December 1, 2020

Another Look: The overwhelming giftedness and goodness of life

Dream Pools. Photo by Ian Sane

It doesn’t get any more basic than this.

Here is foundational perspective for life, from a master wonderer and wordsmith.

We wake up each morning to a world we did not make. How did it get here? How did we get here? We open our eyes and see that “old bowling ball the sun” careen over the horizon. We wiggle our toes. A mocking bird takes off and improvises on themes set down by robins, vireos, and wrens, and we marvel at the intricacies. The smell of frying bacon works its way into our nostrils and we begin anticipating buttered toast, scrambled eggs, and coffee freshly brewed from our favorite Javanese beans.

There is so much here — around, above, below, inside, outside. Even with the help of poets and scientists we can account for very little of it. We notice this, then that. We start exploring the neighborhood. We try this street, and then that one. We venture across the tracks. Before long we are looking out through telescopes and down into microscopes, curious, fascinated by this endless proliferation of sheer Is-ness — color and shape and texture and sound.

After awhile we get used to it and quit noticing. We get narrowed down into something small and constricting. Somewhere along the way this exponential expansion of awareness, this wide-eyed looking around, this sheer untaught delight in what is here, reverses itself: the world contracts; we are reduced to a life of routine through which we sleepwalk.

But not for long. Something always shows up to jar us awake: a child’s question, a fox’s sleek beauty, a sharp pain, a pastor’s sermon, a fresh metaphor, an artist’s vision, a slap in the face, scent from a crushed violet. We are again awake, alert, in wonder: how did this happen? And why this? Why anything at all? Why nothing at all?

Gratitude is our spontaneous response to all this: to life. Something wells up within us: Thank you! More often than not, the thank you is directed to God even by those who don’t believe in him. . . .

Wonder. Astonishment. Adoration. There can’t be very many of us for whom the sheer fact of existence hasn’t rocked us back on our heels. We take off our sandals before the burning bush. We catch our breath at the sight of a plummeting hawk. “Thank you, God.” We find ourselves in a lavish existence in which we feel a deep sense of kinship — we belong here; we say thanks with our lives to life. And not just “Thanks” or “Thank it,” but “Thank you.” Most of the people who have lived on this planet earth have identified this you with God or gods. This is not just a matter of learning our manners, the way children are taught to say thank you as a social grace. It is the cultivation of adequateness within ourselves to the nature of reality, developing the capacity to sustain an adequate response to the overwhelming giftedness and goodness of life.

• Eugene Peterson
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, p. 51f

I find two sentences especially striking as I read this passage now.

“We wake up each morning to a world we did not make.”

“After awhile we get used to it and quit noticing.”

Note to self: Today, stop. Listen to the silence. Pay attention. See where that leads . . .

• • •

Photo by Ian Sane at Flickr. Creative Commons License


  1. Ronald Avra says

    An appropriate and timely reminder.

  2. It is a timely reminder…

    Today The Daily Office morning Psalm 118 first line: Omgive thanks unto the Lord, for he gracious,

    And my reading thru the Bible Psalm was Psalm 9, first line, i will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart..

    This looks like a good read, I’ll have to order it!

    Thanks for this post.

  3. Burro [Mule] says

    O Lord, how lovely it is to be Thy guest.
    Breeze full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun’s golden rays and the scudding clouds.
    All nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness.
    Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Thy love.
    Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out:


    from the Akathist of Thanksgiving, found in a Nazi prison camp 1944

  4. Thanks, Mule, for that. Great minds think alike…

    The whole prayer can be found here:

    Many Orthodox pray this on Thanksgiving Day.

    We remember St John Chrysostom on several days during the year, one of which was 13 November. He died in exile, and his last words were reported to be “Glory to God for all things!”


    • Burro [Mule] says

      It is a very good prayer, a very good antihistamine for the soul.

      The prayer is so poetic in English. One can only imagine how the original sounded to its intended listeners.

    • Susan Dumbrell says

      Thank you Dana.
      The right words at the right time.

    • Dana,
      that link is beautiful . . . . thank you so much for sharing it here

  5. As Bernanos said: Grace is everywhere.

    On a more prosaic note, I think this is what I love about Ferris Beuler (apart from skipping school): wake up and see the amazingness of everything.