Being Thankful By Being Aware
“Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands,
And the great world around me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?” – G.K. Chesterton
This is G.K. Chesterton’s way of saying how awed he is at the mystery of life. He is expressing the proper awe experienced by one who has come to know both his smallness in the universe, and his dependence on something greater than himself and all of creation. He is expressing the realization that even in that smallness, he is given the opportunity to live life, to participate in the adventure every day.
The key phrase, of course, is the last line. “Why am I allowed two?” We humans are the only creatures on earth that ask questions. We ask them because we believe that there are answers, but that we just don’t know them at this point in time. A question represents a level of awareness sufficient enough to be curious as to what might be missing.
For Chesterton, that level of awareness is represented by the evidence of his experience. He is aware that he has lived through a day, is now at the end of it, and he is reflecting back over the day on the fact that he has, through the gift of his 5 senses, been able to experience the “great world around me.” He has been able to see the complexity of the world, to hear its sounds, to touch the world and those that he loves with the miracle of his hands.
In the penultimate line, Chesterton expresses the wonder that tomorrow he will have another to live. Behind every line is the answer to his awed last question. For Chesterton the answer is, God is the one who “gifts” and “allows.” Chesterton recognizes that God is the gift giver, and that God is the one who allows us the opportunities to live each day in absolute freedom.
Of course, the freedom that God has given is absolute. The freedom that God gives each of us, he will not take away, even if we use it to defy him. Chesterton’s little poem above is from the mind of one who has seen the truth of life, that all of it is pure, unconditional gift, and he is expressing his properly awed thanks.
Why does Chesterton feel this awe? Because he is a Christian who knows God, and the utter generosity of God toward his creation and especially each and every one of us. Though we are infinitesimally small in the universe, even though we are nothing in the great mass of mankind, we know that we are loved intimately and individually, and personally by God.
Chesterton’s little poem is a prayer that each and every one of us could use as our nightly practice. Each one of us ought to end our days reflecting back on the good that God gifted us with during that day. We ought to reflect on the little moments in each day where we fell short, lost our way, and ask God with our deepest sincerity for his forgiveness and the grace to avoid those mistakes tomorrow. It is appropriate for each of us to bow in prayerful awe at the end of every day we are alive in recognition of God’s awesome generosity.
True prayer is simple. It does not require volumes of words, lengthy pronouncements. True prayer is simple and it is expressed in the quiet of one’s mind, in the private and solitary space of your singular relationship to God. True prayer is humble, which is the attitude out of which awe arises. True prayer is simple, because awe can not be expressed in any other way. Chesterton’s simple expression of awe in this little poem is a true prayer.
It is a worthy one for all of us to emulate.
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.