Revisiting Gratitude

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” (Meister Eckert)

gratitude-book-coverStill very depressed by the election, and in anticipation of Thanksgiving, I dug out Oliver Sacks’ gorgeous little book, Gratitude. It’s composed of four lovely short essays, one written just before his 80th birthday and the other three following his terminal diagnosis a short time later. Each of them explores the richness and complexity of being human and convey Sacks’ gratitude for the privilege and gift of life. I thought I’d read one a day leading up to Thanksgiving, but just as I am unable to limit myself to one piece of See’s chocolate if I am given a box, I was not able to ration Sacks’ essays either. I read them all at one sitting—greedily and contentedly. And then I meandered through them again to savor his writing, which is both simple and elegant, and to revisit certain passages that had especially touched me.

Along with my wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving, I’ll share a few favorite Sacks’ quotes here, some from this book and some from other sources.

And, in case you’re looking for a gift for yourself or a special friend or family member—one that might help put the world in perspective—you can’t go wrong with Gratitude.

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”

“There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate – the genetic and neural fate – of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

“To live on a day-to-day basis is insufficient; we need to transcend, transport, escape; we need meaning, understanding, and explanation; we need to see overall patterns in our lives. We need hope, the sense of a future; the freedom to get beyond ourselves…in states of mind that allow us to rise above our immediate surroundings and see the beauty and value of the world we live in.”

“My religion is nature. That’s what arouses those feelings of wonder and mysticism and gratitude in me.”

4 thoughts on “Revisiting Gratitude

  1. Thanks Donna, Coincidently, I have Gratitude waiting for me on my Kindle and this is a good week to get comfortable and read it. By the way, just stay off the news as much as possible for a while and pick a couple of issues that you might have passion about and donate.

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    • I hope you enjoy Sacks’ Gratitude essays as much as I, Sandy. Let me know what you think of them. Yes, I have cut way down on my news consumption and am looking into new causes to support and get more involved in. A lot of people seem to be doing this–I guess that’s the silver lining…. Have a lovely Thanksgiving.


  2. Ooh, a book recommendation and essays too. How wonderful. If the sampling you’ve given us is any indication, sounds like a very worthwhile read. Sacks has been in my peripheral vision as I’ve come across numerous references to him. Now I’d like to track down this book, which is esp timely this season.

    Drifting a bit off topic here…are you a novel reader, Donna? One of my favorites this time of year is The 13th Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s part mystery, part modern gothic novel. It’s set in England this time of year, so you can really get into the dark nights and the cold weather. And best, the ending was a complete surprise to me. A great escape from the reality of our times! 🙂

    Hope you & your husband have a delightful Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings of loved ones and good times!

    Ps. I mean to send you an installment this weekend of some chaps…feeling badly for my delays and am eager to catch up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Nancy,
      Yes, I love novels and I did read The 13th Tale several years ago. It was a monthly selection for my book club. I confess I don’t remember it very well, but I put a big asterisk next to it on my book list (yes, I’m one of those people who compulsively records every book she reads). That means I liked it a lot, because I’m not especially generous with my asterisks. Sounds like maybe we have similar taste in fiction, too. I’ll look forward to other recommendations.
      I hope you enjoy Sacks’ little book. It’s only about 50 pages, but each essay is worth savoring and rereading. I’ve been meaning to read more of his books. Everything I have read of his is marvelous—a true man of compassion.
      Thanks for your good wishes. I hope you and your family have a lovely and relaxing Thanksgiving, as well.


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