by Penrod

Most everybody knows that gratitude gives a person a lift. There are good formulas for creating the feeling of gratitude in which one can bask. For example, you smile, you give thanks for three good things in your life and the day goes better. Juices flow. People through the ages have understood how that orientation works and felt grateful long before the juices fueling gratitude—the neurotransmitters got names like dopamine and also before people saw diagrams of firing neurons. I laugh—another good thing—laughter. Fire away baby! Let those synapses chime. I laugh again. Let the gratitude flow for their good work.

It’s serious though. I mean the way knowledge of neurotransmitters and the like leads some people to think and most of us to wonder if maybe this firing in our heads is us and it determines what we are and do. Are we in danger of turning ourselves into robots? If personality is caused—as in cause and effect—entirely by rapid firing, even though amazing, wonderful pyrotechnic events going on in me and everyone all the time and, truth be known, we don’t have a say in the matter, life would seem dismal.

Of course, that understanding of a person is nuts. Powerful, perplexing, but nuts. Behaviorists don’t think so. I guess. It’s hard to nail down the source of our personal lives. It’s a mystery that can’t be nailed down while we are living. Living is living. It’s not an experience or a mere movie or a rehearsal. The juices don’t stop flowing until I die. Fortunately, the laughs do come from somewhere. For me, humor gets fuel by my good fortune. The “Luckiest Generation” even though that’s not true for a lot of people. As for me, I got friends who love to laugh and play and appreciate. What more can I ask?

A Visit with Wisdom

While meditating, I noted that I am stupid and condescending. Thank God I can think at all and can usually get along with people. But the condescending part is not good. They are automatic, my prejudices. The stereotypes flash in my mind instantly. I don’t think it is getting better, this malady. Is it Sin? Catechisms assert, “Sin is whatever is contrary to the will of God.” That seems tough to figure out—the will of God, I mean.

Wisdom, the lovely Sophia, comes by. She says: “That’s why you have a conscience.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s what helps you glimpse the will of God.”

“Naa. It’s an illusion. My brain determines things. Those firing neurons control me. If there is an ‘I.’ It’s an illusion to think I am in charge. You, Sophia, if anyone, should know about how those things work.”

“As Jesus would say, ‘The synapses are for humans, not humans for the synapses,’” Sophia responded. “It is true that no one can figure out God’s will or his or her own person as if to establish a complete finished thing, a statue. If you wait for yourself to figure it out, forget it. You’ll be dead.”

I chuckle, say “Hmmmn.”

“So, I shouldn’t bother to think it through? Just plunge ahead relying on my unreliable conscience?”

“It’s probably not unreliable at the core. Good is at the core, but ignorance abounds as do greed, theft, betrayal, and murder—all certainly top candidates for sin.

“It goes like this,” continues Wisdom. “God is good (and Good is god) and the only way to live is to love and serve the good.”

“I like the sound of that,” say I.


“However, true that may be, it guarantees nothing,” I say to Wisdom. “My willing the good will not in itself keep me from doing harm, from being unwise, from making mistakes, from being short-sighted or being mean and the like which brings back me to my stupidity and condescension and prejudices.”

Wisdom does not hesitate. “Take responsibility, be sensible and humble. You weren’t born yesterday. You know kindness and unkindness. You know how to make a new start. You’ve seen the lift appreciation gives a person. Don’t think the world exists for the purpose of admiring you. Continue to rectify things if you can. Appreciation and gratitude heal.”

“Hmmm. Fortunately, thoughtfulness, your specialty, does seem like a useful antidote. Stick with me sweet thoughtfulness,” I mutter.

“Go about willing the good to each person you meet and have fun with friends and family,” said Sophia. Perhaps she was thinking, “Keep it simple, Stupid.” No, probably not exactly that. I think she would be too kind to call me stupid even though evidence to the contrary is sparse.