Thursday, June 16, 2016

Day of Gratitude

Today, on the 25th anniversary of my birth, I had planned to sketch out a brief history of my life, describing pivotal moments that have occurred in my life and lessons I have learned. After consulting with my wise maternal grandmother, I have decided to forego that route in favor of a post of things I am grateful for as I now embark on my 26th year of life. Perhaps at some future date I will write the post I formally intended to write. I still plan to write on the Thomistic arguments on the existence of God from an LDS perspective, as well as a series on whether or not Mormons are Christians. But more on that later.

While narrating the first episode of the show Curiosity, theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking (who is an intellectual hero of mine) stated

"We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful"

Stephen Hawking
Today, as it did when I first heard him say it (or write it and have it voice automated), this quote has struck me as being very true. Not in the sense that I believe that God did not create the universe; as a theist who is committed to science and naturalism I do believe God created the universe through natural methods. But the part where he states that he is grateful to be able to understand the universe and pursue his own destiny rings true to me today as ever. So, I am going to list a number of things that I am grateful for as a sort of gift to myself on this day.

First, I am grateful for life itself. I do not take existence for granted; I could just as easily not exist. This is not to say that I find life easy or that there are not things I wish were going differently (I wish I was married, had children, and was working on a PhD in philosophy and a Juris Doctorate.) But the fact that I am able to be alive on this planet, in the scientific era, in the United States, is something for which I am extremely grateful.

Secondly, I am grateful for the people in my life; family, friends, and mentors. While at one time in my life I thought that I would never be close with my family, today I am happy to say that is not the case.  While I value the word friend and differ it from mere acquaintance, I am grateful for the friends I have had over the years and the ones I enjoy today, especially those who have become like a second family to me(family does not always mean biological relations.) These include (but are not limited to) Celestino Garcia, Matthew and Lionel Thomas, the McKell, Snow, and Reeves families, Seth Burdette, Stephen Smoot, Mark Olsen, and Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen. Lastly, I have to come to believe that smart people need guides throughout their lives in order to reach their full potential, and I am grateful for the mentors I have had, including (but not limited to) Blake Ostler, Shannon Mussett, Katie Renick, Michael Minch, Brad Kramer, and W. Paul Reeve. All of these people have challenged me intellectually, and because of them I am a better thinker than I was previously. For that, I am forever grateful.

Thirdly, I am grateful for the disciplines of philosophy, science, history, mathematics, and theology,  Like Ludwig Wittgenstein, I have to say that studying and doing philosophy is the only thing that gives me real satisfaction. But philosophy is also intertwined with these other disciplines I have mentioned, and connecting this with the first point I made, I am lucky to live in a time where I can learn from the great philosophical minds of the past (Hume, Russell, Nietzsche, etc), as well as the scientists, historians, mathematicians, and theologians, and do so at my own convenience. While we overlook it today, this was not always true in past generations, especially to someone of color. For this, again, I am grateful beyond words.

Lastly, I reference Hawking again. He noted that there is no such thing as fate; meaning there is no thing that you are particularly supposed to do. We have free will, even though we live in a determined universe. I am grateful that I can make my own destiny rather than search for the one someone has made for me. I am eternally grateful for that.

Life is hard, and no one gets out of here alive. But whether we are black or white, atheist or theist, conservative or liberal, male or female, there is much we can and should be grateful for. If Stephen Hawking, a man who can only move one cheek muscle, can be grateful at this time in his life, so can we.


  1. Tarik,

    I'm grateful for your blog.

    Your comment on fate reminds me of a philosophical/religious question that I've been pondering. I wonder if you'd tell me what you think. The question is this: can we permanently mess up someone else's chance to go to the Celestial Kingdom. Let's say that someone is interested in the church, but I offend them and they are turned off. What I want to believe is that if they would chose the church under ideal circumstances, but not when members are setting bad examples, then they will have a real chance later on. I want to believe that we can postpone someone's salvation, and cause them grief, but we don't determine their ultimate fate. They freely choose to do so. What do you think?

    1. Collin,

      This is a good question. Mind if I write a post on it? Also, make sure to follow by email and to join the site. Both are on the right hand column, glad you enjoy the blog.