Why gratitude is especially difficult in today’s world
Even when we have enough of the things we need, we don’t always feel grateful for them. Why is that? Because we don’t see the things we have in isolation; we see them within a frame of reference that we are often unaware of. One common frame of reference is our social circle. Within that circle, if many people have far more things than what we have, we just don’t feel grateful for our possessions, even if they are enough for us.
Today’s hi-tech world has enormously, unprecedentedly enlarged our frame of reference. The media shows us the most glamorous objects from almost everywhere in the world. We may have a phone that works perfectly well for our purposes. Yet, if we see a newer, flashier phone, we may start feeling dissatisfied with our phone. Dissatisfaction and gratitude are poor bedfellows.
In this contemporary setting, how can we cultivate gratitude?
- Don’t let the culture define our frame of reference: We can’t always control what the culture displays, but we can control whether we dwell on it. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (02.62) outlines how contemplating indiscriminately on tempting objects leads to distress.
- Redefine our frame of reference by finding a meaningful purpose: Aiding us in such redefinition, the Gita’s worldview reveals how our life has a magnificent purpose. When we focus on such a purpose, we value things based on how they matter to us, not on how the culture glamorizes them. The more we strive purposefully toward the things that matter, the less we crave for irrelevant temptations paraded before us. Over time, as we move closer to the things that matter, feelings of gratitude enrich our heart.
If we let the culture define our frame of reference, gratitude becomes nearly impossible; if we pursue a meaningful purpose that redefines our frame of reference, gratitude becomes eminently possible.
Think it over:
- How does today’s culture make gratitude nearly impossible?
- How can you change your frame of reference?
- Contemplating which objects makes you feel dissatisfied? When encountering those objects, how can you redirect your thoughts?
02.62: While contemplating the objects of the senses, a person develops attachment for them, and from such attachment lust develops, and from lust anger arises.