A Few Thoughts on Gratitude: Candlelight in the darkness
When I wake up in the morning, I remind myself to be grateful. I draw a deep breath and appreciate the opportunity of having been given another day. I savour this feeling for a moment or two before contemplating the sombre idea that the day ahead could also mark the day my existence in this world ends because, whether I accept it or not, I know that day is out there waiting for me. Rather than instilling terror or depression, this realization deepens my sense of gratitude. If the day ahead does hold my demise, I am comforted by the notion that my life on this Earth has been and continues to be filled with immense blessings. Verily, my life, like all lives, has had its share of misfortunes, failures, blunders, tragedies, pain, and suffering, but it has also had its share of good fortune, success, victories, joy, and vitality. As strange as it sounds, I am thankful for both the positive and the negative, for they have both taught me much.
Though my sense of gratitude is usually bright, there have been calamities or episodes of ill health that have reduced it to a mere, dull flickering. When faced with challenging times when it seemed I had nothing for which to be grateful, I have always made a point of maintaining and nurturing my gratitude as if it were the soft glow of a candle flame. Like a small flame from a candle, I have come to recognize that even a minute amount of gratitude has the uncanny power push back against darkness and puncture the oppression of night’s formless boundaries.
Also like a candle flame, I am aware that gratitude can become vulnerable and exposed when confronted by dark challenges. A careless breath, the slightest air movement, a small drop of water can all quickly snuff out a candle flame. Similarly, a careless thought, the slightest loss of perspective, a small drop of despair can extinguish the flame of gratitude. If I allow the flame to go out, I know the amorphous, chaotic darkness will be quick to invade and reclaim the space the flame once occupied. If I do not relight the candle, the darkness will remain; I know that if I remain in the darkness for too long, it will consume me.
Therefore, I have come to the realization that it is crucial to keep the candle of gratitude lit during challenging times. Whenever I am confronted by hardship, I carefully cup and guard the flame with my hand as I make my way in the darkness. Though the light gratitude casts may appear weak and insignificant, the illumination is often enough to help me safely navigate through the darkness until sunrise. In this sense, gratitude is akin to hope. During times when it seemed sunrise would never come, that little fleck of light provided enough illumination to ward off the tempting nihilism and meaninglessness that lay hidden in the darkness. Thus, even in moments when I was sure despair would overcome me, I used the dim glow of the candlelight to discover or create something for which I could be grateful.
When I go to bed at night, the last feeling I experience before I close my eyes is gratitude – even if the day had not been a good one, I cannot help but appreciate the opportunity of having experienced it. I keep the candle burning all night and when morning comes, I quickly light a fresh one when I remind myself to be grateful after I open my eyes.