Make a Fixed Time for Study

עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

An amazing exercise in gratitude from the mind of Jonathan Ring

Posted by rabbiart on December 15, 2008

This past motzei shabbat I had the privilege of facilitating the study of parshat eikev. Somehow we got on the subject of gratitude, probably in response to the commandment to eat, be satisfied and give thanks (Devarim 8:10). Our friend Jon suggested this most though-provoking exercise; to go through one day – from morning to evening – being conscious of all the people who have contributed to the “stuff” we use.  Over the course of a single day, we experience the contributions of (probably tens of) thousands of people who have thought of, invented, or made the things we use, the food we consume, and so on.

Imagine what it would be like to live even a single day (heck, even a single hour) without being dependant on what other people have grown, created, made, manufactured, delivered, stocked, sold.  We would have to go into the woods somewhere edible plants grow without cultivation, where there is natural water to drink, strip ourselves naked (or have somehow made clothes for ourselves with no assistance)…you get the idea. Seems impossible to do… and probably is.

Or… imagine spending a single day having an attitude of gratitude for every individual whose life is inter-connected with ours.  Who made toothbrush and toothpaste?  Washcloth and soap? (Shampoo for readers who still have their hair) Laid the pipes for running water? Invented the toilet (Thomas Crapper) and indoor plumbing in general? The shower? Grew the wool, cotton (cotton gin by Eli Whitney and mechanical reaper by Cyrus MacCormack if I remember correctly) and linen,  or invented the sewing needle and the loom? Buttons and zippers? Blue jeans (Levi Strauss, I think) And let’s not leave out Inspector #39 who made sure my shirt had a matching number of buttons and buttonholes.

Heck, I’m mentally exhausted, and I haven’t – in this exercise – even gotten myself out of the bathroom and clothes closet to the point where I could put on tallis (in my case Gladys Hoisington (see the 1st Jewish catalog, got to add more names to the list) who wove my tallis on a loom and Outi Gould who has added a collar and made some repairs – thanks Outi!) and tefillin (can’t even remember where I got my tefillin, much less know who made them) and down to the kitchen for breakfast!

Jumping ahead, how about all the people (mostly on the other side of the Pacific ocean) who made all the piece parts of the computer I’m typing on right now, much less all the designers and inventors of ROM, RAM, LCD, hard drive, power supply, cables and batteries, so I could be on the Internet (thanks Tim) and the browser (thanks Marc Andreeson and all the people you collaborated with)
And of course, I have to be grateful (intentional reference) to Jerry, Bob, Phil, Ron, Mickey, Pigpen and Robert (lyrics), for making the music I’m listening to right now! Oh, and Steve and everybody at Apple for my iPod, although I imagine they need to be grateful to some other people (everyone at Sony?) for the concept of a portable music player. Whoops, can’t leave out whoever invented MP3.  The list just keeps going and growing and growing.

Considering where I’m sitting as I write this, I better add in Orville and Wilbur and all their spiritual/technological descendants as well, and for good measure, the two folks in the cockpit who are flying the plane, or maybe watching the autopilot (more gratitude to somebody) do the job for them.

Suggestion… definitely try this at home, and hit the comment link right below and share your thoughts on the experience.  Thanks Jon!


One Response to “An amazing exercise in gratitude from the mind of Jonathan Ring”

  1. june brott said

    Art, just reading your commentary while sitting looking out at Pacific ocean. White caps, waves, swells, foam, sounds, smells, breezes. Lots to be grateful for. Jon’s gratitude exercise is brilliant.

    On return to California, Gene and I may spend 12/21 in LA with daughter Tamar, so we may miss your brunch. If so…another time.

    Gene is out hiking while I have computer work to do. Alas

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