Just a week ago, I felt enormous gratitude that The Wisdom Daily decided to invest time and resources to adapt one of my articles to a short video. My essay about Moshe Feldenkrais, written six months ago, was no longer at the forefront of my mind. In the Internet age, most content arises and then disappears like a wave cresting and receding. To see my article enlivened by images and music felt as if it had been given fresh vitality and potentially a new audience. For that I felt even more grateful, as I do wish more people knew about the life and, life changing method, of Moshe Feldenkrais. If a short video brought just one more person one step closer to experiencing this work for themselves, all the better.
I excitedly shared the video on social media, where I belong to several groups focused on the Feldenkrais Method. I experienced joy when, within the first day, I saw that the video had been viewed more than one thousand times on Facebook. As the view count rose to 10,000, then 20,000 and 30,000, however, my excitement started to become tainted with ambition. I wondered what else I could do, or where else I could share the video, to see those numbers rise. At around 37,000 views, I decided it would be really great if it got to 100,000 views. I encouraged members of one Facebook group to shoot for that goal.
Why not? For Feldenkrais-related content, it’s a large number, even though there’s a gamut of online material viewed millions of times. And, 100,000 seemed like a stretch goal, yet still an accessible one. According to my rough calculations, if everyone in one particular Feldenkrais group shared the video, we’d reach 100,000 views. Of course, that didn’t happen instantly even though, in theory, it could have. That moment, when pristine, beautiful theory deviated from complex, messy reality, is when gratitude evacuated my consciousness leaving grouchiness and a bit of greediness in its wake. I started following the video’s progress more closely as if I were a detective on a case. The mystery I wished to solve? Who hadn’t shared the video yet even though I thought they ‘should’ have and I wanted them to?
Of course, with that mindset, I found a few “culprits”, some larger Feldenkrais pages that hadn’t posted the video on Facebook. Were they the “bad guys”, even though they’ve worked over the decades to keep the method vibrant and vital in the way they knew how? Perhaps because some of these organizations are like parental figures in the Feldenkrais world, I wanted them to notice and appreciate the video, even though I had not created it. The more I shared the video with other Facebook pages and groups, even privately asking one particular person to share it (he didn’t), and the more I checked on its “progress”, the worse I began to feel. It’s as if the 100,000 goal had become the driver of my behavior, not gratitude or delight that lots of other people were still sharing it and engaging with the content, even if the folks in my crosshairs hadn’t yet done so. In trying to shepherd the video towards an arbitrary number of views, and in fixating on whether certain entities had participated, I had lost sight of my original intent, to move people with my words without getting attached to the outcome.
Around then, a reader from Germany donated to my blog for a second time. That it showed up unexpectedly flooded me with gratitude. That it came during the Houston disaster prompted me to double the amount and give to those in need. It also reminded me that the inner dynamics of my micro-drama with this video play out on the larger stage, all the time. I can imagine that those in Houston whisked to safety and given temporary food and shelter are feeling both shell shocked and extraordinarily grateful to be alive. Many of us on solid, dry ground feel gratitude that fellow citizens have stepped up in droves with boats of all kinds and kindnesses of all sorts to help Houstonians in need. Yet, even though the full scale of the catastrophe has yet to be known, fingers are already being pointed. Blame is being assigned. Culprits (e.g. a lack of zoning) are being sought. When the floodwaters finally recede, and the long recovery begins, I hope that gratitude remains in the foreground of the personal and collective efforts to rebuild. As I keep learning, it can be very easy to miss the split second when gratitude, very subtly and stealthily, turns into greed. We need to be alert to that moment so we stay focused on what matters and we don’t inadvertently impoverish ourselves.