“An individual dies when he ceases to be surprised. I am surprised every morning that I see the sunshine again.” - Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a philosopher, activist and rabbi who was unafraid to challenge norms (even those within his faith).

He wastes no words making this point about gratitude.

In fairness, I can’t say I am surprised each time the sun rises. However, this quote got me thinking about the little things in life that I barely notice — but which make my life enjoyable and even possible.

Electricity is available to light up my home. Clean drinking water allows me to quench my thirst. Most remarkably, I have a body that just knows how to breathe in oxygen. I don’t even need to do anything for that one.

Each of these gifts allows my life to continue, day after day. And each of them I usually take for granted, if I’m being completely honest.

Applying Heschel’s mindset means allowing myself to imagine, if just for a moment, that I don’t have electricity or clean water running through my home. It makes me think about what would happen if the breath I am about to take was never actually promised.

The appreciation I experience might equal Heschel’s surprise at seeing the sunrise again. Or, building off his words, it’s this appreciation that allows me to truly live.

Mike Radparvar
Co-Founder, Holstee

P.S. You can learn more about the fascinating life of Heschel in this On Being conversation. You can also continue exploring the theme of Gratitude with us here.

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This article is part of our series on the theme of Gratitude.

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Our Themes

Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.