Where I'm from "Thank God" is something you say every day. While nowadays most people say it in an automatic, mindless way, I think it came to be tradition because of a profound sense of appreciation for life by our ancestors. People found themselves in a world where things are not too bad and often pretty good. They looked around them, and while they didn't know why or how they got here, they felt thankful for the life they're given. So they felt and expressed gratitude, multiple times day, each day.
"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones" said Richard Dawkins, talking about how lucky we are to be the ones that got to live for "the potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia". Meditate on that, and when you feel those words, no matter what your misfortune is, you'll know that you're damn lucky to be alive.
In the story, Candide: Optimism, a philosopher named Pangloss believed that we live in the best of all possible worlds. And despite the deep misfortune visited upon him–enslavement, torture, earthquakes, and more–Pangloss maintained his belief that he lives in the best of all possible worlds. While the story is ridiculing this type of thinking, I think there's something to be learned from Pangloss. We may not be living in the best of all possible worlds, but I can certainly imagine far worse worlds than I can imagine better ones. Maybe that's because we humans are wired to fear the worst so we can survive the world. But the flipside is that you can be deeply grateful for living in a world where your deepest fears are not reality.
So I'm thankful. Starting with my peaceful upbringing, I'm beholden to my parents and my grandparents who left war-ravaged countries to move to an island of peace among total and utter nihilistic destruction. I grew up in an intellectually and physically stimulating environment. And for that, I'm grateful to my friends, teachers, and peers. I'm thankful for my hometown, the place where I found love–a woman that believed in me and pushed me to my limits and beyond.
However, I chose to leave to follow in the footsteps of my heroes. To the place where pioneers, inventors, and visionaries imagined and built a world where humans can transcend their limitations. Extended by technology, we're evolving into something new and beautiful. I'm grateful to the country that took me in, the industry that let me follow my dreams, and the people that took a bet on me.
Yes, I know I'm lucky, and that's precisely why I'm thankful. But I also believe in progress. I think that we–all of us, all of humanity–are going somewhere, somewhere beautiful. So be thankful; be thankful for every moment you're alive. And if you're also one of the lucky ones, you have a responsibility to make the world a little better for everyone else.
Thank you for reading this.