“The Science of Happiness- An Experiment in Gratitude” is a video produced by Soul Pancake. It looks to pose one of the most important questions we can ask: What makes you happy?
How often, when asking someone what makes them happy, have you heard them list off gratitude as an important element? Have we too fallen into the folly of our times, ignoring the category of “gift”?
Indeed, the virtue of gratitude is a timely one for many us who tend to act as spoiled children and obtusely expect to be pampered, considering that others “owe” us and that we deserve so much. It is an invitation to open our eyes to the dynamic of the gift, the recognition that others, and especially God, give not out of duty, rather out of love and generosity. It is a recognition that, in turn, demands a response, a response of thanksgiving, a response of humility: “What have I that has not been given to me? (Cfr. 1 Cor. 4:7) Thus, we are able to discover ourselves not so much as creditors, rather as friends, as loved ones, and as sons and daughters of a generous God.
We live in a culture where one’s pursuit of happiness defines a great deal of personal experiences and consumes a tremendous amount of energy in the process. The pursuit in and of itself is good; a God-given inclination to experience that which is pure, true, and holy. Trouble comes our way when we seek artificial and superficial means and modes to achieve it.
This video is a great reminder of something so brilliantly placed within us by our Maker that can be expressed to those in our lives at any moment we choose.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, St. Paul writes, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” Gratitude is strong medicine. It acknowledges God as our sovereign King. It recognizes everything as gift. It pulls us away from our selfish ambitions. It heals. It connects. It fosters real and deep relationships. It brings about conversion. It blesses from both ends – as a giver or receiver. In “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, the Grinch experiences metanoia as he witnesses the Whos express gratitude for what they still have, which is ultimately something the Grinch could never take away.
When we take time to prayerfully reflect on who He is, who we are, and what He has done for us, the only adequate response is gratitude. And this is the Lord’s will for us. Practice it on the people around you.
In this video, we can see the true value of the love that is written on all of our hearts. It is not the money, the food or any of the belongings, but rather the thanksgiving and gratitude that we recognize and associate with the person that helped us obtain our virtues and physical goods. There is a wonderful quote by Meister Eckhart, a 1300s Dominican, that says “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”
I found it so appropriate that the man at 3 minutes and 30 seconds first gives his thanks to Jesus Christ, “who is responsible for my (his / everyone’s) existence.” This, above all, is an example that we should follow. I think this video is showing us a real life study that applies directly toward our relationship with God, and it is a lack of gratitude that truly does cause the ineffective suffering we all receive, which ultimately is and leads to sin.
There is a wonderful story of a troubled man who begs and prays for God to give him a the choice of a new cross, and one day the man is visited by an angel of Christ. This angel took the man to a room was filled with crosses; little crosses, big crosses, giant crosses. Each cross represented a different level of burden; and, at this point, the angel offered the man the opportunity to choose his burden. And so the man, after a bit of thought, pointed to the light/medium cross and said, “That one. I want that one.” The Angel turned to the man and said, “My child, you have chosen your own cross. It is the burden you already carry.”
We need to all realize that Christ gives us the cross that is perfect for us. Now, let that sink in, because without knowing that we cannot be thankful for our sufferings and unite them with Christ’s. My suggestion after watching this video is that we should all write Christ a letter, at least once, and then go read it to Him in adoration. Be thankful for your virtues, your friends, your family and your sufferings, and recognize how Christ is the one solely responsible for your happiness here on earth, as He is also the one solely responsible for your happiness in heaven.
“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you ” ― William Arthur Ward
By definition, gratitude is to appreciate the good things that have been received, therefore, humility has an important role to play in this equation, as because of it, one is able to recognize that most of the good things we receive, are freely given by those around us, just because (because they want to help us, or be nice to us, or want to share their blessings and/or possessions with us, etc). Those things we receive, has little or nothing to do with whether we deserve or earned them, but has everything to do with acts of love from others in our life and the urge that is raised in us because of it, to demonstrate them how much we appreciate their love.
In the end… it’s all about love, and how the love of those around us ends up giving us a little taste of God’s infinite and caring love. If you think on this all over again, it’s really not such a big surprise that gratitude has so much to do with our level of happiness.
So, how able are you, to recognize God’s love in your life and act upon it?
Like love, gratitude is a verb disguised as a noun. We commonly use gratitude to describe a thing – something we feel or something we have. But in reality, gratitude, like love, is an action. It is the action of looking beyond what we are and what we have and acknowledging that the good things in our lives come from somewhere, or most often someone, else. In essence, gratitude is breaking the seal of self-sufficiency and recognizing the good done for us by others. It necessitates humility and human interaction.
About 2,500 years ago Aristotle wrote: “Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.”
It is fundamentally human to need one another, to live not as an island but as a community. The shameless recognition of this dependence on one another and on God is nothing less than the absolute truth. And as a Man even wiser than Aristotle told us ‘The truth will set you free.’
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