Gratitude is difficult for people to express, because it requires admitting dependence on others. In that way it feels like surrendering autonomy, which everyone is loathe to do. Ultimately, all conflict in human life is about power and autonomy, and the resistance to expressing gratitude is like a fortress people erect to defend their self-perception in that power struggle. In their egoic desire for power and autonomy, people convince themselves of their self-reliance and self-determination, and cannot face the truth that in our complex society we are all interdependent.
The use of money and market transactions to facilitate meeting basic survival needs helps to sustain these self-delusions. After all, so long as one has the mettle to maintain a money income through some skill or trade, one can exchange one’s money for needed goods and services. Therefore, one can believe that one is reliant only on oneself. The illusion of freedom is maintained.
But these market exchanges don’t change the fact that to eat, we depend on others to grow our food. To thrive, we depend on others to maintain basic infrastructure, roads and bridges and the utilities that deliver our power and water. We depend on others to extract and refine the minerals and metals and fossil fuels which form the material foundation of our civilization.
Our use of money to acquire these things via free market capitalism disguises these dependencies but does not eliminate them. And we depend on the authority of our government, which ultimately rests on the power of its military and police, to even make those markets work and that money useable as a currency of exchange. We are utterly dependent on other human beings, but we cannot acknowledge this or display even the simplest gratitude for what they do.
Even in our personal lives we are dependent on others. We are dependent on our friends and family for emotional support and for logistical support. We depend on their willingness to share their time with us. But then we get used to relying on them. We start to take them for granted, assuming they will always be there for us, and forget to show our gratitude.
We resist showing gratitude for what others do for us, whether people close to us or the myriad strangers who make our lifestyles possible, because that would be admitting our dependence. Our egos would rather believe in their own sovereignty, that we are in charge and others are fufilling obligations to us. Expressing gratitude, for the ego, is like abdicating a throne. But that throne is a mirage – we are really held up by what others do for us. Other people who deserve our gratitude.
Heed the wisdom of the Buddha Bear.
I plan more of these Buddha Bear posts in the future. This was a format I was originally planning to post on another siteTM which sadly has not heeded the Buddha Bear and has lost its way.