"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
I’ve been meditating on this for years. Here’s what I think about when I think about Chesterton’s line from his book, A Short History of England.
The sentence has two phrases. Sometimes you see the first half used alone, and sometimes the second. Sometimes both.
Let me address the second part — “… gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
Picture this: You’re standing in the shower. The hot water is waking you up after a good night’s sleep. Or, it’s getting you clean after a long, dirty day’s work.
Happiness is the feeling of the hot water on your skin.
But how do you get the gratitude from that? By simply being really thankful for it? When does “plain ol’ thanks” become “gratitude”?
Chesterton says the special ingredient is “wonder.”
As you’re standing in the blast of the hot water, imagine where the water came from. Pipes? Yes. But keep thinking.
How did the pipes get there? A builder? Yes. They figured out how to install them in your house. But keep going.
Use your imagination, and trace the water all the way back to the sea. Using your mind’s eye, see if you can trace the water all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
How did the water get from the sea to your house? It’s an amazing process!
Hundreds of people and resources from all over the world got together to send water to your showerhead — from the dude who had the idea to do it, to the gal who identified the place in the earth where iron ore could be found, to the guy who dug it out, to the girl who wrote a check to pay someone for melting the iron, to the guy who figured out how thick the iron needed to be to stand up under water pressure, and on and on and on.
That’s where the wonder comes from. Start trying to connect all the things that had to happen in order for you to be able to walk into a room at your house, grab a little silver handle, turn it slightly, and have temperature-controlled water rush out of a nozzle positioned over your head.
The process is full of wonder!
That’s one of the ways you’re given the opportunity to turn your thankfulness for hot water, into gratitude.
And, by all means, blow your mind, and go even deeper and ask, “how did the water get into the sea?”
It’s a wonder!
And it develops gratitude.