One of my favorite books is Robinson Crusoe. For those of you not familiar with the story, it is a novel by Daniel Defoe written in the early 1700’s and is widely regarded as the first novel of the English language. The book is an autobiographical account of Robinson Crusoe and his story of being marooned on a deserted island for over twenty years. During the course of the story, Robinson reflects on his life, circumstances, and his relationship with God.
This book was not required reading in any part of my formal education. This is a shame, since the book is not only a great adventure story, but teaches some wonderful principles applicable in everyone’s life.
After being stranded for several years, Robinson comes to realize, that despite his isolation, he is happy. He wonders why, as all of the things he felt would make him happy previous to his isolation, were not available, i.e. wealth, power, education, possessions, ect. What Robinson said next changed my outlook and focus on life:
“I learned to look more upon the bright side of my condition and less upon the dark side; and to consider what I enjoyed rather than what I wanted; and this gave me sometimes such secret comforts that I cannot express them; and which I take notice of here, to put those discontented people in mind of it who cannot enjoy comfortably what God has given them. All our discontents about what we want appeared to me to spring from the want of thankfulness for what we have.” (p. 111).
What would a society look like if this was one of its most cherished virtues?
In other words, our unhappiness that arises from things we do not have, comes from a lack of gratitude for things that we do have. Perhaps the hymn “Count Your Blessings” comes to mind? Often times in life we do not appreciate all the good things in life that we enjoy until we are deprived of them.
Crusoe had a similar thought: “Thus we never see the true state of our condition till it is illustrated to us by its contraries; nor know how to value what we enjoy but by the want of it.” (p. 118). Liberty is so precious that we might not truly appreciate how wonderful it is until we are deprived of it.
The freedom and liberty enjoyed in the United States of America is almost unique in the history of the world. When it comes to counting your blessings, liberty, the freedom to choose, should be near, if not at the top of everyone’s list. Nearly all blessings we enjoy in life come from the free agency endowed upon us by our Creator. One of the most shameful things in our society is the lack of gratitude and appreciation of the freedom to choose. I hope that no one ever has to be deprived of liberty to truly appreciate it, whether in this life or the next.