Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013: The Joyless and Ungrateful Are Still Among Us


I received a subscription to Canada’s National Post for Christmas.  The paper’s ‘Letters’ page, December 31, 2012, was dedicated to an idea suggested earlier by one of their readers, Esther Paul.  Esther had recommended to Paul Russell, the Letters editor, that readers be asked, “What gives them joy/satisfaction/what are they grateful for.”

From what I could see, the majority of printed letters were indeed “quite heartwarming” as the paper said.  People were grateful for family and friends.  Some were thankful there was a God.  Others were thankful for what Canada offers, or for their health, or for a free press, and a slew of other reasons.

But two letters in particular caught my attention.  The first was under a sub-heading that read, “Grateful that there is not a God”.  It was by an A. Hughes from Thorold, Ontario.  He wrote:

Your question is an open invitation to believers to go on about religion.  In response to them I have to say that I’m happy that I don’t believe in any sort of god.  Indeed, it even gives me joy.

The second one was printed under a heading that read, “Nothing to be grateful for”.  Another man, A. Sotto, sent it in from Montreal, Quebec.  He wrote:

I have nothing to be grateful for.  Cigarettes are expensive and the winters here are long and harsh.  However, I enjoyed watching ‘La Traviata’ [an opera by Verdi] at the Salle Wilfrid Pelletier [a Montreal concert hall].

What do we really have here as represented by these two letters?  In the first case, Mr. Hughes, in my opinion, demonstrates evidence of a “man angry at God”.  He takes issue with the very question the editor asked of readers.  Why does his mind immediately go to the idea that joy/satisfaction/being grateful can be only somehow related to God or belief in a religious faith?  May I suggest it is because a) finding true joy/satisfaction/reasons-for-gratefulness is indeed related to knowing God personally and Mr. Hughes’ inner-self knows that but refuses to accept it, and b) that the writer was in some way irate that it is so, especially since he denies God’s existence.  At the same time, the writer feels it necessary that he have some sort of joy nonetheless and insists that he has found it in his ability to believe there is no God.  Unfortunately, one’s belief that something (or Someone) does not exist does not make it so.

[As an example, denying that something more devious and evil, involving well-known and previously trusted Americans, was the cause of the destruction of the three World Trade Center buildings of 9/11 fame – something like ‘controlled demolition’ as is coming to light by scientific research these days -- and instead choosing to believe the ‘official but unscientific story’ that they were solely downed by two ordinary commercial airplanes under the control of Muslims crashing into them and the resultant fires that were observed, does not necessarily make the latter to be a fact.  But that’s another story for another time.  In the meantime, readers may want to check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Ddz2mw2vaEg and then https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=n_fp5kaVYhk for more information on this.  But be warned, it may well shake your foundational beliefs in your country, your government, and mankind.]

Let us look at the letter of the second writer, Mr. Sotto.  His submission too is puzzling.  He offers the statement that he has “nothing to be grateful about”.  And why is that?  Well, if you believed him, it is because “cigarettes are expensive” and “winters (where he lives) are long and harsh.”  If I had a chance to spend a little time with Mr. Sotto, I am sure we could find a number of things for which he could be grateful if he so chose.  Among them would be the fact that he is still alive to enjoy some of the benefits that this country does indeed have to offer.   While cigarettes may be expensive, surely he can be thankful for the fact that he does, even from time to time, have sufficient money to purchase them for his self-satisfaction (that is assuming he hasn’t given up smoking which I very much doubt).  Perhaps he could be grateful for the very source of those funds.  And then Mr. Motto himself offers a cause for joy (surely we can say we are ‘grateful’ for things that cause us ‘joy’) when he talks about the opportunity he had to see a great opera at a wonderful concert hall.  So, you see, even those that at first reaction have nothing to be grateful for, even they have something and often, have much, to be grateful for.  [ I am reminded of the reaction I observe in my grandchildren sometimes when they are missing one thing they want right now, the whole world of blessings they have and are surrounded by, are easily forgotten.]

We can well ask what then makes the difference between a joyful or grateful individual and one who thinks and talks and feels as if he or she is not?  The answer is simple (at least to me).  It is a matter of the intellect and the emotion.  It is a matter of what one thinks in one’s head and what one feels in one’s heart.  And then of course, one has to consciously decide what that is and stick to it.  I, for one, have chosen to believe there is a God, and that makes it easy for me to see all the things in my life for which I am joyous and grateful about.  My family, my health, my life and opportunities in general, my ability and desire to help others, and so on – all these are seen by me as a gift from God.  The only thing I have to do is make the decision that what my head and heart are telling me I will stick with.

At the same time, I do realize that it is possible for some to experience the same joy and sense of being grateful without believing in God.  The only problem that arises with that approach is how one might then a) explain the presence and absence of these things for which they are happy about and grateful, in their lives, or in the lives of others; and b) who is such a person being “thankful” or “grateful” to, or from whom are we withhold such thankfulness.  The actual meaning of the phrase “thank you” makes sense when we consider that normally when we express it, we are shifting “responsibility” in a positive way from ourselves to someone else.  [For example, when your arms are full of grocery bags and you have to get through a door, and I come along and open that door for you, you say “thank you” because I have in essence taken that ‘responsibility’ from you and transferred it to myself as you allow me to.  You would not be saying ‘thank you’ if you refused to allow me to open the door for you, even if I did.]  So I would ask anyone who thinks like Mr. Sotto, “Who is taking on the responsibility of making you “thankful” by giving you any joy or gratefulness in anything?”

Finally, there are three verses in the New Testament of the Bible, found in Matthew 26:11, Mark 14:7, and John 12:8, where Jesus says, “The poor you will always have with you.”  Commentators have translated that very literally and for good reason if one understands the full context of the wording.  But somehow, I cannot help but think that Jesus may also mean those that are “poor in the sense that they cannot be joyful or grateful” and those who refuse to shift the responsibility for life and its blessings to Him.

I hope Mssrs. Hughes and Sotto and the many they represent will indeed find more reasons to be joyous and thankful in 2013.  More importantly, it is my wish that more of us who have this JOY will indeed take the time necessary to find the joyless and the ungrateful in this world, like these two honest men, or at least those that God puts in our path, and simply share with them our own source of this most-valued asset.

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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