GRATITUDE – Genetic Marker for Conscious Leadership?

“The dark will be your home tonight; the night will give you a horizon further than you can see”   – David Whyte

According to Wikipedia, a genetic marker is a gene or DNA sequence with a known location on a chromosome that can be used to identify individuals or species.  In other words, the presence of a marker is a strong indication of an entity’s substance and attributes.  In the discernment of resonant, conscious, mindful leaders we might do well to analyze for the presence of gratitude.

Yesterday was my 62nd birthday.  I drove to the office at an unusually leisurely pace, taking note of things I had not previously paused to actually “see”.  Off to the east a massive, billowing cumulonimbus cloud commanded nearly the entire horizon, towering tens of thousands of feet, with smaller plumes and offshoots rising contemptuously around the edges as if to abandon the collective…to no avail.  The uprising of each defiant rebel inexorably and uniformly coming to naught; each in turn subsumed by the amorous girth of her maternal majesty.  “A visual metaphor of communal spirituality”, I mused. And in that hallowed moment of calm and clarity I felt a warm wave of gratitude wash over me.  So much to be thankful for, indeed.

Exactly one week earlier, I lay untidily on a catheterization table at the Cleveland Clinic Cardiac ICU, randomly punctured and tethered to nearly every genus of diagnostic device known to modern medical science.  Yes, the top half of my heart had stopped communicating with the bottom half and my heart rate had plummeted to 30 and, yes, I had been severely out of breath and nearly passed out, but hey, I still run three or four times a week and I’m generally a very healthy guy…am I not?  Eleven years after bypass surgery here I am again, with a catheter needle protruding from my femoral artery, transmitting Google-map entertainment for a chattering medical cadre on half a dozen digital screens arrayed over my head.  One meticulously-placed stent later and I am whisked off to recovery and an uncertain prognosis; frustrated with this most recent flashing dashboard idiot light for mortality, yet grateful for subtle warnings, medical science, and third-chances.  In an abrupt, illuminating moment on that ICU table it occurred to me that we are only grateful for that which we do not take for granted.

“…we are only grateful for that which we do not take for granted” – B. Nagle

I have not taken my life for granted since my first cardiac event (open heart surgery) in April of 2002.  Prior to that date I must admit my appreciation for the impermanence of my physical existence was profoundly lacking.  Must we encounter dramatic crisis to have our eyes opened to the certainty of mortality, the abundant gifts we have been given, and the intention that we freely share those selfsame gifts with others?  Is such the case in other aspects of our lives as well?  Is tragedy truly the mother of illumination?

“Is tragedy truly the mother of illumination?” – B. Nagle

And what of those entrusted to lead others?   In 40 years of observation my findings are by no means sanguine.  I have seen far too little appreciation or concern for the hearts and minds of the led; for their effort and energy; for their enthusiasm and creativity; yes, even for their health, welfare and emotional circumstance.  The tally sheet reflects a dearth of recognition of the person-ness, the uniqueness of spirit, or the very “being” of the led. Sadly, the tally recounts an abundance of apathy, exploitation, and blatant disregard for the lacy tethers of communal spirit binding us together as one, energizing us in shared quest.  An emotional assay for “deep appreciation” might well come up negative in all but few cases.

“By what clarion of crisis will the ears be opened?”        

What claxon of calamity shall be required in the lives of the serenely unconscious, that they shed the scales encrusting their hearts and minds?  By what clarion of crisis will the ears be opened?  Where indeed is the pulpit high enough or the bullhorn loud enough to gain the attention of the placidly unaware?  When if ever shall we detect an alignment of chromosomes spelling “Gratitude” in the DNA of ego-bound, wannabe leaders?