I regularly give lip service to gratitude, but I don't get too heavy into it because I’m afraid that thinking too heavily about gratitude will make my head spin. To really, deeply explore gratitude is to acknowledge first that your successes in this life depend so much on an infinitely fine network of support from other people, a network so complex it is almost impossible to contemplate.
Second, this kind of deep reflection will make you acutely aware of the ways in which you are not acknowledging your ecosystem, which means that normal living causes us to become plagiarists, becuase we fail to acknowledge our source material: the component parts of who we are. The thought of documenting all of your sources becomes an invitation to madness.
Third, once we acknowlege the complexity of who we are and who made contributions to shape us, the next stop is to consider the complexity of the supply chain that provides us all the stuff we need to keep going: milk, flour, water, gasoline, cheese, chicken, tomatoes, Dr. Pepper, action figures, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc....
For these reasons I have long hated William Earnest Henley’s 1888 poem, “Invictus.” Though it begins with thanks, it burns most of its fuel establishing the strength, power, and authority of the individual. It suggests in the worst Ayn Randian terms that an individual is the sole architect of its own successes. This attitude has led us to the kind of wrong headedness that keeps us from acknowledging that we are all beggars.
Let me offer instead this scramble of Henley’s words, my own, and those of John Donne, who managed a sentiment I find more useful and agreeable to the way I'd rather consider my gratitude.
I thank whatever gods may be for this world that offers its grace and for the knowledge that I am supported on all sides by legions whose labor sustains me. I am hardly the master of my soul, nor the captain of my fate, because no man is an island.