Sunday, March 20, 2011

What to thank when things go right

This is a tough one for rational humans. Religious fools thank god for everything, of course. But they're not alone in this impulse. It seems all humans feel thankful when things go well. Even we evil atheists feel this emotion now and then.

Perhaps we've been trained to do this by a society that is so heavily influenced by religious nitwits. But on the other hand, it could be part of our evolutionary heritage. Maybe animals tend to be thankful. Seems to me I've seen some mighty thankful animals in my day. I don't think we've got the market cornered on this one.

So what is a rational atheist to do with all the damn thankfulness she feels? Who or what should she thank when good fortune comes her way? Well, let's see . . . she could choose to remain trapped within this "thankfulness" meme and look around for something or someone to thank. Or she could step outside the boundaries and merely be thankful. Why does there have to be an object or agent involved in thankfulness? We are thankful; period. That pretty much does it for me. No need to whip up some spooky being and kneel on thumbtacks in front of a statue of it.

Yet I must confess that at rare moments, even I want to thank something. So what I do is thank the universe.

I try to envision everything that exists, and I tip my hat to it. But I don't thank it for being benevolent; the universe is not some kind, caring creature that watches out for us. On the contrary -- it's a harsh and violent place with not a whit of kindness in its nature.

I thank the random events that gave us a sun that hasn't gone nova (yet). I thank the vagaries of chance that have allowed us to escape extinction for so long. I thank luck for enabling life to thrive on this lovely planet that's not too warm and not too cold. And I feel intensely grateful to be here, to be allowed to exist. This last item is the greatest prize of them all.

Works for me. How do you handle thankfulness in your life? What do you do with it?