Many years ago now, my friend and colleague Barbara McEwen, a physiological psychologist,  made me aware that I didn’t fully understand the meaning of “The Survival of the Fittest.” Like so many people, I thought it meant that the winners were the ones who managed to beat the competition and pass on their genetic material. Barb pointed out that cooperation is every bit as important as competition, evoking my reaction of “Of course, why didn’t I know that,”

Sadly, Barb is no longer with us to see the influence of people like her. But, fortunately, scientists are now exploring the implications of humanity’s cooperative side, with an emphasis on human goodness. Right now I’m reading a collection of articles by scientists who are exploring this side of humanity. They don’t deny what we can’t avoid seeing — the competitive side of our heritage. But it’s not the only side. (In fact, right now it seems to me that’s the major battle going on politically and throughout the world: selfish competition vs. compassionate cooperation.}

The book to which I am referring is edited by Dacher Keltner and Jason Marsh,”The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness.”It’s a selection of articles from the magazine “The Greater Good.” It’s one of three magazine I need in my life to offer the positives over the noise and stress of today’s communications.

I’m not going to review the book here, or try to summarize the kinds of things that have been studied. I just want to mention two of them: gratitude and forgiveness.

As for gratitude, I’d like, ironically, to start a competition. Who can provide the longest list of things for which one is grateful.

As for forgiveness, I’m going to break down and summarize, bit by bit, the content of my own “Forgiving One Page at a Time.”

So be prepared, I’m about to start compiling my own gratitude list and share the numbers, not necessarily the content.

Forgiveness will be next.

Tell me, does that sound like a good plan?



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  1. yes! looking forward to the gratitude list! It will for sure help me add to mine Great idea, Mona!

  2. Thanks. For one, I’m grateful for our friendship.

  3. Gratitude list coming up!
    Thank you for sharing!
    It is only 106 degrees here today and I am grateful for my air conditioner. I know you did not mean something so concrete, but first things first.

  4. Hmmm, interesting. My niece (yes, that one) wrote a poem about gratitude and she’s expressed to me several times about all the things she’s grateful for. It made me think too. Yes, I’m interested.

  5. Gratitude list: lots of grace!, trees, green grass, flowers, good health, hearing aids, good eyes after cataract surgery, reasonably in tact mind, Kay, family near and far, Barclay (dog buddy), seminary pals (Steve, Wayne, Harry, Bob and Don who gather at least annually), opportunities to write and publish, reasonably comfortable retirement income, town home, new mattress!, MacBook Air for writing and publishing, book contract for “Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness,” Mona Gustafson Affinito’s encouragement and friendship, other friends, Trinity Episcopal Church-Excelsior, no outside maintenance, good journalists like Bill Moyers, authors to whose work I’ve continued to turn over many years, Hebrew and Christian scripture, recent stay in the home of the late Sufi poet, novelist, and islamic scholar and internal critic Abdelwahab Meddeb (author of The Malady of Islam), Donald Trump’s ghost writer who bravely exposed Trump’s hollowness, our 2007 Prius (135k mi.) and 2003 Toyota Avalon (137k mi.) – did I mention i love cars?), opportunity to help stepdaughter buy car yesterday, opportunity to serve on condo association board of directors while no longer carrying responsibility of board president!, the morning newspaper, morning coffee, morning silence, MN Twins, MN Vikings, MN Timberwolves, Chicago Cubs, crossword puzzles, Sudokus, the India Spice house, The Porterhouse, sushi, sashimi, new way of cooking steaks, salads, radishes!, bananas, Social Security, pension, heated garage, and so much more.

  6. Hi Mona,
    You know me a little bit, for the small number of short times we’ve spent together. And you’ve probably already assumed that gratitude is a huge part of my life now, and you’d be correct. So, I’d like to add to the already vast collection of listed gratitudinals, if I may. (“Listed” Attitudes of Gratitude = Gratitudinals, if that’s a word. If not, it is now.)

    Firstly, I am so grateful to be breathing still. At so many times in my younger life, I was not sure I would make it to the age of 25.
    *I have made peace with myself, and because of it, I get to appreciate every moment of every day. What a gift!
    *I’ve made peace with those who’ve hurt me the most in the past. How joyful to let the anger, hurt and resentment go.
    *I met many teachers along the way, people who gave me the ability to “see” positivity for the first time, and then remind me when I forget.
    *And, I am healthy enough to still work.
    *I’ve had the most amazing life experiences one person could possibly have!
    *And I have the awareness that all of my experiences, no matter how painful they might’ve been to begin with, gave me compassion and understanding for others humanity. I was forged, brutally, out of steel and fire, then adopted by people who lovingly polished me to the finest patina, and taught me to do the same.

    For all of this, and so much more, I am grateful. Every day is a wonderful day.

  7. I’ll have to send you my poem on gratitude It’s a good plan.

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