Gratitude for This Life

November 24, 2015

November morning, Green Lake

November morning, Green Lake

The release of Oliver Sacks’ new book, Gratitude, is perfectly timed for Thanksgiving this year.  In these essays, Sacks — who died in August at the age of 82 — reflects on his life and accomplishments in light of his terminal cancer diagnosis.

He mentions some regrets:  “I am sorry I have wasted (and still waste) so much time; I am sorry to be as agonizingly shy at eighty as I was at twenty; I am sorry that I speak no languages but my own mother tongue and that I have not traveled or experienced other cultures as widely as I should have done.”

Sacks reminds me that our latter years are a gift.  He looks upon old age “as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.”  He says, “One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty.”

The urgencies of these latter years are sharpened by their being finite.  “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me.  I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”

“. . . I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.”

“There is no time for anything inessential.”

But above all, Sacks’ heart was full of thanksgiving:  “I cannot pretend I am without fear.  But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.  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, and 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.”

Let us all celebrate Thanksgiving in the spirit of gratitude this year.




3 Responses to “Gratitude for This Life”

  1. Pat Says:

    Very nice, Rosemary. I do believe I will download that book right now. I have read his work before on brain science. It will be a joy to read what he has to say about life. It will be a pleasure to celebrate Thanksgiving with a spirit of gratitude, knowing we will be doing it together.

  2. Bev Morrow Says:

    Amen Rosemary: Enjoyed the Spain trip. I visited Spain, some of the same places. Wonderful Madrid. People so nice. I am 69 now and retired. I am a Buddhist and have a very existential philosophy about life, travel and death. I read your blog daily and am in awe of your tenacity, curiosity, photography, and words. Your a master at the watercolors, ( I am learning to watercolor) and know how difficult it is. Looking forward to your retirement to see how you recover your sense of being. It was a bit difficult for me, but I am a Master Gardener, Forest Steward, have 5 acres of property and house in hills outside Port Angeles, kayak, read (not a librarian, but an English Major and middle school language arts teacher), play piano, travel, etc so I have lots of things of interest to do and find myself busy as a beaver. I am grateful for your life and how it touches mine. Thanks. You offer me inspiration on a daily basis. I think your blog gives you meaning to your life and you realize that you have a lot to share. Namasta. Bev

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