The Late Night Buddhist: Make America Grateful Again

By Scott Taylor
Reader Columnist

One of my idiosyncrasies (no, that doesn’t mean my idiotic episodes are well-timed; they usually come at the most inopportune moments) is a penchant for listening closely and dissecting the words we use when speaking. Rarely do we use the most precise, succinct, or even correct words when trying to communicate. In my opinion, most of us tend to use a lot more words than needed, but more on that in a different column.

This column is about how simply changing one word in a statement can make all the difference in keeping us on the path of happiness. Most of us probably know that feeling, and expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to feel content and happy, but even when we tell ourselves we’re grateful (or Grateful, depending on your musical preferences) for what we have, we still find that the demands and responsibilities of everyday life can neutralize the gratitude we feel. We have to go to work, have to pay our bills, have to visit our elderly parents, have to drive to Spokane (for unspecified reasons), have to go to basketball practice, etc.

(In reality, we don’t “have” to do any of those things; we choose to. As George Harrison said, “All I got to do is to love you/ all I got to be is, be happy…” Or, if you’re a country music fan, Alabama said “All I really gotta do is live and die.”)

But, if we simply replace the words “have to” with “get to” it makes a big difference. Now we can be grateful that we “get to” go to work (we’re lucky to have a job), “get to” go to practice (a lot of people don’t have the ability or opportunity to play sports) or “get to” visit our elderly parents (do I have to explain that one?). 

As soon as we see these “have to’s” as “get to’s” we gain a new perspective on being grateful for things we tend to take for granted. 

The philosophy of Buddhism is pretty simple and directed at one main goal: reaching a state of being happy and content. It’s based on the realization (by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha) that in this human life we will experience events and feelings that lead to pain, sorrow and suffering. But the Four Noble Truths explain there is a solution to this condition and that is by following The Eightfold Path. One of the practices on this path is “correct (or wise) speech.” Simply replacing one word in our normal speech patterns can lead us on a new path: the path of happiness and contentment. Choose happy.

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