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Gary Schouborg, PhD
"Liberation as Radical Gratitude"
Liberation as Radical Gratitude
Gratitude takes us beyond ego to something given us (grace, gratia). It ties in with Rilke's observation that, "Everything is gestation and then birthing."
Ego is inherently self-regulating, controlled. But we are capable of moving our awareness beyond ego, to the awareness that even what we do voluntarily is the product of gestation. All our abilities and inabilities and even what we do are given us. There is nothing of which we're the ultimate author. It's easy enough to grant that we didn't create our parents and whatever material and cultural gifts they provided us. It's even relatively easy to grant that we didn't create our intellectual and physical gifts. But we commonly fail to see that we didn't create our moral gifts either: our perseverance, our resilience, our courage, our kindness, even the choices by which we've developed our gifts. These are all products of a life force within us, a gestation process that's deeper than anything produced or controlled by ego.
When we reach this perspective of radical gratitude, we savor all our experiences as gifts. We realize that clinging is an illusion because our deepest pleasure is lost in grasping and found only in receiving what we're given. And we no longer separate what we're given (doesn't come from ego) from what we produce (by ego), because we realize that what we're given includes what we produce. For our ego, with all its abilities and inabilities, is also given to us. In other words, gestation articulates itself through ego's performance. (1)
This perspective of radical gratitude produces an inner pleasure that distinguishes it from stoicism: merely bearing misfortune without whining and taking fortune without glee. Radical gratitude is also a radical letting go, the realization that everything is given us. By letting go, radical gratitude accepts that all gifts are very brief. Clinging, on the other hand, is the ungrateful grasping after what's offered. The non-judgmental attitude cultivated in mindfulness meditation is the radical learning of the wise old advice not to look a gift-horse in the mouth. Perhaps radical gratitude can even find some satisfaction in pain, sickness, and dying as part of the natural bodily process given us. At the very least, it can provide some buffer to suffering by reminding us of the pleasant gifts we've enjoyed.
Finally, by taking us beyond ego and its products, radical gratitude takes us beyond the conditional in the sense that it takes us beyond the perception of happiness as something under our control, something we achieve. Indeed, it gives us the liberating realization that all of life, including our ego and its products, is given us. The early hints that our life is radically beyond our control are frightening to the degree that we haven't yet let go of our insistence on control. Radical gratitude takes us beyond the fright to a welcoming, appreciative acceptance.
(1) Mike Arons suggested the notion of articulation. Louise Sundararajan suggested that I make explicit that performance in turn nourishes gestation in a continual dialectic between gestation and performance. Of course, radical gratitude appreciates that this dialectic is itself given us.