Wednesday August 17, 2022


November 30, 2021

The uniqueness and intensity of emotions that grandparents display universally towards grandchildren defy any expression in words. And those of us having experienced strong family affinities will verify the statement. It is not easy to quantify such truisms – they are simply there to make life more rewarding with a tangible impact of positivity.

In a similar vein is the presence of our sixth sense – an intuitive faculty. It is a gut feeling, something elusive to a scientific explanation, an internal moral compass, a reflection of the inner-self and all the other elements that enrich our quality of life. The best way to describe these inexplicable experiences and feelings is by referring to them as ‘Intangibles’.

A key intangible, one we may deem as a foundation of a successful life philosophy, is the internalisation of gratitude – the feeling of indebtedness to our Creator, our parents, our country and last but not the least to our life partner. Developing a feeling of gratitude leads us to cherish the blessings in our life, filled with gratefulness for each and every breath we take and all that we enjoy in life.

Memories are a timeless treasure of the heart. I distinctly remember shopping with my parents at age six in Lahore. I spotted a rather expensive watch. Having seen some of my classmates wear it in school, I insisted on buying it. My parents, who were still in the early years of their careers, could not justify such extravagance and rightly but softly denied the purchase.

Sympathising with the disappointed expression on my face during our drive home, my father gently said words that are deeply imprinted in my mind to this day; “Always look at those that have less than you and not only at those who have more… It will remind you of how kind life has been to you.” Each time I remember his words they have a newfound meaning. His assertive voice reverberates in my mind in different life situations with a meaningful message – our character must be imbued with a deep sense of gratitude and contentment, no matter what life puts us through.

Intangibles need to have an operational side to be impactful. Invariably, beginning a day with a gratitude filled devotional prayer is a simple yet good habit. It makes gratitude a steady feature of our daily routine. This philosophy of life and the practice of this value system can exponentially enrich our existence. It can pronounce feelings of modesty and balm envy in our soul. Gratitude endows us with emotional strength rooted in the purity of feeling – a feeling coming from the heart.

The spectrum of revealed religions Islam, Christianity, Judaism and some others like Buddhism, have gratitude as their core value and recognise the intangibility associated with it, at the same time promising tangible benefits by its practice. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said that gratitude for the abundance one has received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue. Those who are grateful will be given more by the Almighty. Jesus thanked the Almighty before he performed each miracle. King David spoke of giving thanks to the whole world, for everything between the heavens and the earth. Buddha said that one has no cause for anything but gratitude and joy.

Being grateful or having gratitude is much deeper than a mere expression of thankfulness. We have to acknowledge sincerely the core values of our being and all the blessings bestowed upon us. The essence of a human being then begins to resonate with the essence of the universe and the veracity of this feeling is automatically communicated to the Master of the universe. It is then that the wonders of the intangibles begin to unfold, resulting in not only an indescribable impact, but also tangible and verifiable benefits to the being.

Gratitude is the act of appreciating the gifts and benefits we have received. It is about things that may have come freely to us as well as the ones for which we work hard and are able to accomplish. It may be a misguided notion to be thankful only for what is bestowed upon us. Real gratitude is about being grateful for the hard-won success we earn in life. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

The Greater Good Science Centre at the University of California, Berkeley, USA finds that people who consistently practise gratitude, have a higher level of positive emotions, more happiness and lower feeling of loneliness. What motivates a person to be grateful in any cultural context starts with recognition of the value of our initial endowments. The contribution of the blessings – our parents, brain and body endowments, race, ethnicity, religion, the socio-economic setting in which we are born, as well as the environment in which we grow-up and operate – is enough to awaken a sense of gratitude.

During one of our quarterly get-togethers, one of our friends mentioned something intriguing: that I must have had good surroundings, which provided me with an intellectually stimulating platform. I would not be honest if I didn’t agree with her. Though what is really true is that most of us do have surroundings that offer a certain value, but many don’t make the effort to extract the best out of them.

Infinite love of elders, sixth sense and gratitude are truly happy emotions, even in times of distress. They can be learnt through practice and by keeping a positively learning perspective of life. In a world of media frenzy, glamour and greed, these intangibles are a blessing, touching our hearts with tenderness and care, and minds with a soothing sense of peace.

The writer is former advisor, Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan.


Twitter: @KhaqanNajeeb