Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gratitude

.... You need not believe in God to pursue the virtues (though it certainly helps). Yet if you do believe, then your first instinct in all things must be gratitude: for creation, for love, for mercy. And even if you don’t believe, you must start again from gratitude: That a world grown from randomness could have turned out so fortuitously, with such liberality. That the Hobbesian state of nature has been conquered. At least for a spell. As my friend Yuval Levin explained not long ago, “We value these things not because they are triumphant and invincible but because they are precious and vulnerable, because they weren’t fated to happen, and they’re not certain to survive. They need us—and our gratitude for them should move us to defend them and to build on them.”

Gratitude magnifies the sweet parts of life and diminishes the painful ones. It is the wellspring of humility and ambition, the magnetic pole for prudence, the platform for courage, the inducement to charity and mercy. And in addition to everything else, gratitude is the engine for progress: We build not because we are dissatisfied with the world as it is, but because we are grateful to all those who have built it to this point, and wish to repay them by making our own contributions to their work.

None of this is to say that the world is perfect—it isn’t. But if it’s to be improved, that improvement will come, one person at a time, through the exercise of virtue—through the conscious decision of all of us to try to be better people, to live better lives, and to make a better world. All of which begins, from first light, with saying “Thank you” for what we have, right now. [more]