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  • Daniel Rodman

Anatomy of Appreciation

There are many ways to appreciate things and people. I would like to offer an account of these ways based on grosser to subtler levels of reality. As I have written before, we can divide the world into two dimensions: the physical and the mental or meaningful. Appreciation is a feeling, hence we can never appreciate that which has no feeling or meaning content to it, like what we would assume physical matter is like. This however is false, since all things have meaning, including physical matter, and therefore all things can be appreciated in some way. I will go into this later on.

Let us start with appreciating physical attributes, namely, what something looks like, sounds like, feels like, tastes like, or smells like. This is merely the immediate experience in the moment. We can also appreciate how it changes over time. From there we can also appreciate its causal origin, going all the way back to the beginning of the universe.We can also appreciate its mystery, that it exists at all.

Moving more into the dimension of meaning, we can appreciate the sentimental value an object has, our relationship with it over time and its personal meaning to us based on all the experiences we shared with it. We can also appreciate what an object reminds us of, or what concepts it invokes. We can also appreciate the rarity of something like gold or diamonds, or the artificial value of things like money. We can appreciate how much effort went into making or accomplishing something.

For people there are even deeper levels of appreciation, based not just on things but other beings. For people we can appreciate the love we share and our connections with others. We can appreciate the work people put in to meaningful projects. We can appreciate their willingness to listen to us in times of need, and their support. We can appreciate thoughtful insights and ideas, jokes, and communication in general. We can appreciate people themselves. We can appreciate people's growth, and willingness to cooperate. We can appreciate any act or inclination towards virtue.

The most profound level of appreciation underlies, perhaps secretly, every instance of appreciation we have in our lives. That is to appreciate the Transcendent. This means to appreciate that which informs everything we appreciate, that which allows us to appreciate, that which is the basis of our appreciation. To appreciate the Transcendent in all things and all people is one of the most primary practices in spiritual life. When all of our ways of appreciating mentioned above mix together to for this one great flow of appreciation we are easily able to feel the presence of the Transcendent in everything. This is a worthy practice to cultivate as much as possible. Try to make regular opportunities to appreciate in this way, whether at home or in nature or with loved ones.

Appreciation can be applied to every aspect of life, including the physical world. Since even the physical world is a manifestation of the transcendent truth, we can find that it in its very nature is composed of meaning. May you increase evermore your ability to appreciate and blossom into a great ever-blooming flower of appreciation in your heart.

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