Thursday, November 22, 2012

Appreciation, Not Thanks

I was stunned by the insight of one of the callers on the most recent Thinking Atheist podcast. The podcast was entitled "The Elephant in the Room," and it dealt with the topic of how some people might be confronted by religious family members over Thanksgiving dinner. Philosophy has made me resonate with certain profound perspectives, and I felt the need to publicly share this one. The person called in to the podcast, and claimed to be a transsexual who has been totally isolated from his fundamentalist family.

Even though his background story was very moving and dramatic, I do not wish to go into details about his struggles with his Christian family. (I very much recommend listening to the podcast. The caller starts talking around the 25 minute mark.) Rather, I wish to focus on one of his claims he discusses during his call.

After he introduced himself as "Diana," he said these words:
"Personally... during Thanksgiving, I'm trying right now to build my worldview as appreciation rather than thanks... as soon as you say 'thanks,' the deity pops up. Rather, I like to look at it as 'here is my universe, here is my world.' There are good things here and they have value. If there is someone responsible for those things being there, I can thank them. If there is no one responsible - for example the beauty of a sunrise - there is no one responsible for that; I can simply appreciate that and find the beauty and value in it" (emphasis mine).

This is the sort of insight that makes my jaw drop in amazement. I feel that his message can be simplified by the combination of two of Marcus Aurelius' many astounding aphorisms:

"Everything is brought about by nature, not by anything beyond it, or within it, or apart from it" (Meditiations Bk. VI, 9).

and

"Some things are rushing into existence, others out of it. Some of what now exists is already gone. Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity. We find ourselves in a river. Which of the things around us should we value when none of them can offer a firm foothold? Like an attachment to a sparrow: we glimpse and it is gone. And life itself: like the decoction of blood, and drawing in of air. We expel the power of breathing we drew in at birth (just yesterday or the day before), breathing it out like the air we exhale at each moment" (Meditations Bk. VI, 15, emphasis mine).

Nature brings forth everything, and everything exists for a fleeting moment. I feel appreciation for those people who offer me a firm foothold, even if it is just for a brief, unresolved time. What else could get me through my inner troubles? Who else could pacify my inner turmoil?

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