…[W]e are alive and that it is gift and privilege, not right. We must earn life once it has been awarded to us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.
— Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing
When was the last time you looked at the world around you and thanked–or even thought about–the splendor of existence and life?
I’d like to say that I walk out every morning, look at the sky and trees and grass on the ground and say a big thank you to the universe (or whatever created it), but in fact I don’t. I’m often thinking about other things — bills, work, breakfast, that movie I just saw — that I’m oblivious to not only everything that’s around me, but everything that is. The cliche here is, of course, that one should live like today’s the last day because one day they’ll most certainly be right, but how many of us actually do that? Face it, to most of us this is nothing more than an intellectual exercise. The only time we actually do live like it’s our last day is on those days right before we go back to work. “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we go back to the office and sit in our cubicles for 8 hours…”
Take a minute today to enjoy your environment. If you’re not happy where you are, go somewhere you think you’ll be happier. Still not happy? Find somewhere else. When you eventually find a place–a grassy field, a basketball court, your back porch–take a minute to thank life for being within you, for allowing you the chance to experience this, even if it never gets shared with anyone else. Realize for that minute that the you’re the universe’s consciousness. Think about it, we don’t know whether there’s any life out there, so for all intents and purposes, if there’s any thinking or appreciating that’s going to be done in this huge dark universe of ours, where the vast majority of things would kill us in an instant, it has to be done by you. More than that, you’re in the best time in all of human history to appreciate, as Richard Dawkins put it, “the magic of reality.”
If so inclined, take a notepad with you and write down a bit of what you see, and why you’re thankful for it. And don’t be afraid to let yourself write whatever comes to mind. (And if you’re embarrassed by it–even though you shouldn’t be, “To thine own self be true” and all–destroy the paper soon thereafter.)
Commit to doing this one minute of every day, and see where your mind leads you. Chances are it’ll be closer to that place where you can thank life than you were the week before.