Sunday, March 11, 2007

Grace

To see a World in a grain of sand,
And Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand,
And Eternity in an hour.

William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"

I am reading the book, Invisible Acts Of Power, Channeling Grace in Your Everyday Life by Caroline Myss. I am not very far into the reading but I can already see the benefit

of questioning grace in my life, am I a generator or a reciever of grace? Hopefully I am both. I've always been turned off by the term grace because christianist are so fond of bandying that word around but as Caroline Myss [pronounced mace] explains, grace is a noun and a verb; it is a state and an action, an energy that flows between two beings. Grace is gratis, a gift and imo, you certainly do not have to be religious to give or receive it.

Whether you are an Atheist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindi, Democrat, Republican or Frayster grace plays an important roll in your life. We should ask ourselves, am I the kind of person who passively stands by when an opportunity arises to do something for someone, not wishing to get involved or do I prefer to help even if it is something as simple as a smile and saying good day to an eldely/lonely/sad person? You may never remember having done such a small thing but the receiver will remember it forever.

There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is.

Albert Einstein

In her book, Caroline Myss tells us what grace is and how to get it. I believe we all benefit by grace and should do whatever we can to cultivate it.

14 comments:

cat said...

You may never remember having done such a small thing but the receiver will remember it forever.


so true...thank you.

Southern Gal said...

You know you are very welcome but I must thank you also.

One good turn always deserves another.

august said...

I had an interesting conversation about grace about a year ago. Part of the question was, can one speak of "grace" without being religious? You seem to answer the question, "yes." I'm wondering what grace means to you?

Southern Gal said...

August, I am not religious per se but I do believe in a very rich spiritual world that responds to our wants, needs and desires. Whether through earth angels or heavenly our requests are always answered. Granted the answers may not be in the way we expected but the Universe always knows what we best need, when we need it.

I believe that whenever we do selfless acts of kindness for others which is motivated from the heart and vice versa...that is grace.

Now, may I ask, what does grace mean to you?

august said...

[SoGal -- not a lot of time, but this is an excerpt from an old letter to a friend]

"i have deep scepticism about a person's ability to bring about certain kinds transformation through an act of will...

... and yet people do transform. the example will seem trite, but did you see either About a Boy or High Fidelity? One thing I love about these movies is that the selfish protagonist simply proceeds in life in his selfish way and that changes him. it's not an act of volition. Or once, somebody who'd been through a very serious addiction said to me that it wasn't a matter of deciding to end his addiction, as a product of some rational process. He said (speaking metaphorically, I think) that he woke up in a ditch and was all of a sudden, without planning, terrified of himself, and felt a pull to life. He also said that it was just flat dumb luck that he felt that pull prior to losing the everything that could exert a pull, or prior to dying. That, to me, is grace. You may be right that it comes from within, but i don't experience it as a product of volition. it feels other, really other."

None of that need involve God, but that's my sense of the word. Different from yours, but I enjoyed your thoughts.

Southern Gal said...

August, I absolutely agree with you. Grace need not involve God [in the religious sense] and that is my point.

As for your friend and his addiction...if his decision to change was not a motivation from within then where did it come from. He had to come to the conclusion from somewhere within himself that he wanted to live. Granted, he had to get to the point that his life was the last thing he had to lose but that did motivate him to want to live.

Your friend called it a pull and I say that that pull was/is volition or will or choice. Where did that pull come from if not from his will or choice, hence volition to live?

I guess you can call it just flat dumb luck as your friend put it but I tend to think we make choices in our lives, whether it is to live or die.

Let me give you this example...An unmanned car full of little children is moving into a busy highway. There are grown men standing right by the car who could have easily stopped the car's movement into the busy highway yet they chose not to act while a pregnant woman who has to leave her 2 year old child unattended as she chooses to run and stop the car as it is entering the busy traffic.

I guess you could call it just flat dumb luck that the woman chose to try and save the lives of those children but I believe she did it at her own volition. Her will did bring about a transformation...the children lived because of her will to save them.

Grace is a gift and IMO, you do not have to be religious or God to give it.

Dawn Coyote said...

So, what's volition? Is that where I have the thought, "I'm gonna get a Krispy Kreme donut," and then I reach out my hand and take one? What if I find myself with a donut in my hand and can't remember the process by which it got there? Did I decide to have one, pick one up, and then had a hiccup in my short term memory retention that allowed me to forget I'd done so? Or did some other level of processing below cognition prompt me to act, so that I'm surprised to find the donut in my hand?

Something like this happens to me, sometimes, but it's actually more like I decide I don't want the donut, and another part of me decides I'm going to have it, and these two parts struggle for control of the wheel.

It's annoying, and vexing, but I'm used to it (and take responsibility for it, of course).

So, which part of that process is volitional? All of it? Competing volition?

What's my point? Actually, I'm not sure, either. Fuzzy-headed today.

I've had a number of odd experiences throughout my life which I'd be hard-pressed to call coincidences (though I'm willing to try). I suspect we communicate with each other and with the world on levels we're not consciously aware of. I suspect the world responds. I don't really have a hypothesis about this, and in the absence of a scientific explanation, calling it "grace" seems reasonable enough.

Southern Gal said...

Hi Dawn,

There are several meanings for volition...

voli·tion (v-lshn) KEY

NOUN:

1) The act or an instance of making a conscious choice or decision.

2) A conscious choice or decision.

3) The power or faculty of choosing; the will.

So! According to these, your problem is...

1&2) Your thought process is trying to make a conscious choice or decision.

But and here is your BIG problem...

3) your power or faculty is having a hard time choosing whether to eat the donut [outright] or should you just lose your memory for a moment thereby allowing you to plead ignorance of how the donut got into those hot little hands.

By Jove, competing volition...I think you've got it! Your volition is conflicted.

Not to worry we all do the same with one thing or another.

I love your last paragraph.

I personally do not believe in coincidence. I believe everything that happens, happens for a reason.

I was telling Cat today that if we could change our perception of who we are [energy] the whole world would change before us, IMO of course. We could communicate on many different levels and be aware of it. We might even be able to make miracles happen as in fact, some do.

I think it is wonderful whenever we give the gift of grace...even when it's a donut for our taste buds:)

august said...

A Krispy-Kreme Donut appearing in my hand -- that's not grace, that's a full blown balls-out miracle.

My use of "grace" was not describing a thing, out there. The cause of the change could in fact have some objective explanation. But my subjective experience -- how do I describe it? I call it grace -- a meaningful change within me whose cause I cannot discern.

Volition -- it's actually a very complicated problem. TQM gave me some suggestions a while back, and also there was a funny ZB post. I could dig it up in my MBTU, but probably not all that helpful.

catnapping said...

I think maybe it's time to list Krispy Kreme as a legitimate Wikifray category.

Dawn Coyote said...

SG: I have this knee-jerk cynical reaction to "everything happens for a reason," even though it is quite literally true. Platitudes bug me. I want answers, dammit.

august: regarding volitional/nonvolitional donut acquisition and the mysteries of inner-space (the graceful occurrance of random donuts): I'm thinking of the split-brain phenomenon which occurs in individuals whose corpus callosum is separated in order to treat severe epilepsy. I reacall hearing that, post-surgery, the two hemispheres function independently, sometimes develop two personalities that are almost strangers to each other. That's what my competing volitions remind me of. In my earlier post, disjointed and confused though it was, I was trying to say that we don't know our own minds, and who knows what they get up to while we're busy fantasizing about donuts? We process stuff while we sleep, and wake up with answers, we recognize compatible individuals in a second of eye-contact, in a crowded room... I haven't kept up with all the pop-psych stuff on meta-cognition/deep processing (mostly because pop-psych annoys me in much the same way platitudes annoy me), but there's something to it - I'm pretty sure of that.

Cat: what does a Krispy Kreme mean?

august said...

Dawn,

Indeed. Although from what I've been reading about genetics it looks like even our minds might start to make more sense (I don't know)(I'm feeling particularly idiotic)(parentheses).

First grace, then volition

Like a lot of language drawn from religion, grace is only really useful in two kinds of discussion

1. comparison of different intuitions about what a word means (roughly discussion we're having)

2. careful definition to control for all the rather random associations people are likely to have with religious language.

Moving from 1. to having a go at 2. The examples I had in mind were people who felt their lives had changed in a way that was not in their control. This experience was joyous, for it (somewhat paradoxically) meant regaining control.

I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for such experiences (makes sense that our genes would develop mechanisms to prevent us from self-destruction). But there's still the way it feels, a sudden turning to light. Top of my head, I'd say a donut lacks a certain gravitas. But have you ever read the story, "A tree, a rock, a cloud?" by Carson McCullers? When I read it, it's about as close as I've ever come to feeling the thing I describe.

volition -- I was just reading an old post m=18527005, (and replies by Fritz and Geoff). I realized I really do write for myself. Might as well, I suppose, but shouldn't then be suprised if wikifray traffic shows no appreciable bumps when I post.

Take this comment, for example. I'm writing to figure out what I have to say -- to see if maybe I back into something interesting. Really, this comment should be a scrap sheet of paper that I scribble on before posting. But here I go, here I go, here I go. And maybe I'll stumble on to something (monkey at a typewriter)(i don't know where I'm going) (parentheses).

TenaciousK said...

Krispy Kreme: Self-indulgent, toxic self-love (used in the mastubatory sense), usually involving coercive persuasion for someone else's commercial benefit, utilizing an intentional blurring of self-indulgence and self-care.

See McDonald's.

August: I think the best posts are all about figuring out what you mean, or what you think, and allowing other people the priveledge of passive or active participation in the process. The best contributors accomplish it with a certain amount of grace.

If you write your posts for other people, haven't you crossed the line between art and commerce? You write like a teacher; the best teachers are talking to themselves, I think, in language that allows students access to their thoughts.

Related side note: I commented to a friend today that, looking at my life as a series of probabilistic events, my life has become rather dramatically unlikely. If I were to try to make an objective argument for divinity, I think it would have to be on the basis of probability theory. Do you think grace has anything to do with this?

I liked those two movies, btw, though I'd never really looked at them in that way. In Americal Beauty, the Spacey character achieves grace by changing his behavior to match his character (despite the seemingly unsavory aspects of his motivations). Maybe that's an underlying commonality in attainment of grace - the benefits you derive when your behavior matches your underlying character.

Dawn Coyote said...

My definition of grace is more like, I get something I didn't earn and can't account for, usually in the form of people showing up unbidden at exactly the right moment and, unasked, providing something of which I'm in acute need.

It's not always people, but often it is. I think of grace as a fortuitous wind blowing through my life. It's amazing how many certain face-plants I've eluded as the result of an unexpected wind.

Two nights without sleep? I can relate. I do some of my best work in those surreal hours where I've broken down all my fear and defiance, and all that's left is a sort of epiphanic fugue.

I haven't read the Carson McCullers story, but I'll look for it. The mole rat post was great. I read the article you linked, but failed to shake the cobwebs from my head sufficiently to offer comment.

If you want to spike traffic, try using the word "vagina" in your subject line. I still have my screen shot of the site meter spike from my New Year's post around somewhere. Anal sex works for IOZ. Or just keep doing what you do. It's fine.

I think of what we do here as an interactive narrative, explaining things to my/our/self/ves. So, scribble away. I'll mumble something back. We'll build our own tower of babble.