Suzanne's Second Estate

A web log of my thoughts, activities, life....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Need to Thank

I love this passage from "Long Journey Home" by Os Guinness:

In 1892 Gilbert Keith Chesterton had entered the Slade School of Art in London as an eighteen-year-old student. The end-of-the century world of art was swirling with decadence and cynicism. A pessimism he called “the black creed” and “starless nihilism” was the rage, and Chesterton himself was drawn to the macabre and the occult.

But one thing held him back — what he described later as a “thin thread of thanks,” a sort of “mystical minimum of gratitude.” Bursting with gratitude for the gift of life, he woke up to wonder. He then set out to research for a philosophy of life that would allow him to be deeply realistic and yet “enjoy enjoyment” too.

More specifically, he was startled by the simple wonder of the existence of ordinary things, such as a common dandelion. Thinking it over, he noted that “even mere existence, reduced to its mere primary limits, was extraordinary enough to be exciting.

Have you ever felt that gratitude for existence? A wonder to be alive when wiggling your toes in the sand, hearing the breeze in the trees, or seeing a dewdrop on a rose? Has it ever struck you that no natural things create or sustain themselves? All of them, including you and me and the entire universe, owe their existence to something else? But to what or whom?

Experiencing at least occasionally a sheer gratitude to be alive seems to be almost universal. Moreover, as a signal of transcendence, gratitude for being alive is not a proof but a pointer. It’s an intuition, not a settled conviction. It creates a searcher, not a believer. But as Dante Gabriel Rossetti said, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is genuinely thankful but has nobody to thank.” Or as Chesterton expressed it, “If my children wake up on Christmas morning and have someone to thank for putting candy in their stocking, have I no one to thank for putting two feet in mine?”

I am thankful for so much this year: my health, my family, my friends — and most of all for a great God and Savior. Happy Thanksgiving!


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