Thankfulness is a Buddhist concept. Maybe it transcends religions, but they stole it. Or Buddhists perfected it. I don’t know. But another concept in Buddhism is letting go.
I struggle with that the most. To be thankful, I think of embracing, not letting go. But there are different forms of embracing.
I recently passed by a couple. She and I caught each other’s eye and smiled. Her partner saw and put his arm around her. Mine. Kind of like the hug of an insecure teenager around a girl who’s out of his league. He’s afraid of her leaving and affirming his insecurity.
Have you been in an airport, though? My partner, Kristin, says the arrivals area represents the best in human nature. I think so. There you see these deep, emotional embraces. People running to hold their friend or relative. So much thankfulness in love reunited. Or theirs is that deep, emotional embraces of grief. Either brings tears to your eyes.
That moment is so real.
Maybe it’s a long embrace. But eventually, they let go. They turn and walk away, to confront those next, imminent moments of their lives.
Like in the airport, everybody’s coming and going. There’s a whole lot of life on each side. To be thankful, we must embrace each moment tightly. We must hold each other as two immortal breaths who share the same air, however long, however brief. And we must let go. Clinging to this won’t make it define us. We define ourselves in all the moments before and those after.
So I think of the places I’ve been, the experiences I’ve lived. There are some I thought would define me. Some I wanted to. Like a Homer living on his mountaintop. Residing in his zen forever.
But then there would not have been all these other places, people, and experiences I’ve known since. I would have missed those. There still more to be missed. By not letting go of this mountain.
And I hear the words of a favorite movie scene, from a father to his son: “That’s what life is all about, loss. But we don’t use it as an excuse to destroy ourselves.”
We use this as a reason to live. To breathe life. And give life to others.
For that I am thankful.