My favorite Dr. Seuss book, from the time I was a child to today, is Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
It’s always seemed a lesser known work of his, more McElligot’s Pool than Green Eggs and Ham. It got a video treatment eventually (narrated by John Cleese of all people), but it still has seemed to lie in the shadow of other Seuss classics.
And that’s a shame, because I’ve always thought that it had the best combination of zany characters and simple lessons.
So, on this day, in the spirit of the old man from the Desert of Drize who sat upon a cactus, let me tell you, just how lucky you are.
You are alive. That’s pretty unlikely, isn’t it? I mean, what are the chances of you being a living being? If you were to take an average collection of atoms in the universe, the current understanding is that chances are, it wouldn’t be associated with anything conventionally known as living. And your atoms are! Bravo!
But even better, you’re not just any living being. You’re a being with self-awareness. I’m not being species-ist here, I’m just saying that you have the ability to not just exist but to know that you exist. You could be an ant, or a mushroom, or a fern. Ferns are awesome, but I don’t yet think they have any sense of self. (Happy to be wrong though, to all you ferns out there.)
Life can be pretty difficult, full of pain, suffering, loneliness, agony, and heartbreak. For many people, this might be the default emotions, with everything else being much less common. But here’s the thing: you have the capacity to feel joy, love, happiness, meaning, pleasure, and connectedness. Even if it doesn’t happen very often, it can happen. That makes it an infinitely better proposition for you to be alive than it is for you to not be alive.
I think the ultimate consolation in life is that word: capacity. For even though everything might feel like it sucks right now—and very well it might—you have the capacity for things to improve. As long as you exist, there is potential. Some of it might be up to you, and some of it might not, but that capacity and potential is still there.
You have people who love you. You may not realize it, and sometimes it might not feel that way. And even if the unlikely circumstances have gotten so that you are completely alone in the world, that is not a terminal condition. You had people who loved you once, and you will have it again. It is the same capacity for the future.
Most people aren’t where they want to be, or if they are where they want to be, they may be scared about the future. And I know that very well. Despite have a solid plan in place, and having worked hard to get where I am, I know that things can go south for reasons that are entirely out of my control. And all I can do is respond to the challenges that life throws at me.
Whether or not things are good now, they have the capacity to be better in the future. Sure, it might not feel like it, but that’s the thing about the future: you don’t know what it holds. You can fear it, you can embrace it, but you don’t know it.
Life, love, and capacity for the future to be better. There’s so much more than that, but I think that alone makes all of us really, really, lucky.
Also, I’m so glad I don’t have a Borfin that shlumps. I could never fix something like that.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
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