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 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

        The reason we thank is human life is valuable.

        There is a saying by an ancient saint 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 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


    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 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 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: 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 natural as breathing... a way of 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 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?

        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'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 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'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 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 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 was a beautiful day, and we both kept remarking....this is 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 is a choice:>)
    • 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 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 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's a feature" ( 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 .

    • +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 .

        • +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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        Gail .

        • 0
        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: 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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        Gail .

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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.
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    Nov 24 2012: ... yes ... To the greater whole of which we are each one part.
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      Nov 24 2012: This, perhaps, is the best non-religious answer I can imagine. It leaves room for religious answers as well. I believe, religious answers mean exactly the same thing...
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    Nov 23 2012: I'm grateful for every good thing I've been given, and the love I've recieved, and the good health that I enjoy.
    I'm grateful for the beautiful things of life, and the lovely people in the world (family, friends,neighbours,strangers).
    I'm grateful to storytellers (writers and filmmakers)
    I'm grateful to God, who is more real to me than this piece of technology I'm typing on; and I'm grateful to members of the TED community.

    I'm sure that non-believers feel gratitude; but only for the things they believe in.
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        Nov 23 2012: The fact that someone does not believe in God doesn't mean he or she doesn't believe in technology, the pet dog or CNN.
        As long as you are alive you gotta believe in something.
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        Nov 23 2012: The fact that someone does not believe in God doesn't mean he or she doesn't believe in technology, the pet dog or CNN.
        As long as you are alive you gotta believe in something.
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        Nov 24 2012: Mike, what you write is very true. It does not make sense to believe in any "thing" in this world for the very reason that you described. By the way, religion discourages or prohibits such beliefs as well, calling them "idolatry".

        Don't you believe in "change" then?

        By the way, you poem hits me very close to home. 2 days before Thanksgiving, the fence on my front yard fell after rains and wind. Rotten posts. Why did you choose this particular metaphor? Occurrences like this may be a pure coincidence, but they feel like "something" is trying to speak to me. E.g., I may consider an important decision, and then some remark from a total stranger suddenly makes this decision crystal clear. It's just my perception, though. We don't need to read too much into it.
  • Dec 23 2012: Gratitude? Will any mother will have it after death of her son? Will any businessman will have after going bankrupt? There are numerous such situations when we can't expect people to have gratitude.

    When good things happen the ones who believe in God, are grateful to God. But what about an atheist? He will be happy within himself.

    When things go bad the atheist will blame situations, surrounding, people or any other possible thing. God believers will pray or will go at holy places.

    For me gratitude is being thankful to whatever good happened. And you should be grateful to those who made good things happen for you, no matter, if its God or human.
  • Dec 23 2012: Gratitude is for the rich, I doubt if you were born in a wartorn country or a family that got killed by the army you'd feel 'gratitude' towards god or the universe/etc.

    I would venture to say that most who feel gratitude is doing so from a safe/luxurious position in history.
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      Dec 23 2012: Not necessarily. I agree with Prakar Jeevan below that gratitude is a character, not a feeling. Everybody has things to complain about. Of two people in the same situation, one may feel victimized, the other one may feel blessed.
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        Dec 23 2012: I believe gratitude is a feeling, an attitude, a characteristic, personality trait, and a choice with each and every one of us in any given moment. I am not wealthy financially. I AM however, rich with gratitude. I have faced challenges in the life adventure, which continue to contribute to the feeling of gratitute I have in my heart. Sometimes directed toward someone special for his/her contribution to my feeling of gratitude....sometimes simply something I feel in myself. It has a LOT to do with our perception of the world, the life adventure, and those who contribute to our life experience. Mostly, it is a choice we make for ourselves in each moment.....or not:>)
  • Dec 17 2012: Should we? Life is about self-expression; if we think we know God then yes, but otherwise no. I think that there is a case for feeling gratitude; I feel it immensely. But towards what I can't think for an atheist; to thank randomness seem a bit pointless.

    To Whom?
    I don't call on atheists to start 'believing', just because they want someone to thank. The word 'belief' has become hijacked by religion to mean mindless acceptance of rules and certain facts. An atheist I would see as the opposite - a thinker.

    But you see I don't see the choice as between science and religion.
    I see the choice as between science-which-sees-God and science-which doesn't-see-Him YET.

    Since the Galileo incident science thinks it has been given free-reign to discover truth. In fact it is working blindly on the unwritten hypothesis that He isn't there, & all it produces comes with that hidden assumption. If we want the real truth from science (knowledge) we will have to wait until it can work without that assumption.

    Science/physics has many inadequacies which are not widely displayed and this is unfortunate since most thinkers grow to trust its wisdom and professed objectivity and are therefore denied real truth about existence. One day this will change, science will become truly objective, it will be humbled by its apparent previous ignorance.

    The thing is religion has got it wrong and so has science/physics!
    What we are ultimately talking about is whether the origins of everything are material, or whether they are spiritual. In other words did it all start with a big bang, or did it start with some primordial spiritual (consciousness) awakening somewhere in the nothingness and that consciousness then managed to work out how to make matter.

    You can be thankful to God or not, He won't mind, our origins are spiritual, we are all of that same oneness, our consciousness cannot be destroyed and I say this not from belief, but from scientifically obtained evidence, knowledge.
  • Dec 10 2012: There are other words than Gratefulness, Mindfulness, Contemplation and Appreciation can work. I appreciate that I am alive, I appreciate that evolution has brought humans to awareness we exist, that life in and of itself is quite wondrous. Meditation develops the region of the brain I mentioned in an earlier post. Awareness brings intelligence and sharing and compassion. Organic life avoids pain and seeks pleasure.
    Personally I have experienced pain in my life, I did not like it one bit and I know of no one who likes it so I am compassionate. If I were NOT alive I would not have experienced anything. So to me life is special.
  • Dec 10 2012: What is God? Simple! Not you nor I… why? We need a point of unity and conformity outside ourselves to act as a axiomatic symbol of defeat and an expression of need and a cry for help. This intuitive concept was unconsciously formed when humans were unable to cope with the complexities, hardships and the terrible heartbreak of the loss of loved ones. Neuroscience has identified a region of the brain that allows for a state of perspective outside of ourselves. This state can be so convincing that people in terrible catastrophes may experience what is called “The Third Person”. This is where someone mortally wounded in let us say a car accident, alone, on a highway near death is comforted by a person who does not exist. There are thousands and thousands of these accounts and through the miracle of modern medicine and a strong desire to live these people survived. Upon asking about the compassionate person who was with them in their moment of need paramedics replied that there was no one present when they arrived. Yet this compassionate person even interacted with the Paramedics. This region of the mind allows us to get outside ourselves, often people refer to a paradigm shift in their concept of life and who they are because they were able to use this region of the brain to accept painful truths about themselves and their hurtful behaviour to others… to be continued.
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    Dec 9 2012: Being grateful to God for life on earth is an interesting notion that is all tied up with your definition of God. Is god is a male figure that manipulates daily events on this little planet or is god the force that triggered the big bang? Being grateful to the former for life is akin to a child being grateful to Santa for the Christmas presents. Being grateful to the latter recognizes that god permeates everything and for me, results in ubiquitous gratitude.
  • Dec 9 2012: Gratitude is of course a natural human emotion (it's not clear to me that animals are capable of it).

    But saying that it's natural to feel gratitude for our lives does not explain away the spiritual element at work. Rather, it focuses on it.

    So let's address the question -- to whom do we feel the gratitude?

    One facile answer is, to our parents. But that really just begs the question. The question is, to whom should we, and them, and all the rest of us, feel gratitude?

    For me, the answer is, God. It was God that created the universe. If not God, then whom? Scientist agree that the universe came into existence 14 billion years ago in a manner that is truly Godlike -- everything was created in an instant out of nothing.

    And so it is God to whom we owe it all.
    • Dec 10 2012: How do you say that the universe exist? I will say that the universe does not exist

      ==you say==
      Scientist agree that the universe came into existence 14 billion years ago in a manner that is truly Godlike
      Define Godlike
      What is the process behind godlike

      Also, Gratitude is not a human emotion, Dogs are more grateful to their masters than his maid will be.
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        Dec 10 2012: When we define "godlike" and the process behind "godlike" it stops being "godlike". As we reveal a mystery, it stops being a mystery, doesn't it?
        • Dec 11 2012: Exactly, Also, If scientists (Humans) say something as " trully godlike" , then its not godlike, it should be humanlike.
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    Dec 8 2012: @Arkady
    Glass was just a metaphor. I agree that empty side is a potential. Every empty side in someones life can be useful and instructive, if you try to work on it. And if someone don't have that kind of point of view, I think nothing can make that person happy. In my humble opinion glass can make me happy if I think about it. It contains art, it is there for a purpose and it is liquid, transparent form of sand. You can hold something liquid as if it is solid..This is very interesting, and adds meaning to life and makes me feel gratitude for its existence. What if there were no glass in the world? Maybe you would say, there would be something else... It might be :)
    But maybe we should think about the deffinition of happiness first...
  • Dec 7 2012: I do not think you can intelligently reduce experience of the world to two subjective perspectives, as if any statement about your experience is simply a ''choice" between half-full and half empty glasses and there are no objectively assessable criteria of value.

    If you do so, then you enter a Panglossian fantasy, becoming blind to actual reality.
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      Dec 8 2012: Actually, you are right. Perhaps, it's better to withhold any judgment of events, circumstances, and people - abstain from evaluating things as "good" or "bad". It allows to see things as they are. Such judgments make us unhappy. I think, it's not a coincidence that the tree from which Adam and Eve ate before they were cast out of the garden of Eden was called "the tree of knowledge of good and evil".

      Perhaps, we can classify our experiences as "pleasant" or "unpleasant". It does not mean that things and people causing unpleasant experiences are bad. Whatever we feel, it's nice to be able to feel it, isn't it?
  • Dec 6 2012: Gratitude is not a particularly pleasant emotion to experience- this is rather hilarioussly illustrated in the film Billy Liar-

    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.
  • Dec 6 2012: I feel thankful towards the people who don't put themselves but others in the first place, because that his how humanity funtions best - in my opinion to say the least.
    However this also means that I do not really feel any gratitude towards inorganic/non-sentient things, I don't know why that is, it just seems sort of in vain to mr
  • Dec 3 2012: saying 'thank you' to someone who helps you is as pointless as saying 'sorry' to someone
    you have wronged.
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      Dec 3 2012: Why do you think saying thank you is pointless Leo? I think it is very enjoyable....feels good to me:>)
  • Dec 2 2012: I'm sorry for my poor english, I hope you can understand me.
    I'm sure you talk about the great truths available to everyone.
    But people ignore these truths in their lives.
    Why do they do that? Do they have another great reason?
    What do you think about it?
    Thank you.
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      Dec 2 2012: Dear Samvel,
      Your english looks good to me! What is your first language?

      I agree...there are some great truths available to everyone. I think perhaps people feel they are too busy to pay attention to the great truths? Why do you think people ignore them?

      I appreciate your comment, and welcome to TED conversations:>)
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      Dec 3 2012: Samvel, we can talk about truth regarding physical reality. Such truth can be verified by observation of things external to us. When we discuss our internal experiences - emotions, feelings, values, goals, concepts of good and evil, Marx's principle of "practice as criterion of truth" is, perhaps, still applicable, but now we must observe things internal to us. Our experience about feelings are feelings themselves. We encounter the "Self". This "Self" has a tendency to destroy everything: skeptic cannot doubt his skepticism. Logic cannot prove that it can prove the truth. Evidence cannot prove itself. Moral teachings crumble when applied to self: When I tell someone "do not judge", I am judging that person to be guilty of judging. All arguments fall on their face before "Self". The truth becomes simply what we believe. Not surprisingly, faith is praised by most religions. And, since everyone has different experiences and feelings, beliefs about internal truths differ greatly. Hence, a great variety of religions, political views, tastes, etc.
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    Nov 27 2012: Does gratitude or appreciation Need to be directed to someone real or imagined.

    Perhaps being grateful to your parents for your existence and undirected appreciation of the cosmos.
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    Nov 26 2012: I do feel gratitude is a component of my life, but I would prefer to describe my personal existence somewhat differently. For me life is simply precious beyond all measure because of pure biological fortune.

    Here's why. The conception that made me possible (or anyone else for that matter) seems to be a single happenstance. In other words a single egg and a single sperm from the mind boggling numbers produced by one's parents which enabled this unique existence of my being. And this phenomena applies to the circumstances which begot my parents and their parents, etc., without whom there is nothing.

    Perhaps all the more reason I try to live life well by seeking the true riches this precious existence enables.

    I appreciate life and feel grateful for my fortune, but I do complain once in a while! It is understandable why religion attracts so many regarding the meaning of existence, but it disolved away for me to the natural wonders of the real world.
  • Nov 26 2012: Hi Arkady, I personally do believe that we should and can truly feel VERY grateful and that in fact the reaction at the end of our search will be spontaneous overwehlming gratitude. As to Whom? As a believer in the existence of an Absolute....a common tread that permeates us all and everything...that propels our journey of developing consciousness from stone to ultimately realize ourselves as the Absolute .(if God is Absolute, Then what else can we be.) In this journey which God asks Himself the question Who Am I, with the eventual answer I AM GOD.This is only possible in the human form which has fully evolved consciousness (See God Speaks by Meher Baba). The ultimate gratitude is deservingly given to that One (the Friend,Rasool,Christ,Saviour,The Master) who in His compassion helps all humanity and directly assists in the life of the ripe disciple. He will suffer to relieve our burden and unbinds consiousness without damaging it then at the alloted time and by His Grace Awakens the aspirant in Union with God. I believe this in ever increasing certainty as I experience miracle after miracle in my life with my hand in the Masters.Not miracles of the supernatural type, but miracles in inspiration, and selfless kindness that causes the greatest miracle , me becoming less selfish and alivened to surenderance to Him.This against the natural habit of the ego from its development of consciousness during evolution over the eons. Very Grateful To Meher Baba.
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  • Nov 24 2012: I am a 'atheist'. And I feel gratitude for life too. I feel gratitude to mother nature (evil-ution :). Because when you are an atheist, you might want to believe every thing led to another.. I also feel gratitude to myself when I have f.ex. gotton the job, because I did so well on the interview and so on.

    like, if i pick up a mushroom in the forrest, and eats it, i thank the weather for making them grow up and the sun for making me go and find it etc.. I don't think about every detail like that off course, but more towards a generic understanding of how it came to be. really the same thing religious people do, just without the God figure. (I stop my gratitude before at a potential Big Bang, and whatever was before that, I could not care less.. just like christians could not care less who created God)

    To end up; I don't think we can choose to feel gratitude; some do, some don't.
    And I am convinced that it does not affect the ability to give, just because you don't feel gratitude to a God or mother nature or Buddha or yourself.
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      Nov 25 2012: Re: "To end up; I don't think we can choose to feel gratitude; some do, some don't."

      Can we learn to feel? I think, we can. In many cases, gratitude is taught by parents as a social skill. I still think that ability to feel gratitude and ability to give are related. Those who don't know or don't feel comfortable accepting gifts often don't know or don't feel comfortable to make them.
      • Nov 25 2012: Interesting! I think the taught social skill and the real appreciation off a gift because you truly deeply like it, are two different things. For me the social setting is more like acting for others best being, not gratitude of any kind.

        For me at least, it is extremely uncomfortable to receive gifts, however, I love giving them!
        I think it is connected with me being very shy. I don't even feel comfortable being told I've done a good job, or have an amazing talent for the guitar, it just bugs me out. I also blush, and believe all this proborbly are connected somewhat :)

        Furthermore, I could agree to a sentence like "we can learn to controll the outcome off our feelings" at least, but I don't think we can learn to feel from our parents (except perhaps by watching them). I think we can only learn to feel by experiencing the feeling, hence i think we are equipped by default with these feelings of gratitude or hate or amazement.
        The understanding perspective we choose/are convinced of in life, then (religion or atheism or something else), will affect our gratitude and how we percieve it (I think :)

        But this is highly amature chains off thoughts regarding a huge difficult question, so don't take it for anything else :)
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    Nov 24 2012: QUOTE: "Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep."--Felix Frankfurter.
    I seem to remember reading the comments attached to Louie's great talk. There were more than a few who expressed displeasure with the references to God. People don't easily put their gratitude into words as Felix said. I am watching for responses to your post claiming to feel no sense of gratitude at all, for anything. Such an attitude seems incongruous to me, but what do I know? Good topic sir! Thanks.
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        Nov 24 2012: Re: "If you are more of an introvert, with excellent Mindsight, the "target" need only be a thought, within the mind."

        Excellent point...

        "You don't look out there for God, something in the sky, you look in you."
        Alan Watts

        "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you."
        Luke 17
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      Nov 24 2012: Does amazement prompt you to do good things to other people?
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          Nov 25 2012: No. I just recently discovered him. I will.

          Actually, I realize that I made my question somewhat loaded and provoking. Perhaps, intentionally. My opening statement implies that it's somehow morally wrong not to feel gratitude. On the other hand, considering something that just "happens" to us as a gift is, perhaps, seeing something that does not exist, "seeing things as we are" rather than "seeing things as they are". It may stand in the way of perceiving reality. And perceiving reality without pushing our agendas on it is important. Your perception may be more reflective than mine.

          So, thank you for sharing your view.
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    Nov 23 2012: I feel gratitude to all the billions of people that came before me and all the billions that exist now, all the things they did, or do, to make my life possible and to make it better. Also I feel gratitude to farm animals and produce that they give themselves up so I can eat.
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      Nov 24 2012: I agree with you that feeling grateful is good. However, gratitude for my life seems very irrational.

      Those billions of people did not give me life. Many of them do nothing to make my (or anyone else's) life better, and many even make it worse. Why would I do anything for these people?

      Animals don't make a choice to be slaughtered for my food. And why stop at farm animals? Why shouldn't I be grateful to pumpkins and potatoes? And, if we take it farther, this gratitude quickly spreads to Earth for being a nice place to live, to Sun for keeping us warm and making other things possible, and the whole universe for having all laws of physics "fine tuned" for our existence. But does it make any sense to be thankful to inanimate things?

      I'm being facetious here. What I mean is that this gratitude is very irrational. Shouldn't we get rid of it, then, as many people advise to do with religion?
  • Nov 23 2012: I feel gratitude for gifts given to me. I have appreciation and respect for nature.

    I feel gratitude to my parents, my loved ones, those that have and choose to sacrifice so I have the freedom to appreciate, and those that have taught me how to greater appreciate nature. I have also learned to appreciate the talents of many artists and the wisdom of many great people.

    Life might be considered a gift from your parents. Quality of life might be a gift from many people. How you chose to life your life and what you choose to do with your life might be considered paying homage to those to which you feel gratitude.

    I think you may show gratitude by living life to the fullest, enjoying life, and doing what you can to see others do likewise.

    Some feel a need to pay homage to a supreme being or similar religious symbol. To the extent it makes them feel better, it is a good thing. Many religions facilitate this and offer the comfort of a group experience. Many religions also provide a conduit for helping others enjoy life. However, to the extend practitioners are controlled or manipulated by this feeling it is a bad thing. It is also a bad thing if used to impinge on the ability of others to enjoy life. Showing gratitude should be a personal choice.
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      Nov 24 2012: We seem to agree that the feeling of gratitude for our life is beneficial.
      This feeling seems to be abstract, not directed at anyone in particular. You may say that "life might be considered a gift from your parents". We can feel gratitude to our parents for their decision to bring us into this world (which many parents don't really do), their decision not to abort our life during pregnancy, and their care and love for us (which many parents do not show). But not for life itself.

      How about the "appreciation for nature"? This emotion seems to be similar to gratitude and a lot of people experience the sense of wonder and awe when they look at a flower, sunset, or a faraway galaxy. Can this feeling be called "gratitude"? To whom?
      • Nov 24 2012: I do not think so. Gratitude implies a thankfulness for something received. We really do not receive nature, but we can appreciate its beauty, respect it, experience it and allow it to help us enjoy life.

        I do not think I can feel gratitude for life, at least my own life. It is a natural occurrence and I know no other condition.
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          Nov 24 2012: Re: "Gratitude implies a thankfulness for something received. We really do not receive nature."

          I guess it's a matter of perception. Do we "receive" life as a gift or is it a "natural occurrence"? We don't "receive" nature, but we can "experience" nature and the beauty of it, and it's possible to be thankful for an experience.

          If we think of things as "natural occurrences", there is a risk of looking the same way at things we receive from other people, especially when we don't ask for these things. Whatever life is, it makes sense to me to view it as a gift. I think, such view helps to enjoy it better.