This Year, Also Be Thankful for Dragons

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. For me, this holiday is a time for reflection, and of course, eating and imbibing more than any healthy daily caloric intake model would ever prescribe.

Yet what really matters about tomorrow is what should matter about every day, and that is it’s a great opportunity to be thankful for all the good, the bad and even the ugly in your life. I say this, because it’s certainly easy to be happy about all of the good.

Why? Because the good is all around us.

  • Think about where you live: America.
  • Think about what time you live in: the 21st Century.
  • Think about the luck of your birth in a free country, in a time of more prosperity than any human on earth has ever known.

As Harvard University Professor Steven Pinker brilliantly points out in his best-selling book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress,” by nearly every metric that matters — health, lifespan, inequality, environment, knowledge, safety, quality of life, happiness and especially wealth — the world has never been better than it is right now.

That’s enough good for all of us to be thankful. So, why also be grateful for the bad, and even the ugly?

Well, because the world is a place where we all must fight for our values through our own effort. It also is a place where that effort isn’t always rewarded, and where justice isn’t always meted out fairly. It’s a place where bad things happen to good people, and a place where despite all of the good we are surrounded by, there’s also a lot of ugliness.

  • There are bad and ugly philosophies subscribed to by man that were created to stifle the individual and crush her spirit.
  • There are bad and ugly political regimes intent on imposing top-down control in the name of the “collective.”
  • There are bad and ugly individuals whose sole objective is to gain power over others, and to exert control over society, often to buttress their personal aggrandizement.

Yet it is in confronting these bad and ugly ideas that man finds meaning, purpose and a true sense of verve that life can bring. So, if we look at both the bad and the ugly as opportunities to slay mighty dragons, we also can be thankful those dragons walk among us.

Of course, the struggle for values doesn’t have to be so epic. Just doing the simple tasks of life, and doing them well, can sometimes spur combat with a mighty dragon. However, when you win such a fight, are you not better and more gratified than you were before the engagement? I suspect the answer is yes.

So, this Thanksgiving Day, I will probably be asked by friends and family about what I’ve been most thankful for this year. My answer will be that I am not only thankful for all of the good fortune in my life, but I’m especially thankful for all of the bad and ugly dragons in my path — because without them, life wouldn’t mean nearly as much.