While I was back home in Wisconsin over the Thanksgiving holiday, wife and I met up with my friend and his wife over warm beverages. We caught up, had some laughs, occasionally touched on deeper conversational matters and, before long, our time had passed and we were on our way. In the midst of that conversation, I was invited to speak at a conference next year, which was 1) completely surreal; 2) partially terrifying; and 3) irrationally exciting.
Later, I found out who else was invited to be there, at which point, number two went from ‘partially’ to ‘absolutely’. So, I’ve tentatively accepted a spot as a workshop leader on something-or-other critical thinking/logic related. (Personally, I think they should be called ‘thingamabobs’. Very technical, I know.) I’ve never done anything remotely resembling this before, though I’ve done quite a bit of public speaking, so it’s understandably daunting and, above all, humbling.
As the world has repeatedly in the past and will continue to let me down, I’ve found myself that much more grateful for the good things that come my way. Coming off a holiday week that is ostensibly about taking time to be thankful but has mutated into the official start of the Christmas shopping season and also National Unwatchable Football Day, I am all the more sensitive to the need to be thankful for my blessings, however few or many there are at any given time. When we as a people forget the virtues of living–living where and when we are–there are those who cling to and appreciate them all the more. After many years of exiting one crisis only to find myself in another, something this close to a serene stasis is enough to be satisfied with my existence. The rest is gravy.
Which brings me back to this opportunity to share my gift with others. I’m thankful, because someone thought highly enough of my work and experience to invite me to share. I’m terrified, because I’ve never done anything like this before and I don’t want to squander the opportunity or waste anyone’s time. Then again, I write in this space–sorry, it has, yet again, been a while–and it is *mostly* well-received and I trust most people don’t think I’m an idiot.
To be entrusted with a noun is not something to be taken lightly. Thus, life is not to be taken lightly, as it is, in fairness, also not to be taken too seriously. And, because of this, it behooves us to approach it with a measure of humility and gratitude. We are all being prepared for whatever comes before us next, and when what is next becomes clear, we are right to swallow hard, but we are also to remember that we are frail people, blessed with opportunities and experiences, and prepared for whatever next may be. The proper position for existence, then, is to always work toward being in a position of gratitude, recognizing that we are entitled to nothing. For if we are working toward being in all things grateful, we will necessarily be kinder, more open to listen to what life has to say and in a better position to be a clear voice for justice and truly compassionate. (Whereas those who approach life from a victim’s standpoint tend to feel entitled to victimhood, which is ultimately hubris, but that’s beside the point for the time being.)
So, I’m humbled by the opportunity to share at this conference, and grateful for the opportunity. I hope I can be of assistance to those who will take the time to listen, as I hope I am of assistance for those of you who choose to read.
In all things, give thanks. None of this is ours, anyway. Not even this persistent urge to upchuck.