Thanksgiving as a lifestyle

CandlelightDisclaimers: I'm really getting out of character here, as I tend to keep focused on the code on my blog, but Rob's post inspired me... If code's what you're after, these aren't the droids you're looking for. You can move along. You're still here? Well, then, you should know that this is written as much for me as for anyone else. Hello, future Jon (apparently in need of a pep talk)!

So... Thanksgiving. It's easy to focus on the turkey, or the meal, or even the time with your family. All good things, but they don't get to the heart of thanksgiving.

Are you thankful that you're alive right now?

Regardless of spiritual views, I think all of us can approach life as an unearned opportunity of mind-boggling proportions. There's no logical reason that you should be there right now, reading these words. You have no innate right to exist.

And yet, you do. That spark that lives inside you... well, it ignited years ago, and trillions of cells work intently to keep it burning. Just the fact that a single one of those cells can sustain life is pretty wild, but the way they all work in concert to keep that spark from flickering out is just incredible. And yet, they do.

And so, here you are.

Now, slave as these cells do, they can't keep it up forever. If things go really well for you, you'll get one hundred years. At that, we should feel lucky - as recently as a hundred years ago, the average lifespan was under 40 years.1 So, cells and history have conspired to give your spark the opportunity to flicker (or shine) for as many as a hundred years2

And so, here you are.

And, the fact that you're sitting there reading a weblog post is pretty stunning. Yeah, all the technical stuff is neat, but the fact that you have the chance to sit an read anything at all is a major boon. I recently watched Letters from Iwo Jima, followed by the Band of Brothers series, and it really woke me up. Each second I get is somehow made more precious by watching and thinking about how better men died at random. I don't believe this is an artificial thought brought on by watching a few movies, rather I feel that I've been awakened to the fact that each second of my life may or may not be followed by another second of life, and it's largely out of my control. Forget about years, each second is a gift.

And so, here you are.

Sitting there as a limited stream of gift-wrapped seconds tumble into your lap. How does this perspective change things? For me, I've resolved (without waiting for a new year) to view each day as a gift, a chance, an opportunity. And, the more I think about it, I believe that the value I take from each day is directly related to the feeling of gratitude I feel as I start each day. As much as I can remember, I try to start each day with the thought that it's a gift - unexpected and undeserved. I'm not going to tell you my batting average on actually starting each day with those thoughts, but it is how I'm trying to live my life.

So, if you're lucky to be alive and you've only got a few dozen years to do what you're going to do... what will you do? What will you do differently?

You know those movies that end with someone waking up from a dream, with the chance to do it all over again the right way? What would you do if you were waking up from that dream today? Would you do anything differently?

1 While we are talking about history, consider that (1) given the fact that you're reading a weblog, you may be a geek (2) for most of history, geeks didn't have it so good. Five hundred or a thousand years ago, I'd have been happy to be a clerk or a librarian. You? Are you knight material?

2 If a hundred years seems like a lot to you, wait a few. It's not.


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