“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, It concentrates his mind wonderfully.” – Samuel Johnson
On New Year’s Day, most people make resolutions. But how many people are thankful on Thanksgiving Day?
If you ask the typical American what Thanksgiving is about, he’ll mention family, friends, and football. Oh, and turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes. But nobody takes the being-thankful part too seriously.
You should. It will make your life better. It will slow things down and bring what’s important into focus. It will give you both energy and tranquility. “A thankful heart,” someone once said, “is not only the greatest virtue but the parent of all virtues.”
So, today, I’d like you to do two things:
1. Spend 15 minutes by yourself. Take a walk. Find a safe place. Someplace that is your own version of beautiful. Breathe slowly. Look around. Recognize that one day — sooner than you can believe — you will not exist any more. You will not be around to breathe the clean air, to have the sun on your skin, and to see the things you find beautiful. You will not be around to hear the sound of your lover’s sigh, your children’s voices, and your best friend’s laughter. Dwell on the fact that after you are gone — after your ego is extinguished — all those things will still exist, just as they exist now for you but not for the dead. Try to get, as clearly as you can, a sense of your own mortality. Try to stop, if only for a few moments, the most fundamental aspect of consciousness — the denial of death.
2. Make a resolution that you will spend some time each day, from this Thanksgiving Day forward, contemplating death and therefore living your life with gratefulness and awe.
[Ed. Note. Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]