On Psalm 118.24 and cosmic gratitude

When I was growing up, my mom used to recite Psalm 118.24: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Today, it is the semicolon that takes up much of my thought. I do not know that I believe in Judeo-Christian God, and yet, in the past 3 months, each day feels like an expression of gratitude. But for what am I grateful? And to whom?

The Christian reading Psalm 118 is surely grateful that God’s benevolence is manifested in His marvelous creation. Rejoice and be glad because this world was created for you, and it is beautiful and wondrous and good. Give thanks that this blessed world is yours (and not some hole in the wall in Queens). You’ve got it good, man. Don’t take this for granted. Rather, make of your life one continuous act of thanksgiving for you also are a part of God’s creation, you also are His.

If I’m not sure that this world was created (or if I’m not certain that this was how it was created), then how can I feel gratitude emanate through my being? In the Oxford English Dictionary entry on grateful, there is something surprising. The second entry confirms my suspicions: we are grateful to so-and-so for such-and-such. For instance, I may be grateful to one of my philosophical counseling conversation partners for sharing this dialogue with me. And he, in turn, may be grateful (expressed in words and in payment) to me for the clarity that follows from rational inquiry. But then how can I be grateful in some more cosmic sense unless I believe wholeheartedly in a creative being who has given me this?

The answer lies in the first entry of the OED which reads: To be grateful is to be “[p]leasing to the mind or senses, agreeable, acceptable, welcome. Now only of things.” The OED entry, slightly modified, less subjectivized, is illuminating in that it suggests that the mind can welcome that which is. Slightly modified, that is, in that what I am welcoming when I express cosmic gratitude is not particular things but the facticity of life itself, what it is in general. I am thankful because I am, because the world is, and because I am a being in and of this world. If feels like serendipity, doesn’t it–being this-here-now, enjoying this breadth before, through, around me, these familiarities, this plenitude and fecundity?

In this, with unfolding arms and lowered brows, “we will rejoice and be glad.” Namaste.

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