Recently I downloaded a free E-book from Gratefulness.org: “An Introduction to Living with Gratefulness.” In his short chapter “A Vision for the World” Br. David Steindl-Rast wrote:
Gratefulness is the spontaneous response of the human heart to the gratuitously given. This gratefulness releases energy. In the gap of surprise before the first thought, the powerful surge of an intelligence that far surpasses thought takes hold of us. We can make our thinking a tool of this creative intelligence that constantly brings forth and sustains the world. If we willingly open ourselves to its gentle force, it has power to change whatever is not in tune with it. Gratitude is thinking in tune with the cosmic intelligence that inspires us in grateful moments. It can change more than a mood; it can change a world.”
My daily prayers of intercession are often about the many ways humans choose to use their amazing gifts to create, program, and launch weapons of destruction—especially automatic guns designed for killing humans rapidly, war machines and nuclear weapons able to destroy not only humans, but also our beautiful Earth and all its inhabitants.
With the hubris of world leaders so often on display in our news–who boast of their power to do great damage or destroy each other with ‘fire and fury’, these thoughts usually open the door to doom and gloom thinking for me. At such times, it is helpful to recall a couple of lines from Manifesto: The Mad Farmer, Liberation Front: “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.” “Practice Resurrection.”
The other day NOVA (one of my favorites) on PBS television was for me a moment of being surprised by a “gratuitous given.” The show was about the unmanned Voyager Space Probe that was sent “up in 1977 to get close up views of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and use the orbital thrust of each planet to speed it on its way to the next. Imagine—that was 40 years ago!
From the start as I watched, there were moments when I held my breath as they encountered unexpected challenges, both computer and physical apparatus, that threatened to abort the mission. But somehow, almost miraculously, the problems rectified themselves and the Voyager went on to accomplish all that their designers and controllers had hoped for, sending back pictures never before seen of these far away planets with their rings and moons. In addition, having completed those missions, it did even more as it broke through the “bubble” of our solar system, and headed out into deep space.
Among its cargo, is a recording made of gold and copper. It features pictures of Earth in all its wonder, its inhabitants—animals, plants, creatures of land, sea, or air, people of every ethnicity, music of several genres, and vocal greetings in every language. The hope is that an intelligent life form in another solar system might find it, and with the help of illustrated drawings assemble the included parts to be able to gain access to the contents. Seems they thought of everything!
Watching this show was for me a prayer/contemplation suspending me in a state of wordless praise of God, the Creator of our ever-unfolding universe and Designer of humans in God’s own image.
It is always amazing to me to learn about the programming, creating and launching of such instruments as the Voyager and Hubble Telescope, which enable us to get a glimpse of the expansiveness and beauty of what we used to know only as the starry sky. Viewing the pictures they send back to Earth is one of my favorite preludes to contemplation, drawing me into wonder and admiration for “this creative intelligence that constantly brings forth and sustains the world,” and gratitude when I see what humans are capable of doing when working together for peace.
I guess it all is summed up in a wall plaque I saw in someone’s office: “HAPPINESS IS ENJOYING A SUNSET AND KNOWING WHO TO THANK!”