Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gratitude for Genies

Genie of Generosity

We are presumptuous when claiming things are achieved by our own making. Even the paintings I've painted have their origins in the paint, brush, canvas, and stretcher makers too, never mind the images that have come to me as a result of the myriad influences in my life. Where does one nowadays claim to have a truly totally original creation, thought, or expression? The very language by which we perceive or name things was given to us by others. So too for our achievements, advantages, promotions, and accomplishments. That which we are, that which we can show as a plateau of present growth, that which we can look on with pride, or even that which we can claim as done solely by the self has its origins in the kazillion forerunners that led us unto the specific moment. Let the surgeon then be grateful for the scalpel, the writer for his pen, the artist for his brush, the cook for the invention of fire. Let's thank our Genies!

Solo accomplishment is unlikely. A series of precedents provided the means to an end. Dr. Christian Barnard, the famous South African heart surgeon who performed the first heart transplant was the person who taught me that. He spoke in the assembly for our Pretoria Boys High School (where his son Andre was a senior) and he never once, near as I recall, used the word "I". It was all about "my team", or "we did this and then we did that". Not being a true scientific type I do not recall the specifics between a mitochondria or a myocardial of his explanations, but I do recall that he was impressive, significant, yet essentially humble. The year might have been 1968, or maybe 69. And with that influential visit I recall our Solomon House housemaster, Mr. Jones, taking pains to remind us that the essence of a great man lies not in what he brags about having done, but by what he continues to do. To live in gratitude for the help of others, it struck me, was a noble way of being. We cannot readily ascribe our accomplishments to the self.

The great teacher is defined by the students who recognize her talents. She may well teach for years without a specific student deciding to nominate her for an outstanding achievement award, let alone another staff member, or administrator. (The recent TV show of Undercover Boss often reveals workers who've spent years unacknowledged, or under appreciated.) One still works well, anyway. It was Mother Theresa's central tenant, do the good thing anyway! And for each of us, as we practice our manners, do our chores, gain our rewards (or not) and continue on with our individual ways of being, it does the soul good to be in a state of gratitude. It keeps one humble, grounded, aware that even one's very flights of fancy are utterly dependent on the pilots, the plane, the engineers, and the dreamers who conceived of us arising from being mere groundlings in the first place.

The Genie in the lamp of wishful thinking is very real. Past. Present. Future. Our very existence is co-dependent on the intersection of our energy with others. It is their help and talent and interest and care and consideration and thoughtfulness and effort that sees the moment, the day, the achievement through. Each person who cheers us on, who gives us affirmation, who contributes however minuscule to the cause, is adding to the eventual lift off of an idea, the attainment of a dream, the ability for one to have a magic carpet in the first place, however metaphorical. Just Genies? Indeed. Thank God!

1 comment:

  1. I am thankful for my iPad, which got me drawing/painting again. And also for your post, Richard, which cheers me on to go another day (as I hear the cricket chirp sound more than I'd like). That work as unto the Lord paraphrase in the poster was a great comfort to me at work one time.


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