Feeling Grateful is Only Human

Photo by Taylor Sondgeroth on Unsplash

The same is true for feeling sorry — feeling that way after we did something wrong is natural. Asking the wrongdoer to apologize, however, makes no sense. A similar not-so-subtle difference is behind false humility¹ or kindness. And the “unconditional” love (unlike unconditional compassion) — I don’t know if it’s me or it does sound kinda rapey? (‘cause I don’t think it’s me)

Let me explain what I mean. You see, everything I do, I do for myself (we all do, whether we realize it or not).

That is not to say that I am not altruistic. Far from it — always doing everything in my power to help others, always acting in their best interests, as much as I understand them — I really am… except I don’t do it for them. Nosir, I do it all for myself.

And so should you be — good to others for your own sake, not for theirs²

The reason for my altruism (or my enlightened self-interest, if you want) is simple: aside from our relationships with others, we maintain a relationship with ourselves. That is why we always end up treating ourselves the way we treat others — especially those we don’t like much (’cause we don’t like ourselves either).

And that is why feeling less crappy at the end of the day is all the motivation I need to be a good person. See,

No one can punish us worse, and no one can reward us better than we do ourselves³

Or, as Socrates once put it, “Once a man knows good from evil, nothing on earth can compel him to act against that knowledge.”

So, what does it even mean to be grateful — and to whom — when everyone is only doing what is best for them?

Perhaps “gratitude” is the wrong way to describe how I feel it… The appreciation of being who I am, of this wonderful world, of my life, of being lucky to be in the right place and the right time and get a chance to figure all this out. I appreciate God (or gods) and everyone who touched me on my way here — everyone who brought me joy along the way, and everyone who taught me a lesson I needed to learn… I appreciate everyone who was here before me, whose lives and whose art never ceased to inspire me; and the future that gives me hope and the reason to get out of bed in the morning.

I want to thank you because I want you to know how you changed my life for the better… if only simply by reading this far — because you have and so you did.

But I would never expect anyone’s gratitude or apology. Even if they don’t feel it when they should, I cannot make them. I would do my best to help but, ultimately, it is their problem, and their responsibility to do the right thing (after figuring out what it is).

¹ I don’t know everything, that is true. But when I say that what I do know is not my opinion, nor my truth, but everyone’s — it is not my lacking humility. It is merely an affirmation of the objective nature of truth, its belonging to no one.

² I’d really rather you didn’t try and help others while expecting the same in return!
Unless you had explained the whole deal upfront, with an option for them to pass on your offer — otherwise they might decide that you weren’t as much as helping, as you were setting them up… And then it will be your turn to wonder, how come you help everyone but no one was there when you needed it!

³ Though not without soliciting help from the others — especially with the punishing part... Apparently, we are too sophisticated to simply keep banging our heads against the wall (it might come to that later). So, instead, we are hurting them others, and when they retaliate, it’s not our fault anymore, it’s theirs (and it is, truth to be told — but hey, well played regardless)!

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a billion years till the end of the world

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