Though I don’t necessarily agree with everything G.K. Chesterton ever said, I recently ran across this poignant quote that was posted on his curated Twitter feed:
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
I have seen many people recently investing a great deal of time in doing a variety of things that I can only believe and describe as self-sabotage. (I say recently, but it may be safe to say only my perception of it has increased). What are just a few of these things:
- Complaining (about anything, particularly about “1st world” problems).
- Feeling the world or members of the world have wronged us in some way.
- Falling prey to traps that we ourselves have laid in our own minds.
- Assuming we are owed something because we are unnaturally entitled.
- Being arrogant.
- Entering into silly sadnesses that come from things like a favorite team losing a game.
I’m sure you get the idea here, though the list could be quite long. This is by no means a condemnation of any particular person …except perhaps myself. There also is not an assumption here that true, life-changing and devastating events do not happen to people. What I am pronouncing is that I have succumbed to all the dismal things just listed and more… too many times to count. Have you as well? In quieter and more honest times, I begin to understand my many errors and I see what surrendering to these things does to me. What does it really do? Why do I call these things self-sabotage?
With each unfortunate and ungrateful act, I put a blindfold over my eyes.
I am convinced the concept of seeing and sight is an important one and the metaphor here is quite simple. A blindfold causes one not to see. All of the listed issues above are ideas that cause one’s sight to stop at the self or to be bent back inward towards the self. How far or how much can one see when this is the case? About as far as a blindfold will allow. It is painful to imagine how much I’ve missed because of my complaining, my arrogant behavior, my entitlements, or my self-aggrandizements. I know for sure I have missed little joys, beauties, kindnesses from others, sacrifices, and smiles from others.
Even more importantly, I also know I have missed opportunities. Opportunities have come along life’s way to give instead of expect, to open instead of close, to bow instead of glare, to stop instead of walk away, to be quiet and listen instead of talk, and to smile instead of frown. I missed opportunities to see what is real. Though I find it increasingly difficult to maintain a relationship with true reality, I know that taking the time to remove my blindfold would have helped me to do so more frequently.
Often I find myself advising my students to get in a proverbial helicopter and to imagine flying high above when faced with particular day-to-day difficulties. This idea is very similar to removing one’s blindfold. What happens the higher you go? You can ‘see’ farther. This ‘seeing’ leads one’s mind to a quiet (though slightly still-cloudy) understanding of reality. I find, in at least a small way, this flows in the same stream as Chesterton’s quote above. He posits that giving thanks is the ‘highest’ form of thought. What happens in the heights — what happens when flying high above? Wisdom, understanding, sight, peace …..and thankfulness. I think our blindfold is removed up there.
Thanksgiving in America recently gave us a cursory opportunity to apply once a year lip-service to something that is intensely difficult to do: give thanks. I do not mean this as hyperbole. A true giving of thanks in your heart is hard (and is seemingly getting harder for the youth of contemporary society). It requires us stop doing what we are really good at: thinking of ourselves. It requires us to stop complaining and to lay down entitlement. It requires us to stop being arrogant ‘look-at-me’ people. I know this is hard – from experience.
It requires us to take off our blindfolds to see.
And perhaps if we do, we will be blinded by the bright and glorious light of thankfulness. Maybe we will experience gratitude, which is happiness doubled by wonder. Maybe we will find real Truth and real Grace.