Some people aren’t sure it’s a good thing to be alive, or to bring more people into the world. And when I was younger, in my teens and twenties, I wasn’t exactly all up with people myself. I had what you might call a dire view of the human condition. I might have agreed with those people who call us a cancer on the earth.
But I don’t feel that way now.
It just doesn’t make sense: it’s anthropocentric. It’s grandiose. It makes people out to be more than they are. And pissing on the altar is still a way of paying homage to the church.
And, anyway, I love humans now. I feel sorry for us all, and I love us.
Because I believe we’re all trying our best, and because our capacity to love is mirrored by our capacity to suffer, and because it’s rare to be born a human being.
But it’s easy to forget this. Sometimes people don’t even know it. Alone in their own private worlds of suffering and striving, trying to get somewhere but never quite making it, always questioning, wondering why? what’s the point? am I getting closer? when will it end? It’s easy to fall into despair because somewhere we pick up the idea that things should go our way, and that if they don’t we’ve done something wrong or, so often, there’s just something wrong with US.
So we forget how rare it is to be born human, and the worlds we contain, what we can do. We forget what people are capable of, because there are so many examples of people being shitheads and hunting us down. And when we see people who are super capable like THIS fucker it makes us feel bad because we’re not like that, we never have been but we feel like we should, so again…what’s wrong with us?
It’s easy, but you have to actually sit down and do it. You have to feel it. You have to write it down.
Take five minutes. Try the end of the day because you’ll have had more chances for something good to happen, like maybe that show you watch all the time was really good tonight and made you laugh out loud. That’s something to be thankful for! Don’t make light of laughter: it will save your life sometimes.
Or maybe you’re not freezing at this moment. Maybe your house is nice and warm. Doesn’t that feel good? To be warm, to not be cold?
Or maybe you feel nice and cool right now after a hot day. Isn’t that good, that cool air? Isn’t it beautiful, the way it moves the curtain, and the car sounds outside, and everyone safe in their beds and everything is quiet? That’s something to be grateful for (maybe a bunch of things.)
It might seem silly at first, it might seem forced, but this isn’t something you need to believe in. It isn’t trippy or woo-woo.
Your brain is plastic, it can change, and your emotions are constructed by your brain and body – there’s nothing shocking about that anymore. The idea that your emotions are independent of your brain and body seems stupid now.
So if you can build your biceps by doing curls or your beautiful, doomed six pack by doing crunches, why can’t you build your sense of gratitude by using it?Water
So use it, do another one. Do three at least. I do five, and it’s a stretch. And try to do new ones every day. That can be a stretch, too. But that’s how you work it!
It won’t take long to burn through being grateful for the food you ate today, or the clothes you have to wear, or the water that JUST COMES RIGHT OUT OF THE FUCKING TAP! You can’t do those every day because the whole point is you get used to it, you take it for granted. And it’s not because you’re a shithead, it’s because that’s the way humans are. We’re a successful species because we get used to what we have and we want something more, and that’s why we go over the hill, that’s why we get out of the boat. That’s why we live in warm houses instead of cold holes in the ground.
But that’s the problem again: we keep trying even though maybe we’ve got enough. Maybe we’ve won the race of material plenty and comfort. Maybe we’re into diminishing returns now, chasing the material dragon. Maybe it’s time to look somewhere else.
Maybe it’s better that way.
So you have to try new things every day. You have to stretch a bit. Maybe you’re grateful that you were born a human being. Why not? You could have been a screw fly or a worm that eats shit to get by.
You’ll have to start to stretch a little bit like being grateful for the nice smile from the cashier at the hardware store or that you have two pairs of shoes instead of one. Maybe today was a shitty day so you’re grateful you have tomorrow because tomorrow is another day.
Or maybe you’re grateful that trees produce oxygen or maybe you’re grateful that the atmosphere protects us from cosmic rays or maybe you’re grateful that the Earth wasn’t struck by a giant meteorite today.
Take a moment to actually feel it, pay attention to the feeling. It’s a little quiver of excitement, an electric flicker: I have this. This is happening. This is the kindness of the world: it gives us what we need, everything we need if we can only recognize it.
And some of us have so much, we’re so far ahead in the game: we have a car, or we have money in the bank. And it’s often through none of our own doing, but by simple luck of the draw: we’re white in a society that loves white people, or we’re male in a world run by men. It’s not that we need feel guilty about these advantages or run ourselves down, but we can be grateful. A sense of gratitude can fuel a desire for justice and what is right.
You need to get that energy from somewhere, and gratitude is a deeper pool than resentment.
We can feel thankful in our hearts, and know it. And then use that knowledge to cheer ourselves when the storm comes in, to keep to the course, to keep the faith, to help others, so that all beings may be happy.
So that all beings may be happy.
– Chris Logan
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