people are grateful because they feel loved or are in loving environments or experience kindness, has nothing to do with social status......
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      Dec 23 2012: I wholeheartedly agree Elly.....gratitude has nothing to do with social status. It is a feeling that we choose to have....or not....it is a choice:>)
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    Dec 14 2012: I believe that Gratitude is more a human condition and precedes the concept of God and religion. I do not think that religions people are any more grateful than atheists. I believe that we begin learning and experiencing the need to be grateful towards our mother, parents, siblings and develop this idea much before we learn about faith and religion. But we quickly loose this concept of gratitude because often we are made to believe that we are entitled for what we get from our family for free, perhaps due to their love for us. Also as children our natural sense of gratitude is not nurtured and appreciated until it is too late and we begin giving attitude as teens. And as we grow older and learn about this entity called God we attribute all things that’s beyond our ability to create to God and hence express gratitude to this “creator”.
    Who should be we be grateful for life? Well, starting from the ones who gave birth to us, to everyone we share this planet with, and to the nature and perhaps the system or entity that created it all. Just like driving home from work at rush hour in crazy traffic. If one other driver chooses to be irresponsible, defy the rules and cause an accident, we can perhaps be stalled for a good few hours. We perhaps need to be grateful to all those who are courteous enough to adhere to the traffic rules. I guess the same applies to life.

    What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it–would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have. — Ralph Marston
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      Dec 14 2012: I like the traffic analogy.
      I'm, definitely, thankful to people who are aware and take care of themselves and others. I also feel gratitude (or appreciation) for my ability to do so and I hope (or pray) that I will be able to do that in the future.

      I also try to avoid irritation or anger towards those unfortunate people who do cause accidents or even intentional harm to themselves and others. I rather feel sorry for these people. "We can't all, and some of us don't."
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    Dec 8 2012: After many years of contemplating this question I have concluded that first and foremost I feel gratitude to all those living organisms that have mastered photo synthesis. Without them my life would be impossible. Second I feel gratitude for those who have come before me that have recognized their responsibility to future generations. "If I can see beyond horizons, it is only because I have the good fortune to stand on the shoulder of giants." In my life I strive to be one of those little "giants" who lift the capacity and awareness of future generations. It's a simple case of paying it forward.
  • Dec 7 2012: As an atheist I feel no gratitude to god for being born nor should I. However, I feel immense gratitude to many people. My parents because contrary to popular opinion they don’t have to love you, but mine did. They taught me the virtues of living well and doing for other before yourselves. As a gay man, to all the people that came before me and fought for their rights and mine. To all my teachers that make crap pay but worked to ensure my success because they cared. To everyone that helped me along the way because no one can make it all on their own. I can't speak for all atheist but I'm thankful every time I see someone do a good deed because I don't attribute it to a magic being but to the goodness in all man. After reading some of the comments I do agree that gratitude can be used to oppress by those who are looking for it. That’s why I try to give mine to the people that get it the least; they probably weren't looking for it.
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      Dec 7 2012: Re: "I'm thankful every time I see someone do a good deed because I don't attribute it to a magic being but to the goodness in all man."

      The "magic being" is inside. "Goodness in all man" and "the magic being" appear to be the same thing to me :-)
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    Dec 3 2012: I am a non-believer. I feel gratitude towards the sun, without it I wouldn't be alive. This world wouldn't thrive without our sun. I feel gratitude towards people who have encouraged me throughout my life. You can still feel gratitude, just not towards a "god".
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    Dec 3 2012: We should feel gratitude to those that provide life for us.
    These people can be one's parents, teachers, etc.
    But at the end of the day, whether you call it God, Singularity, or Primal Existence, I think we all have a deep sense of gratitude to the source of life itself.
  • Nov 25 2012: I don't think we ' should ' but we'd better; it is an absolute necessity to make life worth living.
  • Nov 24 2012: To not believe in anything at all seems foolish, to me.
    One would not believe they exist, then.
    An atheist said that to me.
    We believe in what we know, what's been proven.

    We build bridges with what we know, with what's been proven,
    but we all cross them in faith.
    Faith they won't fail.
    One doesn't have to believe in a deity to have faith.

    To me the simplest form of faith has always been falling asleep.

    I was wondering if gratitude is similar to humility?
    A person can be at the very bottom of the heap, and have humility and humility didn't put them there.
    A person can be at the top of the heap, and humility put them there.

    I like that humility isn't that I "think less of myself, but that I think of my self, less."
    The last two words, can make one word, "selfless" and for me that is good because when I am important, then I am afraid.
    I do have one thing in my life that reduces all trouble to the size of a drop of water before it "pings" away and disappears.
    I am grateful for that, but not to something or a being or deity.
    There is not much in life I am grateful for though.
    I don't believe in God, but I am not an atheist.
    Rather, I call myself a "faitheist" meaning I believe and have faith in what I know.
    There is much I don't know and I know that what I don't know also exists, somewhere, somehow.
    I don't have to prove any of this because I don't use it to have power over others, tell other people to freely give me their money or get land for free.

    I am grateful for things that make me feel deeply, deeper than I would ever go.

    "Did you ever stand and shiver,
    Just because you were looking at a river?" Rambling Jack Elliott

    Shivering is the act of gratitude, methinks.
    Recognizing it is what? Humility? Gratitude? Foolishness? Neurosis?
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      Nov 25 2012: Random Chance,

      Thanks for sharing your insights. I love a few things that you said - about bridges, about falling asleep. I like the word "faitheist" and I share your attitude towards "the burden of proof" which is frequently put on believers.

      Re: "I was wondering if gratitude is similar to humility?"

      I gave it a second thought after reading a few posts here. Perhaps, it depends. To be thankful is to assume that something was done specifically for us or our benefit. If, in fact, it wasn't, wouldn't, then, such assumption come from pride, from over-estimating our own importance? I have heard someone say with a tongue in cheek at an atheist convention: "Atheism is an arrogant position that the universe wasn't created specifically for our benefit." Perhaps, awe and amazement are more appropriate reactions to what we see around us as Mike points out below, even for a believer.
  • Nov 23 2012: to your Self
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      Nov 23 2012: What is "Self" in your understanding? This "Self" keeps popping out in various conversations. I have my idea of what it is (perhaps, a fuzzy idea). What's yours?
    • Nov 25 2012: Hi, Ed !
      Would you agree that ' your' is a bit confusing here ? : ) ' your' is a function of 'to feel.'
  • Joe Yam

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    Dec 23 2012: Rivers, ponds, lakes, plants, man and animals - they all have different names, but they all contain water. Need water. Just as humans do - they all contain truths. FEEL GRATITUDE.
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    Dec 17 2012: Gratitude depends on each individual. What we direct our gratitude towards, in a realistic sense, is exactly the same. What we visualize it as is completely different. Some people are grateful to their God/Gods, some show gratitude towards energy and probability etc. Regardless of religion, it seems safe to say a good portion, if not all, forms of gratitude involves an outcome, probability. Whether it is "God" controlling probability or "mathematics" predicting it etc. I personally prefer a scientific representation, however, this is not the reality we all have gratitude towards, but representation is the key word. What exists and happens simply exists and happens as it is. The assumption one person is correct is as ridiculous as saying there is a superior language that can represent a tree in their language. Although some may be more true to the reality, it isn't the tree that is being described. To summarize, all people show gratitude towards probability and outcomes as well as those we represent controlling them.
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    Dec 13 2012: First I feel Gratitude to my self to the human being I am
    After to all what I had-I have on this moment -and I will have
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    Dec 9 2012: A sense of awe, wonder and gratitude for nature does not have to be attributed to God.

    I may be over-analyzing something that should really be left alone to bask in its own glory for us to contemplate, but my own gratitude stems from the notion that such spiritual feelings are primeval psychological imperatives which have evolved in us over thousands of years, and what connects us with nature.

    It is the connection with nature that has gone missing in modern life, and Louie Schwartzberg's amazing images remind us that those connections are still there for us to make, if only we let them - and maybe why those images stir up similar feelings in both atheists and believers in God.
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    Dec 8 2012: Thank your mum
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      Dec 8 2012: I've addressed this somewhere below. I'm thankful to my mom for giving birth to me and caring for me, but not for the life itself. I cannot thank my mom for existence of life on earth and for her ability to bear children. No human can take credit for what our bodies can do - including reproduction.

      Besides, "life" in my question is only a particular example of the abstract beauty of this world for which it is unclear who to thank for - sunshine, stars, flowers, etc. Nobody's mom is to thank for that.

      Anyway, it becomes clear to me that it is unnecessary to have an object of gratitude. It's possible to experience an abstract gratitude, not directed at anyone in particular. Interesting conclusion.
      • Dec 8 2012: That "life" you speak of, can be a tough row to hoe. Everybody, and everything are very often tested (or proved) by adversity. Who is there with you to help you get through your own trials and tribulations? Those are whom you could show gatitude toward.

        Sure, flowers and sunshine are nice thoughts, but they are of little help when you are drowning in sickness, disease, and injury or other hardships. And you can't bow yourself in gratitude to a tree and be taken seriously. Again, it is those people around you that can help or hinder your path through life. When you are helped, you feel good, and when you are hindered, you don't feel as good, correct?

        Therefore, to show your gratitude in living a fulfilling life, you should help your neighbors, so that they can also share in the good feelings. Of course help your friends when you are able, but also help complete strangers, when you can see what is needed. Live your life as if you believe the adage; What goes around comes around, and try to stretch beyond that; in that you are often helping (when you can - giving, supporting, complimenting, etc. to include all forms of assistance) with no expectations of receiving some reward. When the act of helping others is reward enough, you will have found satiation for your gratitude.
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          Dec 8 2012: This is well said. Another example of biblical values said in a completely secular way.

          Re: "Again, it is those people around you that can help or hinder your path through life. When you are helped, you feel good, and when you are hindered, you don't feel as good, correct?"

          Often, we feel helped or hindered just by circumstances, with no active agents involved. Also, materialistically speaking, there is no free will. People say and do stuff reacting to external stimuli using memories and preconditions of the past, pretty much like sophisticated biochemical machines. People often help or hinder others without even being aware of it.

          I have hard time fitting gratitude into a purely materialistic and rational worldview.
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        Dec 14 2012: I understand your point.

        I may share similar awe at the universe and our human existence and experience.

        I guess I don't see any agency to direct thanks to.

        I'm with those who share abstract awe and appreciation of my existence etc.
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          Dec 20 2012: Hi Obey,
          I don't need an agency to direct thanks to, although, I certainly recognize all the "agents" in my life experience who have contributed to my gratitude:>)
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        Dec 20 2012: Obey, Arkady and Larry,
        I'm thankful for your mom giving birth to you guys as well:>)

        I disagree Arkady that..."No human can take credit for what our bodies can do - including reproduction." I'm a mom, and I gratefully accept all the credit and gratitude that comes my way:>)

        You also say..."Besides, "life" in my question is only a particular example of the abstract beauty of this world for which it is unclear who to thank for - sunshine, stars, flowers, etc. Nobody's mom is to thank for that."

        Well, I disagree again:>) My mom taught me how to love and be grateful for everything, including sunshine, stars, flowers, etc. If she had not encouraged love of all living things, acceptance and love of the life experience, I may not have noticed the beauty all around me in every single moment. So, in a round about way (another cycle Arkady!!!) my mom gave me the gifts as well:>)
  • Dec 7 2012: I think that sometimes religious people make the mistake of thinking that atheists lack all the of qualities that their religion teaches them. I've been an atheist since I was 12 and when I realized that religion wasn't real I didn't all of the sudden think, "great now I can stop trying to be good since there is no heaven or hell." I still have empathy towards others (we're all born with it) gratitude for anything that anyone did for me and I also feel the joy of giving. Helping others is in all of our nature and stems from empathy that we all have as infants (and before the religious indoctrination begins). Just because there is no fiery eternity sentenced out to wrong doers doesn't mean that doing wrong is desirable. Human's have evolved to cooperate and it's in our nature to be a good member of society.

    To whom do I feel gratitude for my life? To my parents of course, they gave it to me. Even if they were only doing what was in their nature to do. ;)
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      Dec 8 2012: I'm quite sure, one does not have to be religious or believe in god to have an idea of what's good and what's bad. These ideas come simply from our physical and social experience regardless of religion. I have been an atheist since I was born and I can confirm your experience. I was taught in a Soviet school that "religion is opium for the people" and did not give much thought to it till the Soviet Union collapsed and religion started to revive there as an antidote to the communist ideology. Just recently I wondered, what is religion all about? How does it work? Why do people do crazy things because of it? How do people resolve the cognitive dissonance between the everyday physical experience and religious beliefs in the miracles? Why would some people deeply hate religion while others feel deep reverence to people like the Pope or Dalai Lama? I have discovered many interesting things since I started asking myself these questions while trying out some religious practices.

      It is not my goal to promote religious views here. These debates go nowhere. I'm just deeply interested to understand what other people believe. For example, feeling gratitude for the beauty of nature makes no sense from the point of view of an atheist. Yet, many people who do not believe in a Creator do feel such gratitude or something similar to it. On the other side, I am also grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made for me to help me grow up, but thank them for my life itself does not make sense to me. No human can take credit for what our bodies can do - including reproduction. Some parents do not even make a conscious decision to have children. Besides, if we thank parents for our life, we should also thank the rest of our ancestors up to the first living molecule that was able to reproduce itself. But who shall we thank for giving life to that molecule? It seems the best not to rationalize our irrational feelings.
      • Dec 8 2012: Actually, In ancient religions, people generally thank and worship their forefathers
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitru_Paksha

        The reason we thank is human life is valuable.

        There is a saying by an ancient saint avvaiyar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avvaiyar
        Its rare to be born as human
        Its even rare to be born without any birth defects

        One need not thank their mom for existence of life on earth and for her ability to bear children. But One must thank and be grateful for their parents , because, they dint abort us or throw us in some orphanage.

        ============
        From your words:
        For example, feeling gratitude for the beauty of nature makes no sense from the point of view of an atheist
        ============
        In my opinion, We are nature and seeing nature separate from us is wrong in my opinion. People get pleasure on seeing a waterfall because of the excitement and the refreshing feel that it gives. But still, waterfall is nature and we are also nature. Maybe A bigger being might feel excited on seeing us.

        A creator is not needed to be grateful. To be grateful is a character and not a feeling. Feelings will come and go, but a character is like an imprint. For an example one can read the story of Karna (A glimpse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karna). Even when god is against them , a person with gratitude will never let down his friend or anyone who helped them.
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          Dec 9 2012: Re: "In my opinion, We are nature and seeing nature separate from us is wrong in my opinion."
          This is a good opinion. I like it.

          Re: "To be grateful is a character and not a feeling."
          This is an excellent point. This reminds me of this quote:

          “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
          Watch your words, for they become actions.
          Watch your actions, for they become habits.
          Watch your habits, for they become character.
          Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

          Being grateful is a habit, an attitude which is a part of character.
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    Dec 6 2012: It is a fact that human body is a very well organized organic machine to observe the outer world and turn the signals coming from everywhere into electrical information that brain can interpret. Inside of the skull is silent, dark and full of liquid. Like the computer, you can upload many landscape pictures as wallpaper but according to the computer they are 1 and 0!! It can never enjoy a cute cat picture or never desire a fresh strawberry after you upload that as wallpaper.
    It is the same for the brain. So, how could brain see the light in darkness or hear the sound in silent? According to science; brain gets the electrical signals, don’t hear sounds or see light. There is something beyond this flesh, more than the body, who can love, hate, feel passion, desire and all other emotions. So, this must be the soul or whatever you want to call it. And the soul feels the gratitude for the Creator.
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    Dec 3 2012: Yes, to the universe or whatever you would like to call it.
  • Dec 3 2012: Well, it seems we are actually in full agreement on most points. I might just not be
    communicating that very well.

    I do believe that we are 'selfish', but I don't think that is bad in any way, especially if we
    consider ourselves part of a whole. Think of why we are here: nature/God has given
    us the sun which gives us energy which is how we are here existing today. So what
    is 'ours' to give in the first place when we have been given everything?

    *I'm not judging anyone, i don't believe in that. I'm judging actions that people commit, which
    I do believe in.
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      Dec 6 2012: I read all of your comments in this debate and I agree with most of what you say. You mention selfishness and it’s difficult for people to accept that there’s selfishness also in good deeds. Selfishness is an inherent part of the ego. If someone says he can act even for a moment, without being selfish, it means that for that specific moment he was absolutely without any ego and for me it’s very hard to accept as a true thing. Ego can be strong or weak, depending on the person or the situation, but it is always there, except maybe very, very rare people whom we call True Saints. But the Saints, if they are truly egoless, have no need to discuss their good deeds or their feeling of gratitude, to explain their deeds or feelings, to justify them, to theorize about them, or whatever, in contrast to what we are doing in this forum

      To make it easier to accept our selfishness (which occasionally makes us also to do good deeds) I suggest to replace it with the term “Ego’s NEED”. So it will like saying, we do even the good things as a result of our ego’s need. Need of what ?? A need to feel good that we helped somebody. A need to feel that we are not less good than others who make good things. Sometimes a need to relax our aching conscience. Sometimes a need to be appreciated for our good deeds. Sometimes with the believers in god, a need to obey god’s commands, or a fear of god’s punishment if they do not make good deeds.... and so on.

      I slightly disagree with you that ego is (only) the root of evil. True, ego is indeed the root of evil, but it’s only half picture. Because I think ego is also the root for feeling of gratitude and good deeds. As I wrote in my first comment hereby few days ago: It depends which outlook our consciousness (ego) develops. If our outlook is positive – inwardly & outwardly – the feeling of gratitude starts building inside us. The trick is not to avoid the ego, but to become aware of its nature, functioning and influence.
      • Dec 7 2012: Yea, I agree. Theoretically, the ego (the self-importance version, not the conscious/subconscious mediator) can and should be eliminated, but realistically that is not likely to happen...hence the reason gratitude is necessary.
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        Dec 7 2012: Re: " But the Saints, if they are truly egoless, have no need to discuss their good deeds or their feeling of gratitude, to explain their deeds or feelings, to justify them, to theorize about them, or whatever, in contrast to what we are doing in this forum."

        You just explained how I understand the Zen proverb "Those who tell don't know, and those who know don't tell." It is unfortunate, but the truly wise do not have the urge to show their wisdom. "A prudent man conceals knowledge." -- Proverbs.

        It seems to me that what people refer to by "pleasing ego", "pleasing consciousness", "pleasing self" (where "self" means something other than the physical body), and "pleasing god" are exactly the same things.

        Re: "True, ego is indeed the root of evil, but it’s only half picture. Because I think ego is also the root for feeling of gratitude and good deeds." -- Exactly. This is why the Bible is full of atrocities as well as most inspiring things.
  • Dec 3 2012: To answer the original question:

    Do non-believers feel gratitude for these things? If yes, to whom?

    Everyone has a 'god' (a belief), whatever that may be, however its defined,
    and whatever it is named. Therefore there is no such thing as a non-believer.
    Everyone believes in something.

    I will not say anyone should feel gratitude at all. that is their choice. But i do think
    it behooves everyone to do so, and then of course to act on that feeling...


    Ex: If you believe in 'God', and believe that He gave you life, then you should 'feel'
    grateful to him for it.....and give it back to Him the best way you know how :) (acting on your
    gratitude)

    or

    Ex: If you believe in 'Science', etc., then you should feel grateful,, and give your life back in the
    best way you know how.

    Act on your gratitude:
    -take care of your parents,
    -help you children,
    -protect the environment

    or like Louis put it:

    We should feel gratitude to those that provide life for us.
    These people can be one's parents, teachers, etc.
    But at the end of the day, whether you call it God, Singularity, or Primal Existence, I think we all have a deep sense of gratitude to the source of life itself.
  • Dec 3 2012: I'm saying we don't have a choice. We are hard-wired to be 'selfish'. It's in our genes, yes, but it's also just simply impossible any other way. Every conscious decision I make is determined solely by what I 'want', and is therefore a selfish one.

    Ex: I can give all my money to the world, but my decision to give was determined by some 'want' that i had, hence the 'decision' to give. Otherwise the transaction would be described as the money being 'taken' from me.

    Some say selfishness is the root of evil, but I say the ego is. Once we realize that we don't exist as we think we do, but rather that we are just a part of a larger organism, then we can be selfish for the whole (unselfish). In religious terms, we should be 'selfish' for God's family of which we comprise....or: The Earth is Me and I am The Earth. The ego is the illusion that we create of ourselves, and hinders our progress.

    as for communicating gratitude, I said:

    1) i believe in saying 'thank you', as acknowledging a good deed is important. (communication is important)

    2) saying 'thank you' to someone who helps you is as pointless as saying 'sorry' to someone
    you have wronged.

    the first 1 is obvious, but with the second 2, I am NOT claiming that 'saying' thank you is pointless, I'm saying
    that it would be AS pointless AS...,,....I'm attacking those people who receive a good deed or energy, SAY thank
    you to the giver, and then squander/waste (fail to appreciate...) what they have received.
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      Dec 3 2012: I agree Leo, that every conscious decision may be determined by what we "want". I do not think/feel that to be "selfish" however. What if we "want" the world to be more peaceful and loving? What if we "want" our environment to be more user friendly? Those are not selfish "wants", because they benefit the whole.

      Same with giving your money away....If you "want" to give your money away so people will notice and admire you, that may not be the most beneficial "want" for yourself. However, the money you give away may still help other people. If you give your money to people who need it, with intent to genuinely help support those people, then both you and the recipients benefit. Perhaps the outcome of "giving" has many factors, and may benefit one person, several people, or the whole of humankind.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you that realizing we are a part of a larger organism, is very helpful when we choose our intention followed by actions.

      Regarding your beliefs about saying thank you...
      I agree...acknowledging a good deed is important...and I will add...very benificial to the giver and receiver.
      Why do you need to attack "those people who receive a good deed or energy, SAY thank you to the giver, and then squander/waste (fail to appreciate...) what they have received"?
      How does attacking them benefit YOU or the whole? Are you making a judgement? Why do you want to do that?
  • Dec 3 2012: yes. do unto others.

    yes. i believe these ideas are loaded with value. they are simple in concept, but
    seemingly never simplistic in their application.

    for example, we should 'love our enemies', but that may mean tough love in many
    cases. (a mother loves her child, but may need to slap him on the wrist occasionally)

    if my enemy comes into my house and harms me, I will show him love by sending
    him to state prison as opposed to giving him a hug. prison will not be his punishment, it
    will just be what he needs to heal whether he realizes it or not. Then I will pay my state taxes, etc.
    and trust that the system will cure him and not harm him; But I will not wish evil upon him, as
    nobody would have anything to gain from that.
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      Dec 3 2012: I agree that these principles are tough to follow. "Literal interpretation" is a figure of speech.

      Tough love is a separate discussion. But do you see any value in unconditional giving, without expectation of pay-back in any form? Does expectation that the other person will pay back to others instead of the giver count as "reciprocal altruism"?

      Do you seriously believe that expression of emotions and emotional support to each other has no value? Isn't it an action in its own right? Some words take a lot of courage to say.
  • Dec 3 2012: i meant saying 'thank you' in so much as saying it without actually meaning it....

    I believe that in order to MEAN it, you have to have intention to back up the words with some action.

    we tend to associate with people that we believe will help to make us MORE, in whatever way that
    may be (reciprocal altruism)....because if we just gave our energy to anyone and anything, we would
    soon be broke and eventually dead. I don't 'expect' my mother to 'return the favor' when i buy her a
    christmas present.....but it doesn't hurt to be giving it to her in the warmth of her home. When she says
    'thank you', she might as well be saying, "yes, you are welcome to stay in my house; and oh btw, don't worry about the heating bill."

    i believe in saying 'thank you', as acknowledging the good deed is important....but i think there is always an 'I owe you one' attached to every 'thank you.'

    (*i can't say sorry and mean it without intending to repair the damage...)
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      Dec 3 2012: In other words, "do to others as you expect them do to you". Did I understand it right?

      What do you think about the classic "love your enemy" paradigm http://tinyurl.com/y934dk9? I don't mean to discuss the religious concepts of sin, heaven, and hell. My question is, do you think, these ideas may have any practical value? Can doing so benefit us in real life as individuals and as society?
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    Dec 2 2012: IMO, feeling of gratitude for our life and for the good things we get from it, comes usually with the growth of our awareness. When our awareness grows in the positive direction, towards the positive outlook -- outwardly and inwardly – the feeling of gratitude starts building inside us. Many times, perhaps even all the times, the feeling of gratitude is boosted by becoming aware also of the bad things the life could give us, suppose if we were incapable of keeping ourselves away from the bad things due to lack of awareness or sheer mental weakness, or just because we were not lucky enough. So the feeling of gratitude and even the pleasure from the good things is boosted because we not only enjoy the good things in life, but because we have the ability to perceive the interplay between the good & bad outside us and the ability to witness and to control the interplay between the positive & negative outlooks created inside us.

    So, I personally feel gratitude twice: Once for having the good things and being able to enjoy them. Secondly for having the ability to witness and understand the good things in the broader context of the potential of being susceptible to the bad things and still having the ability to keep the bad things away from me as much as I can.

    To whom my gratitude goes ??
    As I do not believe in any rational external god who directs and watches us incessantly, my gratitude goes for two:
    1. For the nature and life who managed to create so many positive things out of a complete mess ;
    2. For my ability to perceive, understand, appreciate and enjoy all those good things.
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      Dec 3 2012: Following your philosophy, shouldn't you also feel gratitude to those who create the complete mess? :-)
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        Dec 3 2012: Good point Arkady...in a round about sort of way! :>)

        If we carry the feeling of gratitude in our heart, my experience tells me that I am not selective with the feeling of gratitude. The external expression of gratitude may change, and internally, I am still grateful for the opportunity to learn, grow and evolve.

        For example:
        When I challenged a toxic business in our community, I experienced a LOT of frustration (fear) at times. My life was threatened, my property was damaged, and I cannot say I am, or was, grateful for that or various other parts of the scenario.

        I CAN, however, recognize all the lessons I learned throughout that experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity I had to test my strength and courage. Many, many times, I asked the question.....why am I doing this? I could simply be quiet, I would not be threated any more....etc.

        I followed through with the appropriate process, did a LOT of research, presented documentation regarding why the business was toxic, learned a lot about that, explored many things in myself, and when all was said and done, I was proud of what I accomplished, and grateful for the opportunigy.

        FINALLY, the business was ordered by the USEPA to cease a particular operation, and ordered to vacate the site by the state Environmental Court. I was instrumental in cleaning up a little piece of our environment:>)

        Am I grateful to the perpetrators for polluting our earth? No
        Am I grateful for the opportunity to change the situation? Yes
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        Dec 3 2012: If you ask your question in a humoristic approach I like it. Humor sometimes puts matters in their true proportions and I am in favor of it. Good humor is always healthy for mind.

        However, I shall try to give also some rational answer to your question.

        No, I have no gratitude for the creators of mess. The mess itself is neither the goal nor a mean to reach the feeling of gratitude. The mess is a given (and sometimes unfortunate) situation. There’s no initial guarantee that the nature or we can overcome the mess. But precisely because of this uncertain initial situation, the feeling of gratitude can be so great and valued for overcoming that initial mess.

        In my previous comment, by using the term ‘mess’, I meant to the extremely chaotic and harsh conditions after the Big Bang, from which after so many billions of years such a sophisticated, delicate and so well-organized formation which we call ‘Life’ could come out. On top of that, It was also the Inanimate giving rise to the Animate, which makes it even more amazing and wonderful. This could be most amazing even if just one molecule of Life would be created from that initial mess and then destroyed forever. But as we see now, it was just the beginning for an another and not lesser amazing process which finally created the ability within that amazing formation (Life) for abstractly percepting, understanding and analyzing this whole mess and its outcomes.
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          Dec 4 2012: Yes, it was partially a joke. I agree with Coleen. To me, it makes sense to be thankful for the opportunity to grow in strength. Not to those who created the mess, but to the same force that create life, order, and beauty and endowed us with ability to do the same.
  • Dec 2 2012: Thank you very much for you comment!

    I speak russian and armenian.

    I think people try to solve their problems in the simplest way, and as fast as possible. Maybe they have a strong reason to do so. If they do not reach their goals right now, they can not do it next time.
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      Dec 2 2012: Спасибо за ваш комментарий:>)

      I agree that people try to solve problems in the simplest possible way, as fast as possible, and somtimes they miss some opportunities. Do you think that when people do not reach their goals right away, they sometimes get frustrated and do not try again?

      Here is a little information about TED conversations.
      Do you see the word "reply" in the top right of my comment? If you hit that, your reply will come under the comment of the person you are replying to:>)
      • Dec 2 2012: Yes, they get frustrated. But they do not try again! They set another (sometimes more "unreachable") goals and try again! I think that is problem.

        Dear Colleen!
        Thank you for conversation!
        My job waiting for me :)
        See you later. Bye, bye, bye,....
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    Dec 2 2012: Several years ago I adopted a daily gratitude practice, but the funny thing is, I never thought of being grateful to anyone. It's more a sense of profound appreciation and wonder for all the things I have in my life, starting with the very fact that I am alive to experience this day. This experience for me has nothing to do with religion or any deities. It's a very spiritual experience of feeling alive to live this day today. Beautiful nature scenes do it to me too, as does contemplating the complexities of our universe. For me there's simply no one to be grateful towards for these things, yet I am filled with gratitude.

    I think there's a different but related kind of gratitude which functions to reinforce the value of giving within society. In this context, the gratitude must be directed towards the acknowledgment of the benefit that one has received from a specific benefactor.

    So to answer your question succinctly within my own personal framework: Yes we should feel gratitude for our life, but not to anyone - just feel the gratitude.
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      Dec 2 2012: Thanks a lot for your reply. I wouldn't call myself deeply religious. I grew up in the Soviet Union on ideas of Marxism-Leninism. Up until recently, I did not clearly understand what the word "spirituality" means. A few years ago, for various reasons, I decided to try practicing some religious things - give thanks, forgive and ask forgiveness, volunteer, donate to charities, wish well to people even those I don't like. I have noticed that life at home and at work became far more enjoyable. I felt less stress, less frustration with circumstances and people. My relationship with many people improved.

      I think, religion is not about god. Religion is about ourselves. It's not about belief in supernatural. I see miracles in the Bible as metaphors telling us that if we practice certain things, miracles will happen inside ourselves.

      Oddly, since I became interested in religion, I became more interested in science too. I started asking myself questions: Is it unreasonable to believe in God? What is the difference between belief and knowledge? How much evidence do we need to believe something? Do we need evidence for everything? How do we make our decisions - by reason or otherwise? I questioned those who advocate questioning everything. I became interested in philosophy, psychology, and history. I found that things that seemed self-evident are completely irrational and irrational things (like this feeling of gratitude), actually, "make sense". (What does "make sense" mean, anyway?)

      This thread convinced me that feeling gratitude for our existence is just a spontaneous irrational emotion. Gratitude does not have to be directed at anyone as many people pointed out. I find it an interesting conclusion.
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        Dec 2 2012: You said, "gratitude for our existence is just a spontaneous irrational emotion." Personally I think it's more than that. It serves an extremely important function in my psychological well-being: It helps contribute towards a deep, long term happiness (or joy or satisfaction, etc.) that is not subject to the ups and downs of life. It's one of several practices I find are necessary for my own personal well being, but a crucial one nonetheless. Not sufficient by itself, but crucial.
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          Dec 2 2012: I also believe those things. I still believe that this feeling, as most other feelings, is "not endowed with reason or understanding", i.e. "irrational". Often, we cannot explain what this feeling is - amazement or gratitude. We cannot explain "to whom". Yet, we feel it without a reason (spontaneously). And we feel that it's essential and beneficial for us...

          Now a strange thing happens. As we feel that it's essential and beneficial, it stops being irrational and spontaneous, because, suddenly, we make a willful decision to feel this way and can explain why.

          If you read TED Lover's most interesting response, gratitude can be considered detrimental to our well-being. Reason can take us wherever our passion commands.
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        Dec 2 2012: Arkady,
        I agree with Danger, that gratitude is much more than an irrational emotion.

        Irrational: "not endowed with reason or understanding; lacking usual or normal mental clarity or coherence".

        So, perhaps if one does not understand gratitude, or have clarity or coherence regarding the use and benefits of gratitude, it may seem irrational?

        I also believe that it contributes to my psychological well-being, contributes to deep, long term happiness, contentment, joy, satisfaction, peace and harmony in the life adventure.
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          Dec 2 2012: Not regarding the use and benefits, but regarding the feeling itself. I believe, I'm fairly clear about the use and benefits.
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        Dec 3 2012: In my humble perception Arkady, the feeling itself is one of the benefits...psychological well-being, happiness, contentment, joy, satisfaction, peace and harmony. What are the benefits in your perception?
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          Dec 3 2012: There we go. The feeling is its own benefit. Just like life is its own purpose. Circularity again. :-)
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        Dec 3 2012: Yes indeed my friend Arkady:>)
        In my perception, everything is interconnected, so when we are genuinely feeling gratitude, we are contributing to our own well-being, as well as contributing to the well-being of humankind:>)

        Do unto others.......
        What goes around, comes around....

        "Life begets life,
        Energy creates enery,
        It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich"
  • Nov 28 2012: This video shows the beauty that surrounds us, and, to be objective, we should admit, there are also ugly pictures around. I think to make the most of our lives we need to learn to enjoy the beauty and to meditate over ugliness until we learn to see it all as beautiful because there is nothing ugly around, but our mind makes it so. For that chance to learn, I think, we should be grateful. To whom? It ain't matter - just be and enjoy. We may call the object of our gratitude God if we like - when we need to know the real name we'll be given it we just have to keep our eyes and ears wide open not to miss it.
  • Nov 26 2012: After watching the video, gratitude arises without reason, as natural as breathing.
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      Nov 26 2012: Hi Yuri!
      Isn't that video wonderful? I agree that gratitude can arise without reason...as natural as breathing... a way of life...in my humble perception:>)
      • Nov 26 2012: Hi Colleen,
        Yes, it is indeed. that way of life and perceptions you share, really inspires me. :-
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          Nov 26 2012: You and your perceptions inspire me too Yuri, and I am grateful for that feeling:>)
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      Nov 26 2012: I agree to that, but, unless you believe in God, the question is "to whom?" It's interesting for me to hear responses from non-believers.
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        Nov 26 2012: To yourself Arkady and/or anyone we choose to share gratitude with. Gratitude is a feeling....a state of being. It is in us...part of us....we choose to feel it...or not.

        I do not know who you refer to when you say "non-believers". Most people believe in something, and whether or not it is the same thing that others believe in, does not matter. So, who are you labeling "non-believers"? And why do you need to do that?
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          Nov 26 2012: Coleen, I agree with your point that everyone believes in something. I appreciate you looking deep into my motives. This is very insightful. As "non-believers", I refer to people who do not believe in a creator and, therefore, would have no-one to thank for the beauty of nature.

          I guess, my whole point is to show that whether or not we believe in God, we share similar emotions about the world around us. These emotions are often quite irrational. I'm just trying to see how people reconcile the irrational emotions with the "rational" worldview claimed by many.

          There are some good questions that came up along the way:
          - What is this emotion that we feel as we perceive the beauty of nature - is it gratitude or "amazement" and "appreciation"?
          - Are "gratitude" and "appreciation" different feelings?
          - Does "gratitude" need to be directed at someone?
          - How is gratitude related to feeling inferior?
          - Is feeling inferior same as humility?
          - Are there any social and psychological benefits to feelings of gratitude and humility?

          I am not trying to prove anything or make any religious points. The goal of this question is to understand myself better, to understand others better, and, perhaps, help others to understand themselves better as well.
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        Nov 26 2012: Arkady,
        Your question, for this discussion is..."Should we feel gratitude for our life? To whom?"

        When you try to seperate "believers" in a creator, from "non-believers", you are reinforcing a divide....a seperation. Gratitude has NOTHING to do with whether or not one believes in a creator!

        Gratitude is a feeling....a state of "being", so we can be grateful in ourselves, or we can share gratitude with whomever we choose...it may be another person, a creator, the forest creatures, etc. etc. Being a believer or non-believer in a creator does NOT in any way impact gratitude...other than who or what one chooses to be grateful to....could be ourselves:>)
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          Nov 27 2012: Coleen, thanks for your reply. I was looking for responses like yours and other people. Certainly, I do not want to separate believers from non-believers, but, perhaps, underline the similarities in the worldviews. Which, of course, one cannot do without realizing the differences. :)
      • Nov 27 2012: Arkady, I can feel gratitude for the friend who shares his knowledge.
        but also i can feel gratitude for not trying to explain how the first heartbeat occurs, because it's enough to know that it occurs.
        I used to search to whom, but I feel that is not necessary to define before to feel.
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          Nov 27 2012: Yuri, thanks! One surprising conclusion that I make from responses is that gratitude does not have to be directed at someone. It can be abstract. We can spontaneously feel it when we experience something good. It seems irrational. Which leads to the second conclusion - rationalizing our emotions often does not make sense. If we try, we may end up with explanations more irrational than the feeling. Isn't it amazing? We feel first and use reason to explain our experiences later (if we can), not the other way around.
      • Nov 27 2012: You are welcome.
        ->If we try, we may end up with explanations more irrational than the feeling. Isn't it amazing?
        Yes, it is. Very nice conclusion.
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        Nov 27 2012: Nice conclusion Arkady:>)

        You say..."We can spontaneously feel it (gratitude) when we experience something good".

        I suggest that we can experience it no matter if we label the experience "good", or "bad". When we live life with gratitude, an experience is simply an experience....neither good or bad...we have no need to label and rationalize:>)

        For example, we might say that having cancer and a near fatal head injury was a "bad" experience? Well, I had them both at the same time, and I cannot say they were "bad", because I learned so much with the experience. I learned more about my own strength and courage, the love of people around me, and the importance of love and acceptance was reinforced. I learned some things that I could not have learned in any other way, so I am grateful for the experiences.

        To me, this is all very reasonable, rational, logical, natural and it makes sense. Perhaps you are trying to rationalize something with the logical mind (what you have been taught as a human?), when it needs the participation of the instinct/intuition to make sense?

        P.S.
        I realize that you are an engineer, and one of your areas of expertise is data analysis. I suggest that when you are insightfully and eagerly exploring any feelings, you might want to let go of your engineer logic a little bit:>) I hang around with retired engineers, and I'd like to share something that one of them, who is very insightful and aware, always says when faced with a challenge...
        "It's not a problem...it's a feature"
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          Nov 27 2012: Coleen,

          Re: "I suggest that we can experience it no matter if we label the experience "good", or "bad". "

          This is a great addition to what I said. I noticed, life becomes much easier and enjoyable when we stop labeling people, events, and circumstances as "good" and "bad" and speculate on what they "should be" or "might have been if...".

          It's exactly my engineering job that gets me into this philosophical mood. I'm testing quality and reliability of electrical circuits. When a reliability test fails it means, in fact, that the test was successful, because the whole purpose of the test was to make the device fail. It exposes the hidden defects and gives an opportunity to improve the design. When your job is to find defects in everything, it's very easy to get a negative world view. I caught myself judging others for not doing their job properly, promising unrealistic deadlines, failure to plan, etc. It's depressing. I thought to myself, "let me try the 'do not judge'" commandment. I started to adopt a softer and more forgiving attitude to others and found my own life at work much more tolerable and enjoyable.

          However, I don't like the saying "it's not a defect, it's a feature". It's usually used as a way to cover-up engineering blunders and present them as if the product was "designed" this way. It sounds like a distortion of truth to me.
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        Nov 28 2012: I very much agree Arkady...life becomes much easier and more enjoyable when we stop labeling people, events, and circumstances as "good" and "bad" and stop speculating on what they "should be" or "might have been if....

        I was addressing your previous comment, in which you stated..."We can spontaneously feel it when we experience something good."

        I also agree that having a "softer" attitude toward others is beneficial. To have something for others, it is also beneficial to have it for ourselves.

        The way you have misquoted the quote I offered, seems to change the meaning for me, so it does not feel like it projects the idea I was trying to project. "It's not a problem...it's a feature" , as my engineer friend lovingly says it, and explains his use of the phrase, means that what he is exploring, may need to be looked at from different perspectives, and the situation (problem or feature, as we choose to see it) offers the opportunity to look differently at the challenge. He has explained that sometimes the thought process he learned as an engineer, needs to change a little bit to see the "feature" in the challenge.

        If your "engineering job" supports your "philosophical mood", and the exploration of emotions/feelings, then carry on my friend:>)
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          Nov 29 2012: Thanks for your comment, Coleen. I understand what you meant to say with the quote. I also support seeing an opportunity where others see a problem (see my thoughts on reliability testing). I just wanted to mention that this saying does not have the same connotation for me. :-)
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        Nov 29 2012: My pleasure Arkady:>)

        I "get" that the saying does not have the same connotation for you. We are all different, and perceive things differently. I am grateful for the differences, because it makes our world much more interesting:>)
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    Nov 24 2012: Dear Arkady,
    I LOVE the topic of gratitude. You ask..."Should we feel gratitude...?" I ask...Why would we NOT feel gratitude? I am grateful for all that is...in every single moment:>)

    The meaning of gratitude is very simply..."The state of being grateful", and that is exactly what it is for me....a state of "being". It can certainly be shared with others, and as you insightfully say...can be an "important feeling in interpersonal relationships".

    I am grateful every single moment... I have a home...a shelter to live in...clean running water...electricity...food....clothing...etc....these are things that many people in our world do not have....why would we not "feel" grateful?

    Even though I've seen the sun rise and set for 60+ years, I am grateful for the beauty every day...I am grateful for the flowers, fruits and vegetables in the garden, that provide me with food...the wood that many people give me to keep the house warm in the winter....every single time I stoke the wood stove, I "feel" gratitude.

    I am grateful for friends and family. Yesterday, a buddy and I went skiing for the first time this season...it was a beautiful day, and we both kept remarking....this is so GREAT....so BEAUTIFUL....PERFECT! We've skied and biked hundreds of times together, always sharing conversation, friendship, enjoying the fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and gratitude:>)

    I'm told that even when unconscious, in ICU, kept alive with life support systems after a near fatal head/brain injury and emergency craniotomy, I was smiling and giving my visitors thumbs up! I guess I was grateful to be alive even while unconscious, in a VERY compromised physical condition!

    Gratitude is a "feeling", that we can have in each and every moment, and I believe it is another stepping stone to moving forward with learning and growth.

    Enjoy...and be grateful....or not....it is a choice:>)

    http://www.danceintherainmovie.com/
    • Nov 26 2012: i love your warm words,you make my blood boiled,and make me feel that life is so good.To tell you the truth,i am at the bottom of my life at this single monment;i cried,complaint a lot and thought life was unfair to me...now i should be grateful,thanks to God to give me legs,so i can go where i want to ,thanks to God to give me arms ,so i can take everything i want to,thanks to God to give me eyes, so i can see all the beautiful things in the world.......i feel i have so much.......gratitude to everything i have...
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        Nov 26 2012: Thank you Xiaoyu!

        Life certainly has challenges, and I'm sorry that you are feeling like you are "at the bottom" right now. Crying is not a bad thing....actually, healing endorphins are released in the brain with crying AND laughing...take your pick! They are BOTH good for us.

        Complaining does not do much, except use up energy that we can use differently. Life simply IS what it is. One thing I have done when feeling a little sorry for myself (when I had cancer and a near fatal head injury at the same time), was read quite a few books about people who had UNBELIEVABLE challenges in their lives. It helped me feel like if THEY could survive and live good lives, then I could do it too!

        In my life experience, no matter what the circumstances are, I can always notice something to be grateful for. Keep looking around you Xiaoyu, and you may notice more to be grateful for as well? We are all connected...we all share the same feelings and emotions...we are more the same than different...my loving energy is with you my friend:>)

        "Out of its abysses, unpredictable life emerges, with a never-ending procession of miracles, crises, healing, and growth. When I realize this once again, I see the absurdity of my belief that I can uinderstand, predict and control life. All I can really do is go along for the ride with as much consciousness and love as I can muster in the moment".
        (Molly Young Brown)
        • Nov 28 2012: Thank you,my friend,you are so kind and so nice,it is very lucky to know you...

          I'm so sorry to hear that you have a very difficult time,i wish all best things to you,from your words,there is one thing for sure,you have a very strong heart and strong mind, you've set a good example for me,i will try my best to deal with my current problems,thank you again!!!
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        Nov 29 2012: Thank you again my friend Xiaoyu! I feel grateful to know you too, and I am grateful that we have this opportunity to connect. This topic question asks who should we be grateful to? In this case, I will say I am very grateful to TED for providing the opportunity for us to connect around our world.

        I do not feel that I have a "difficult time" Xiaoyu. As I wrote on this thread in another comment...."It's not a problem....it's a feature" (Meaning...it is an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve). Life offers challenges, and we have the opportunity to decide how we will face the challenges. It is by facing the challenges with love, that we build our strong heart and mind. There is usually light at the end of the tunnel Xiaoyu....try to focus on moving through the challenge, and the more we do that, the more strength and confidence we build in ourselves.

        I appreciate you, I am grateful for our connection, and my thoughts are with you as you face the challenge my friend:>)
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    Gail . 50+

    • +1
    Nov 24 2012: As an atheist, I can say that I feel appreciation for many things. I do not feel gratitude for these things, because gratitude is something one feels toward another - in this case, by my view, a nonexistent personality.

    I disagree that lack of gratitude creates a sense the the world "owes us"a living. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Gratitude is a position of inferiority. In our culture, the inferior are deemed to be worthy of help. So it would be more accurate to say that gratitude creates the sense that the grateful are owed because they are unable to manifest things for themselves.

    Appreciation is a position of equality and self-esteem. It recognizes self-responsibility as much as gratitude denies it. Gratitude isn't necessary because I manifest my own reality. I truly do appreciate having that ability.
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      Nov 24 2012: Re: "Gratitude is a position of inferiority. In our culture, the inferior are deemed to be worthy of help. So it would be more accurate to say that gratitude creates the sense that the grateful are owed because they are unable to manifest things for themselves."

      What seems to follow is that we should not feel gratitude lest we admit our inferiority. And we should not give and help others lest we cause them to feel grateful and inferior. Is that right?

      How about "gratitude is a position of humility"? Is humility same as inferiority? Most powerful men can be humble and grateful. In my opinion, it makes them more powerful. How can we "manifest our own reality" when we "cannot make even one hair white or black" or "add a single hour to our life"? "Humility comes before honor" and "pride goes before destruction". Alone, we can achieve very little. Asking others for help and helping others with humility and gratitude, in fact, multiplies our individual abilities and power. Don't you think so?

      But the first step seems to be to admit that we need help and feel gratitude for what we have, because I don't think, we can claim merit for anything that we have including our own abilities and everything can and will be taken from us before we know it.

      Although, of course, my position is based on religion, I don't mean this to be a religious discussion. I just would like to consider which attitude is more beneficial, psychologically and socially.
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        Gail . 50+

        • +1
        Nov 25 2012: Yes, you and I have mutually exclusive worldviews. I was a Christian for 30 years, but after considerable research into pre kjv versions of the gospel texts, and contemplation of the teachings of Jesus, I left Christianity and followed Jesus' teachings instead.

        I found that humility keeps me from being one with the christ. How can I be one-with something if I feel humble compared to it? I can't. I have to be that which I want to be.

        It was only when I began to see and acknowledge my own greatness that I was able to see the greatness of that which you call god (but I do not) and of my fellow human. That is when my life changed to the point where it doesn't even feel like the same life anymore.

        So, with this in mind, I fully appreciate all that we are and all that is around me - having manifested it myself from that which we are. I know this sounds weird to you, but if you speak of psychologically beneficial, more than 20 years of clinical depression vanished. And if you speak of socially, honesty became so important to me that I was willing to look at that which I didn't want to see before - and with that more joyous opportunities opened to me. I am no danger to anyone - not because I follow any commandments, but because I know with absolute certainty (having tested it) that as we treat our fellows, we bring the equivalent into our own lives.

        Therefore, because I wanted to be treated well by my fellows, I treat others as I want to be treated. The difference between "then" and "now" is that before, I didn't take the time to examine how I treated others, so I didn't accept responsibility for my part in the consequences I faced.

        Repentance, I found, will not take you to the kingdom of heaven that Jesus said is within you NOW. So having found that kingdom, I want to always remain consciously aware of it. Humility and "gratitude" as opposed to appreciation, takes me away from it.

        Peace. :-)
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          Nov 27 2012: Hi, TED Lover. I appreciate your response very much.

          Our worldviews seem mutually exclusive just like the two sides of the yin-yang symbol. Depending on the perspective, they can also be viewed as identical. It seems to me that we call things differently - that's all.

          Here is my take on this. I believe, self-esteem is extremely important for our inner peace. We need to know who we are. By this I mean, know who we are physically, what we like, what makes us happy, what makes us sad, what makes us angry. And we must accept ourselves as we are, not as we or anyone else thinks we ought to be. If we want to look differently or be like someone else or believe we deserve more than we have or less than we have, we are unhappy with ourselves or, simply, unhappy. When we base our image of ourselves on other people's opinions or compare ourselves to others, it may have two possible results: pride and arrogance or feeling of inferiority. Self-esteem which you talk about means avoiding the second mistake, humility that I talk about is avoiding the first mistake.

          I believe, God is an abstraction of our "self". We project our "self" on everything we see. This is why we often see things "as we are". Responses I read here seem to confirm this. When people "feel gratitude" to forest, for example, they project their human image onto the forest. This is how gods come about. There is, however, one God - one "self" and he is within as many scriptures say. I like the idea of Christianity, because it clearly shows that God is human. We are one with God. And there is no huge mystery in it.

          Jesus did not seem to have an inferiority complex - walking around healing sick and telling everyone he is the son of God. But he never used his power for his own benefit, washed his disciple's feet, healed a soldier who came to arrest him, and allowed himself to be killed. Well, that's humility as I understand it. Humility is not a feeling of inferiority.
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          Nov 27 2012: Re: "Repentance, I found, will not take you to the kingdom of heaven that Jesus said is within you NOW. So having found that kingdom, I want to always remain consciously aware of it."

          As I read your final statement, it seems to me that we, really, have the same world view. Repentance is simply acknowledging our own imperfections - moral, in the first place. We need it to get rid of them, don't we? Otherwise, we start to judge others, would not forgive other people, and turn into hypocrites. Repentance is taking time to think how we treat others of which you talk. Repentance and humility are a part of the process of getting at peace with ourselves. So, congratulations on having found your kingdom.

          Re: "I was able to see the greatness of that which you call god (but I do not)." What we call it isn't really important as long as we understand what we are talking about. :-)
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        Nov 27 2012: RE: "When we base our image of ourselves on other people's opinions or compare ourselves to others, it may have two possible results: pride and arrogance or feeling of inferiority. Self-esteem which you talk about means avoiding the second mistake, humility that I talk about is avoiding the first mistake."

        IMO, pride & arrogance = feelings of inferiority. Only a person who feels insecure can be arrogant.

        RE: "We project our "self" on everything we see. This is why we often see things "as we are"."

        IMO, I couldn't agree more.

        RE: "Jesus did not seem to have an inferiority complex - walking around healing sick and telling everyone he is the son of God. But he never used his power for his own benefit,"

        IMO, Though Jesus said that he was the light of the world, he also said that YOU are the light of the world. We are gods in our own rights. Jesus always used his power for his own benefit because as we do to/for others, we do to/for ourselves and that which you call God (per Bible).

        RE: Jesus dying on the cross: If you read the pre-kjv of the ancient texts, you will see that tests say that bar abba was released unharmed. To get the importance of this, you must understand Hebrew and koine Greek. Bar abba is not a name. It is a term of endearment used by a very small child to his (loving) father. Because this father gives all that is asked for (no stones when bread is asked for), bar abba COULD be translated into "sugar daddy". Combine this promise with Jesus' instructions to "turn the other cheek" & "love your enemy". You may not be aware that peace is a power, and if you find peace, threats will back down in the face of it.

        Knowing what I know, and having tested the "turn the other cheek" technique in 2 lethal situations, I know with certainty that it works.

        RE:, Repentance is acknowledging imperfections: If you find the kingdom within, you will find your perfection & innocence. Repentance & humility deny this, so can't get there from there
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          Nov 27 2012: Re: "IMO, pride & arrogance = feelings of inferiority."

          This is true. When we feel inferior or insecure, we try to inflate our importance by visual appearance of self-confidence and treating others as inferior to us which is the attitude of arrogance. On the other hand, when we feel that we are more important than we are, we start thinking that we do not get what we deserve in terms of salary, respect, etc. You are right that feeling inferior and arrogance are two sides of the same coin.

          Interesting thoughts on the meaning of Barabbas name. Not sure about the "sugar daddy" interpretation. I found this: http://christiananswers.net/dictionary/barabbas.html. It interprets Barabbas as "son of the father". I'm not a Hebrew linguist, but, from a look-up on the internet, "bar" means "the son of". It is very possible that "Barabbas" and Jesus Christ refer to different parts of our "self". The amount of associations in the Bible is astonishing. E.g., Joshua (who led Israel into the promised land flowing with milk and honey) and Jesus are, apparently the same name. Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss (a sign of love and respect) and Judah - the name of the biggest tribe of Israel is the same name. It seems to imply that we can betray God internally by paying external signs of respect. Whereas Peter who betrayed Jesus externally turned out to be "the rock" of faith. Etc. I find this fascinating.
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        Nov 27 2012: What we call "god" is important if you define god as someone or something that has power OVER our lives - a greater being. You like seeing God as "a" being, whereas I thrive when I see the self-aware energy field of which we all are, as "being".

        "A" being vs. "being". Inferiority belongs to the first. Equality belongs to the second.

        No, our worldviews are mutually exclusive. But I have enjoyed having a civil debate about the matter. Too often this is impossible.
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          Nov 27 2012: As I said, I define god as an abstraction of our "self" projected onto the universe. I'm not blind and I can read. And as I read the Bible, the amount of cruelty, jealousy, anger, etc. shown by the "loving" God to people is amazing. This is rightfully pointed out by people like Dawkins. But this seems like a very accurate portrait of our own human self. We ascribe all human features to God.

          This power over our lives is inside us. And the power is huge. It should be used only for self-control. When we use it to control others, it brings evil. It's a circular reference - like "free will". We have no free will unless we believe it. We have no human rights unless we believe it. This is the only way I can reconcile the moral inconsistencies in the Bible.

          You seem to have some preconceived opinion about my beliefs. But it is not my purpose to convince you of anything. I very much appreciate sharing your views with me. Thanks.
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    Nov 24 2012: Arkady, I agree with you. TED is comprise of the 95% minority which are very liberal and, by looking at the bios and reading conversations, many are athiests. Let us take a quote from Louie's bio, “Beauty and seduction, I believe, is nature’s tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with.” This is a pure green statement. I salute Louie for his ability to appeal to all sides. If you watch the clip and believe in God then you are inspired by His design. If you are a environmentalist you will see the beauty and the need for preservation of the prestine sights he has presented you with. You want to run out and hug Al 'internet" Gore. Louie is a matchmaker and has coupled us with nature regardless of our beliefs. At the end everyone stood and clapped as one and the hawk and the dove stood together in peace. Each having been seduced.

    Appreciation is also a part of gratitude ... that is what has been brought to the surface by Louie.

    Therefore I submit that as believers and non-believers alike we can share emotions ... loves ... and concerns ... and not beholding to anyone ... Louie has found a way to make us alive, aware, and appreciative.



    All the best. Bob.
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      Nov 24 2012: I agree with you that non-believers and believers alike share same emotions, experiences, and attitudes. It seems to me that the concept of God helps people to express feelings that would make no sense otherwise - such as the feeling of gratitude for our life. This feeling is very abstract and this rational question "to whom?" turns it into nonsense. Same goes for helping total strangers, loving and forgiving enemies. These things are irrational. It's hard to do them without an irrational belief of some sort.

      It's sad that people would fight each other simply because they don't use the same language to express similar feelings.
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        Nov 24 2012: Arkady, Thanks for the reply. I am not a religious scholar but I think it would help you to understand the roots of christanity and the gift that Constantine the Great the Roman Emperor gave us. The Council of Nicaea is of particular interest. I do not ask that you either embrace or deny ... but rather to enjoy the history and events that changed the world under his rule.

        Enjoy. Bob.
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          Nov 24 2012: Robert, Constantine's "gift of Christianity" is quite controversial. There are opinions that this "gift" led to centuries of antisemitism, genocide, and suppression of science. The very motives of this "gift" are questionable. This brings up a good point. Should we feel gratitude for everything that comes our way? E.g., if someone gives me a motorcycle and I get into an accident and injure myself, should I be grateful for this gift? I guess, this question of gratitude is not about the gifts or about the givers - it's about ourselves, our attitude and perception.

          "There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein. We can replace "miracle" with "gift" in this quote.

          This brings to mind a funny parable: On a winter day, a sparrow froze and fell onto the road. A cow was passing by and dropped its dung onto the sparrow. The sparrow warmed up and began to tweet. A cat heard the sparrow, got it out of the pile of dung, and ate it. The moral is three-fold: 1) not everyone who dungs on you is your enemy; 2) not everyone who gets you out of the dung is your friend; 3) don't tweet while sitting in a pile of dung.

          Not sure how this relates to the gratitude question, but there seems to be some connection and food for thought :-).
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        Nov 25 2012: Wow, I had never heard anyone doubt or question Constantine. In some religions he is even sainted.

        I am not surprised though in todays world of revisionists anything is possible.

        Thanks for the reply. Bob.