Sunday, April 11, 2004

should we be grateful?
post from excellent writer degrouchyowl.

Which of your lord’s favors do you deny?
Gratitude is a funny thing. Most of us are sure we have it. We’re grateful to our parents for the nice stuff they’ve given us, we’re grateful to our bosses for hiring us, we’re grateful to our friends for their friendship and we’re always grateful when a stranger unexpectedly does us a favor. We’re vessels of goodness and appreciation, the whole lot of us.

Me though, I’m not always very grateful. It’s easy for me to look to those with more things and wish for those as well. And of course, by ‘things’ I mean stuff- crap, goods, shiny things. I’m not even talking about the intangible things, like happiness, peace of mind, love, health and security. Good old material ‘things’ are my primary concern, and not having all that can be had can sometimes be disheartening.

Some wise dude once said “Look to what you don’t have and you’ll never be happy, but look towards what could be taken away, and you’ll be satisfied.” Alright, let’s try that. Go get out a pen and paper, and tally each and every item you have, own, or use. Now just look at them, and you’ll find that it’s a wonderful reminder of all the things you have to be grateful for.

But don’t just record your tangible things, your *stuff,* record the intangible things as well. Like peace of mind, people who love you, dignity and happiness. All of these fall into the category of things you have that could be taken away.

Think about it, nowhere is it written that all people have the undeniable right to safety. You live in a dangerous world where crime and accidents regularly take the lives and well-being of people, but so far, you’ve been spared. That is a blessing. So are peace and the absence of war. We generally live secure lives while there are places in the world where whole generations of people have known nothing but conflict. We don’t have to fear the sound of planes flying overhead, worrying that they may drop a bomb. Most of us will see our brothers live to maturity without ever knowing the pain of watching all men of age be sent to the battlefield. Our food and utilities will probably never be rationed like they are in those countries where prolonged hostilities have claimed most goods. When ill, doctors and medicines are easily found, while elsewhere those services are reserved for the wounded, or too expensive for anyone but the rich. Most of us will never suffer the pain of a bullet or shrapnel wound, or ever feel the numbing and terrifying uncertainty that war holds over our lives and those of our loved ones.

Health isn’t guaranteed either. We all complain about our various afflictions - asthma, insomnia, anemia, depression – as if they are serious or life threatening. Griping about your health is a luxury of those with enough energy and strength to do so, and they are usually those who don’t have anything to really complain about anyways. Ask most people what’s their worst medical experience and they’ll probably list things like appendicitis, food poisoning and pneumonia, all temporary and curable. There are lots and lots of people out there who are crippled by terminal illness that medicine cannot help, who have no choice but to tolerate excruciating pain without a known cure, while the worst pain most of us will ever feel can be dulled by a few aspirins. I couldn’t even begin to list the millions of diseases and afflictions that beleaguers a huge population of the world. There are plenty, and it is a blessing from God that we will experience only a few in our lifetimes.

Love is something we all think is owed to us. We demand it from our parents, expect it in a lesser degree from our siblings, and spend a good part of our lives trying to find it in others. It is considered a necessary part of a happy life. You can’t survive without love, but apparently, lots of people do. What of the street children, orphans, wanderers, loners and those born in broken homes where basic amenities, let alone affections, are not provided? And even still, a person can have mountains of wealth and the best of everything, and never feel loved. Its lack is something I can’t describe, as I’ve never felt it, but I imagine it must be horrible. Not only have most of us felt the affirming sensation of another’s regard, but we’ve also rarely felt hatred in its place. Though we often complain about our relations, how they don’t understand, are demanding and rigid, and how they make our lives difficult, we forget how superficial these concerns are. Being a relative doesn’t ensure feelings of selfless love. Some family members mercilessly beat others, or molest them, or make outwards displays of loathing, and go out of their way to cause pain to their own relatives. Most of us don’t know how lucky we are to never truly have to fear our own families.

Aside from health, none of us was promised a whole self. We seem to forever be griping about ourselves, not being tall enough, too fat, too thin, ill-proportioned, nose not right, teeth not straight and the list goes on. For some people though, an insufficiency of beauty is the least of their concerns, as they grapple with disfiguration, blindness, deafness, or mental or physical disability.

And then there are those who don’t even have that awareness to know that something is wrong. The very fact that we were born intelligent, reasoning humans is such a gift. Some people, through birth or accident, live all their lives in a state of vegetative unconsciousness or highly limited perception. Lucky are the ones that aren’t aware of what they are missing, but for those who do know something is amiss, theirs must be a sad and frustrating existence.

Life itself is probably the greatest thing we take for granted. We are alive and have never known any other state, and with our typical convoluted logic, we assume that we will simply continue on living. I have not died today. I did not die yesterday. Therefore, I will not die tomorrow. Many people die before reaching old age, or even adolescence, but we forget that no person has been guaranteed a long life.

Come to think of it, nothing you have has been guaranteed, or even earned. It’s all been granted to you, and it can all be taken away. None of it is your right, it’s all a favor.

Taken from our Muslim friend, Tora's website:

fabiayyi alaai rabbikuma tukazzhiban


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