TED Conversations

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 6 2012: Gratitude is not a particularly pleasant emotion to experience- this is rather hilarioussly illustrated in the film Billy Liar- http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/237392/Billy-Liar-Movie-Clip-Grateful-.html

    I don't want to wander about feeling grateful all the time, it wouldnt make me any happier, nor the world a better place. I'm content just getting on with my own business.And if I were Billy Liar, I hope I'd escape to London in the end of the film, instead of having been oppressed by "gratitude".
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      Dec 7 2012: T.Frank, thanks for the comment. Very interesting. You are the second person here who views feeling of "gratitude" as psychologically oppressive.

      I guess, it all depends on how we view gifts. Some gifts are given with grace, with no expectation of any return. Some "gifts" are given to buy future favors. Gratitude for the first kind is liberating and encouraging. Gratitude for the second kind is enslaving - nobody wants to feel indebted.

      Perhaps, how we view gifts from others depends on our experiences with giving.

      I see some connection here with how people view religion. To some, it is liberating, to some it's enslaving or is a tool to enslave others.
      • Dec 7 2012: The dificulty with discussing religion generally is that it includes so many different outlooks and values. Some religions are celebratory, others are austere, even condemnatory.

        I have a good deal to be greteful for- certainkly my life relative to that of the majority of the world's inhabitants is an extremely comfortable one.

        However , I cannot avoid feeling that the world we are in is cruel, and that or species is unusually unpleasant- quite shockingly capable of violence. This is sometimes gratuitous, at other times organise'; sometmes personally directed, at other times randomi or impersonal.

        Even if there is not direct violence, there is a constant low level power struggle between people, which makes society unpleasant. I try to escape into the idealised zones of art but that is, of course, merely escape.

        Ergo the feelings of gratitude I might have are muted.
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          Dec 7 2012: Two people may look at the same reality and see completely different things. I understand what you mean. Perhaps, for each thing to feel gratitude, there are hundred things to resent. I still think, gratitude is better for my health than resentment. But far be it from me to impose this opinion on others :-).
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          Dec 7 2012: If you condition your self to see the empty side of the glass, this will bring misery and silence to your mind. This would make you feel hopeless. Althoug many people don't like to talk about it, death is the only certain fact of life. Because it seem like the end (I don't think that it is the end, by the way.).
          If you think that all these violence, struggle and unpleasant situations may have a reason just for you(!) and individually for everyone else to understand something from it, than it may make you start to see the half full side of the glass. As there is so much struggle, there is so much passion, wisdom and love. Empty side lets you see the value of full side actually and gives you choice to engage that side. The question is, which side do you prefer to see?
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          Dec 8 2012: @Dolunay
          An empty glass is full of potential. A glass is a good and useful thing by itself. The glass does not have to contain anything for us to feel happy that we have it.

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