Holding up the world and sky | Moment's Notice


Last updated 9/28/2018 at Noon

The modern expression that originated from the Greek myth of Atlas represents how language can make us feel the emotions attached to the words.

“Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders”: When I read that phrase, I can feel the globe sitting between my shoulder blades, wedged between the base of my skull and back of my neck.

The unsteadiness of the load makes me raise my arms to hold it in place.

We can envision it just like the sculptures of Atlas we see in museums, his eyes looking over his shoulder, seemingly overwhelmed by the permanency of the burden.

Sometimes the weight of experiences in our lives make us feel physically burdened like Atlas – the worry or sadness or unfairness overshadowing everything else. Like any week, this one was characterized by countless disappointments and difficulties and tragedies.

This was also a week to be grateful. Watching the sun set over the Puget Sound, we took note of a single pink cloud come out from behind the darker clouds at sunset, and we sat and watched it, relieved and elated that a beloved friend had overcome a dangerous and serious surgery with flying colors.

We are grateful for someone who teaches us how to live every day as if something remarkable can happen in the mildest of circumstances. Despite the trials he has faced, he is grateful.

It is not easy to be grateful. As humans, we get used to good things that come into our lives and something that at one point was quite special quickly becomes a baseline.

It is called hedonic adaptation.

Scientists say our expectations and desires increase so in order to maintain happiness. According to positive psychology, we have to work at gratitude, and it is especially true when we experience trials and tribulations.

Gratitude makes us happier and healthier, makes people happy to be around us, and reduces our innately human tendency to feel envious of others. It makes our marriages and friendships better because we show kindness and compassion to others.

When we recognize what we are grateful, we can recover from emotional strain and physical injury faster. Recognizing and sharing gratitude even helps us live longer.

Science corroborates the positive effects of incorporating gratitude into our internal and external dialogues each day, and yet only 20 percent of Americans rate gratitude as a “positive or constructive emotion,” since we idealize the illusion of self-sufficiency instead.

Gratitude makes you stronger, healthier, and more successful, so even if you want to be personally responsible for all of the good things in your life, consider making the decision to feel grateful.

When I looked closer at the image of Atlas and read the story again, I realized that Atlas is not carrying the world. According to the myth, he actually carries the sky … the sphere of the heavens.

It is still a burden, but one that does not carry that same weight.

The celestial orb above and around us may be made up of a complex, chaotic set of rotating spheres of stars and planets and space, but we can still look up to see a single, beautiful starry sky.


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