Philosophy Friday: On Gratitude
“Perhaps one day this sorrow might one day bring delight.” – Seneca
Why don’t we live in a mansion, have millions of dollars or be as good looking as our acquaintances on social media? We love to compare ourselves to people who have more than us―always thinking about what we don’t have but think we deserve.
That’s human nature. We are descendants of thousands of generations of people who lived in small tribes. Life on the savannah was harsh. Our ancestors were hyperaware as to their relative status within the tribe. Even a slight drop in standing could mean less food and resources and spell disaster for their survival. Our brains are hard-wired into comparative-status thinking.
Today we no longer live in small tribes. Our survival isn’t threatened when we lose social capital. As a trait, comparative thinking is no longer serving us well. In our modern world it’s a cludge; a hindrance. It creates unnecessary anxiety and misery.
The antidote is gratitude. It’s worthwhile reflecting on how lucky we are what we do have. We are fortunate even to be alive. And to live during this marvellous time. Life, in general, is pretty good. Yes, there is a pandemic, and the economy is in trouble, but if we are honest with ourselves, would we want to live in any other period? The most advanced medical treatments, even for emperors, often involved herbs, bloodletting and leeches. Amazingly, anaesthetics were only discovered in the 19th century. For most of history, the excruciating pain during surgical procedures had to be borne by the patient. Let’s be grateful for living in the 21st century!
Let’s be grateful for the people we have in our lives and the experiences we’ve had – even the painful ones. They too, have shaped us into who we are today.
Gratitude leads to happiness.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson