Semper Gratus — Always Grateful
by Angelo Greñas
The other day, I was going through a shit ton of old school papers and literary books that were long forgotten; left dusty, and unopened for years. You see, I have this one personal hobby that keeps me from buying my own smartphone — being a huge-ass fanboy of post-modernist literature (funny ‘cos I always whine about being so broke). This avocation speaks for itself though — what an expensive hobby to keep on.
But ever since I learned how to run my fingers through the pages of my first literary book, and lay eyes on life-changing quotations in literature, one passage has taught me something far greater than what religious books can aspire me to do. Here it goes:
“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 wrote this in one of his essays in 1841.
Well, if you belong to those who cringe and groan whenever they hear or are forced to say the phrase “thank you,” you are not alone. Our parents taught this to say under the conditions of good mannerism. Just like the manipulative stipulation of religious concepts without fully acknowledging its sense in one’s life, society has taught and forced us to believe that saying ‘thank you’ is customary and obligated under the norms of our politeness. Don’t get me wrong — I am not arguing that saying thank you is cringe and futile. Why say thank you when it meant nothing to everyone: just an act to justify the rules of social politeness?
Not everyone realizes the magnitude of uttering these words: a simple yet astounding expression of our gratitude. I came across a TED Talk video last Sunday, and this is what Dr. Tanmeet Sethi told her audiences:
“[Saying thank you]… teach us to actively practice gratitude, and not just when things go right, especially when things go wrong, even gravely wrong…”
Often, even if we deny it or not — we ought to overlook the value of gratitude in transforming our social connections. Everybody knows that gratitude teaches us to be happy and humble. It makes us happier for the things that shaped our ideals, and the foundations of our thinking. Gratitude provides us a huge safety net against showers of sadness that may fall upon us unexpectedly. It changes our ability to perceive unhappiness and misfortune.
But hey, why be grateful especially during these trying times when everybody is dying and hope is still far from our reach? Challenging our resistance to pain and misery: that is what gives. When we accidentally pierced ourselves with something sharp like a knife, it is our biological instinct to resist pain as much as possible. Today, we tend to escape from anything uncomfortable by chasing what makes us feel comfortable. In return, this does not teach us to confront the pain and its roots, it makes us go and be escapists of our own miseries. By doing these, we nourish the foundations of our sadness. We build walls that protect these thoughts. It does not go away; it remains and adheres to the deepest of our thoughts.
Why do we shun pain? Maybe the fear that this may break us down?
“Pain deserves to be felt,” John Green wrote in 2012.
This is what I say: why don’t we admit pain and be thankful for it? When we practice gratitude, it reminds us to look at the good that lies next to the difficult. Maybe when you say thank you to our struggles, it may tell us that there may be something to learn from this. Perhaps I should say thank you to those friends who have left me during my most difficult times (but greater gratitude to those who stayed), so that I can be stronger on my own next time. Maybe thank you for seeing the worst in people, so that the next time I go out for a drink with somebody, I can discern and confide my trust to those who are worthy of. Gratitude amidst the pain challenges the central foundations of our beliefs. It provides us an avenue to see the goodness in humanity.
Thank you to all the humanists around the world, working and contributing for the greater good. Maybe thank you for those who spend time reading this personal crap of mine? Thank you, I guess to our editors, for grilling the flaws of our write-ups — so we can be mindful of these the next time we write. And maybe, by the time you are reading this article, somebody may never say this to you but you’ve done a really, really good job today. Thank you for doing your best, really.
This goes to all humanists and those who wish nothing but the greater good: thank you for initiating, moving, and speaking up, changing the world with your ideas, little by little.
We carry our sense of purpose on us, say ‘thank you’ when we end something, and be grateful we begin our ‘everything.’