Gratitude as radical political action




We are here to awaken from the illusion of separation.”

Thich Nhat Hanh.

By now it is obvious to all but the diehards that President Trump is a narcissist, maybe even a malignant narcissist as reported in the latest New Yorker. Narcissism is self indulgence, lacking regard for the larger context. As a white male engineer, I must admit to my own narcissistic patterns, so I recognize myself in Trump.

In this context, Trump is a perfect reflection of the dysfunction of our culture: belief in the separation of self from everything else. The corporate Republican agenda has no regard for anything other than money. The natural world, and most people, are just resources to be consumed and polluted for the financial gain of a few.

Trump’s actions leave many people struggling to find an effective response. While resisting politically is popular, I want to suggest an additional response, addressing the core of the narcissist perspective, which is fundamentally ungrateful.

A holistic, or non-dual, perspective knows that the self is a relative distinction, which arises within the unity of the world. The relative self is always dependent on the larger world, exchanging energy, material, and information. Gratitude is recognition of that basic connection.

For example, the three most basic human needs are air, water and food. Every few seconds we draw a breath, inhaling oxygen molecules, which have been released into the atmosphere within the last six months by plants and bacteria. Without this gift, we would expire within minutes. We can honor that gift with gratitude for every breath.

Without clean water we will die within a week. The last few years of drought have increased awareness of how precious water is. As the Standing Rock people know, water is life. We are fortunate that it rains in Ukiah. Even though we pay to have clean water delivered for our use, the water itself is a gift from nature. We can honor that gift with an awareness of gratitude whenever we use or consume water.

Finally, without food we die within three weeks. All beings that do not photosynthesize live off the death of other beings. Most of us live on food that is grown and processed by other people. Even though we pay money for these items, we can practice being grateful, for if those beings and people did not exist, most of us would die.

I have found that it is easy to create bad habits, but difficult to generate good habits. However, I have created the habit of giving thanks before every meal. I give thanks to all beings that have given their lives that I may be nourished. I give thanks to the water that has been used to grow and process my meal. I give thanks to the people involved in bringing that food to my plate.


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This simple practice of gratitude allows me to pay attention to my essential connection to the larger world. With gratitude practice, I am choosing to live life NOT like President Trump and the Republican corporate billionaires. Gratitude is not a resistance to the insanity, but an affirmation of the world I want, which is an abiding awareness of the unity of reality, and it’s non-dual nature. Gratitude is an action I can take every moment, which changes my experience of the world, reduces stress, and affects everyone I encounter. Paying attention to what I am grateful for allows me to be more balanced about what disturbs me. This personal practice is radical political action at is foundation. Gratitude can change the world.

Crispin B. Hollinshead is a retired mechanical engineer, a life long model maker, woodworker, and philosopher, residing in Mendocino County for over half his adult life, currently living in Ukiah.

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