Thursday, November 24, 2022

On This Thanksgiving

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.
~ Dr. Oliver Sacks
__________________________

Quoted from Oliver Sacks, "My Own Life" (Opinion), The New York Times, February 19, 2015

When the piece above was published, Sacks, a neurologist of renown and author of many best-selling books, as well as a professor at New York University Medical School, was taking stock of his relatively long and fruitful life, which was soon to end because of incurable cancer. 
 
Remarkably, after nine years of trying to face down his cancer's spread, Sacks could still describe himself as "intensely alive" and even "lucky" and, perhaps more important, "grateful" for being able to "choose how to live out the months" that remained to him. "I have to live," he wrote, "in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can." That he did, publishing in the short time left to him five books and "nearly finish[ing]" others, all while completing his memoir, On the Move: A Life, published in the spring of 2015. Declaring his "detachment" from daily news and politics and issues of the day, he turned his focus "on myself, my work and my friends." His was, in every sense, lived life.
 
This Thanksgiving, having crossed that threshold that places me among the old, though not the old old, I find inspiration in re-reading Sacks's op-ed, to consider and affirm, as he did, what an "enormous privilege" it is to be of this world, especially to "have loved and been loved," to "have been given much" and "have given something in return."
 
Note: Sacks's essay and three others comprise his slim volume of reflections, Gratitude, published the year he died.
 
Earlier this week, the wonderful writer Margaret Renkl published her own essay on gratitude, "How to Give Thanks in a Screwed-Up World," which can be found online and in print in the November 21, 2022, edition of The New York Times. A copy of it will now take its place alongside my copy of Sacks's.

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