London, it’s been three weeks and how I missed you! I missed circling around the city in the morning light, almost looking in through the Queen’s bedroom window, and almost hitting the Shard with an airplane wing. I missed having sushi for lunch down Oxford street, and I missed the crazy traffic and even crazier cabbies. I missed the morning rush in the tube where nobody elbows and everybody is Sorry and I never have to carry my suitcase up or down the stairs by myself if don’t wish to. This St Patrick’s Day is pink, not green. Magnolias galore, even off Piccadilly. While most people were mainly occupied with where to find green beer, I occupied myself with Les Misérables, along with a theater full of teenagers and university students. Even the miserable lives of Victor Hugo’s characters were glamorous – although nobody wore much pink.
As I walked back to the hotel, pushing through the St Pat’s celebration throngs in Theatreland and Soho, I thought of the infinitesimal likelihood that I would be born into a world where I can admire magnolias, see musicals, and have dinner in a European city any time I wish. Had somebody thrown the dice again I would most likely have been born into a life not very far from the Les Misérables scenes. Or perhaps I have been, on multiple occasions, during other lifetimes? Perhaps this lifetime is the exception, unless I work very very hard towards becoming a better being?
As I crossed Piccadilly on my way out towards Green Park, I resolved to try harder to be grateful, even when I mostly would feel like being miserable. Because even my most miserable day is probably a dream-come-true to another person.
Ingratitude is the dark side of adaptability: we humans constantly recreate our zero-point of reference by weighing it against our surroundings. We adapt, because otherwise we would not stay alive. And when we adapt, we forget that our gratitude should be weighed against an absolute scale, not one that moves along with our ever-changing aspirations and subjective setbacks.
I walked underneath the pink magnolias again and in the dark they were as gray as the rest of London. I sincerely hoped that, as evolution pushes the human species further towards greater challenges that require adaptability, gratitude would not become an extinct trait. (London, United Kingdom; March 2016)