Giving Thanks and Getting Thanks
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man. —Heraclitus
All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope. —Winston Churchill
Above: Including your very neurochemistry per this 2015 study.
One of my favorite videos on the entirety of the world wide web lasts a short two-hundred and seventy seconds. It depicts the earnest, pithy acceptance speech Matthew McConaughey delivered upon winning the 2014 Oscar for Best Actor.
If you have yet to see it, I implore you to stop what you are doing and give it the undivided attention it very much deserves. It’s worth a watch in full and then another, for good measure.
Nestled in McConaughey’s heartfelt speech is a line that—once its vibrations bounced, tumbled, and somersaulted over my eardrums—has never, ever left me:
It’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates.
So profound are those words that they bear repeating.
Again: It’s a scientific fact that gratitude reciprocates.
What a marvelous, life-affirming bit of wisdom.
As I approach my next decade on Earth, I stride confidently with smile on my face, skip in my step, and love in my heart. I directly attribute this bounteous feast to the abundant, overflowing gratitude I feel for my many blessings.
This foundation of thanksgiving undergirds all components of my life. After all, there’s a reason why I sign each edition of White Noise: “With sincere gratitude.” It is not lip service, but sincerity; and it takes many different forms.
Gratitude for my family—without which I would be limp puddle of mush.
Gratitude for my friends—without whom many a chuckle and grin would go unlaughed and unsmiled.
Gratitude for my faith—without which I would be less than half the man I am today.
Gratitude for life, itself—after all, our mere existence is nothing short of miraculous. As Dr. Ali Binazir both wrote and visualized:
Imagine there was one life preserver thrown somewhere in some ocean and there is exactly one turtle in all of these oceans, swimming underwater somewhere. The probability that you came about and exist today is the same as that turtle sticking its head out of the water — in the middle of that life preserver. On one try.
Life without gratitude resembles candy laced with arsenic.
Initially it is harmless—maybe even a bit sweet—but eventually it kills.
Gratitude is the very lifeblood and nourishment that sustains the human condition. It separates us from unfeeling beasts and feckless brutes.
Fundamentally, we are here for other people. Life is about what we can give to our brothers and sisters, not what we can hoard to ourselves.
Indeed, I believe that our real power as human beings is located in the gratitude we choose to give, and in the way this thanksgiving accumulates in a life. The compounding quality of this gratitude leads first to pleasant contentment and then to infectious, deep-seated joy. This joy can swallow up any darkness and no gloom can infect its light. As Cormac McCarthy wrote in The Road:
You have to carry the fire…It's inside you. It always was there. I can see it…Keep [this] little fire burning; however small, however hidden.
And so—to keep your fire burning with the spirit of gratitude—I leave you with an excerpt from a poem by Tony Hoagland that accurately captures my boundless appreciation for the gift that is the English language:
[W]hat I already am thinking about
is my gratitude for language—
how it will stretch just so much and no farther;
how there are some holes it will not cover up;
how it will move, if not inside, then
around the circumference of almost anything—
how, over the years, it has given me
back all the hours and days, all the
plodding love and faith, all the
misunderstandings and secrets
I have willingly poured into it.
Per my about page, White Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.
If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email or following me on Twitter.
With sincere gratitude,