Thankful Thoughts

by JAKE NORTON

November 2023
It's a challenge to be thankful these days. The world seems awash with horror and tragedy, wars and famines and vitriol sucking marrow from the bone of humanity. And the relentless algorithms that control so much of our lives feast on calamity, serving it up in heaping spoonfuls again and again. If we look, though, […]

It's a challenge to be thankful these days. The world seems awash with horror and tragedy, wars and famines and vitriol sucking marrow from the bone of humanity. And the relentless algorithms that control so much of our lives feast on calamity, serving it up in heaping spoonfuls again and again.

If we look, though, within the murk are points of light - multitudes of them, twinkling, reminding us, should we care to look, that the world is not as bad as it seems, that there is a lot to be thankful for, heaps of hope within the bleak.

I could write volumes on the beauty of our world - and someday I'll write more - but for today, Thanksgiving, I'll simply share some reflections from great thinkers that may help inspire a touch of gratitude, a sprinkle of thanks, a glimmer of hope in all our lives.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

An elderly Tibetan woman prays outside the Potala Palace, Lhasa, Tibet.

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.

- Denis Waitley -
Young elephants playing the Ewaso Ng'iro River in Samburu National Reserve, Kenya.

There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate—the genetic and neural fate—of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers…Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

- Oliver Sacks, Gratitude -
Generose, an elderly woman in Rulindo District, Rwanda.

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.

- Kahlil Gibran -
Panorama of climbers ascending the final 250 feet of the Southeast Ridge of Everest as viewed from the top of the Hillary Step, on May 19, 2009.

Our appreciation of life is keenest when our hold on it is most precarious…

- Michael Roberts -
Charley Mace enjoys the first rays of sunlight from high on Aoraki (Mount Cook), New Zealand.

Breath and life, and the opportunity to try. If you have nothing more, you always have that.

- Alicia Keys -
A man makes his morning prayers in the waters of the Hooghly (Ganges) River near Fairley Ghat, Calcutta, India.

So it is not happiness that makes us grateful. It's gratefulness that makes us happy.

- David Steindl-Rast -
An aspen leaf with the droplets of dawn in Colorado.

As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful. They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness -- just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breath it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.

- Laura Ingalls Wilder -
A man in a handmade, wooden kayuco (kayak) paddles at sunset across the waters of Lake Atitlán near Santa Catarina Palopó, Guatemala. Volcán San Pedro rises in the distance.

Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.

- Bob Marley -
Footsteps at sunrise mark the red dunes of Erg Chigaga, 56 kilometers from the village of M'hamid, Morocco, near the Algerian border.

The power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes the home happy and life lovely.

- Louisa May Alcott -
The full moon rises above a mountain hut in Biogradska Gora in the Dinaric Alps of Montenegro.

So, simply to look on anything, such as a mountain, with the love that penetrates to its essence, is to widen the domain of being in the vastness of non-being. Man has no other reason for his existence.

- Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain -
Portrait of a young girl in the village of Gre, Rasuwa, Nepal.

Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two makes four, and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all of the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you. And look at your body — what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move! You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work — we all must work — to make this world worthy of its children.

- Pablo Casals, Joys and Sorrows -
Sunset over Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2016. This image is from a timelapse of 1800+ images taken over five hours, time-stacked and re-rendered to show the accumulation of clouds and stars over the entire duration.
Sunset over Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, 2016. This image is from a timelapse of 1800+ images taken over five hours, time-stacked and re-rendered to show the accumulation of clouds and stars over the entire duration. See full video here.

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature ‑ the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.

- Rachel Carson -
Subhamoni Rai paints her house for Tihar in the village of Chheskam, Nepal.

Don't you cry for the lost
Smile for the living
Get what you need and give what you're given
Life's for the living so live it
Or you're better off dead

- Passenger -
Listen to this beautiful song here

One comment on “Thankful Thoughts”

  1. Jake, I enjoy and value what you say and of course love the pictures. I am torn because I dedicate all my extra funds to Kenya. Yet I NEED A BALANCE ESPECIALLY IN THESE TIMES OF PAIN. CAN you THINK OF YOUR BLOG AS GIVING BALANCE AND LIGHT WAY OUT IN Kenya?

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