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Is this a case of ungratefulness?

March 9, 2010

A while back when I was a part of an interfaith religious discussion group, a Muslim friend of mine told me about a particular kind of kafir, or nonbeliever/’rejecter’. His perspective seemed to be rather inclusive…that nearly everyone is grateful for something that points back to God. Nature, orderliness, whatever.

So, the unbeliever can be generalized to someone who is ungrateful.

I don’t know how popular/accepted this concept is in Islam, but making the dividing line be between grateful/ungrateful (as overarcing concepts) seemed a bit more charitable than dividing lines between specific religions. I thought…well, I’m sure even atheists are grateful where it would count. But who knows?

I recently had a car crash (fortunately, just with myself), and I learned quite a bit about myself from it. One such thing was that at no point did I call out to any deity, and at no point did I “thank” a deity for my survival. But now I wonder…is this what is meant by “ungratefulness”?

My brother needed the car for this weekend. So, I drove to where he was, then he dropped me back off where I needed to be and he drove back to where he needed to be (this three step process seems kinda tedious). I wasn’t expecting to get the car back until Monday night, but when my brother said on Sunday night that he could get it back to me, I jumped on the opportunity.

So, he came by some time and I drove him back where he needed to be. I should have stayed the night there instead of trying to drive back. On the way, my brother had to tell me to stay in my lane, etc., He insisted I drink an energy drink on the way back at least, so I took one.

But for the final part of the trip, I was alone.

I was too tired though. I *knew* I was too tired. Each time I dozed off, I thought for a bit longer about just taking a nap off road. But I kept looking at the GPS expected time of arrival, and I thought I could make it.

But I guess one time, I dozed off for a bit too long.

I don’t even know what happened. I suppose I got off the road, and then when I tried to get back on, I overcompensated. I swerved left…then the car was on its own…it went right, then left, then right…then left…into the median barrier.

Wikipedia tells me that the median barriers are sloped just so to prevent rollovers or flips, but I guess physics didn’t like me. Within seconds the car was upside down…but it had stopped.

My thinking was surprisingly clear at that point (if only it had been clearer a few second ago). But I still did some silly things out of ignorance. Was I supposed to turn off the car? I didn’t. That probably was dangerous. Oops.

But I looked to my left. Oh, great. My window was open. (nope, it was completely shattered. Close enough!) I climbed out through the hole.

I looked behind. No cars behind. No cars forward. I only saw the glistening sand that once was my driver side window sprinkled for feet. I had the strange impulse to see how far it went, but didn’t act on that impulse. I guess out of sand glass comes and to sand glass returns?

Even though I was ok (how the heck did I just pull myself out without any major damage?), I was upset for the car. It was upside down, leaking some fluid, my parents would kill me, etc.,

Yet still, the first person I called was my mom. She wanted me to call 911, but I wanted to stay on the phone with her, even though I could barely hear her. Some people driving the other way (on the other side of the median barrier) stopped, called 911 for me. Police came. Police insisted an ambulance should come. But I just wanted to get to Houston! I needed to get sleep and go to work in the morning. But no, everyone was horrified by this…thing…on my forehead. They thought it was bad. I decided to go with the ambulance to the hospital.

Turns out things were and are ok (although now I have what I perversely have called the Mark of the Beast on my forehead).

But throughout, in between trying to figure out what happened (which I can’t, because I was asleep for that crucial moment), I go over the crash (which I was more lucid for than I wanted to be). Left, right, left…it was so loud, the skidding…crash. airbag deploy. Flip. Thud. I instinctually brace with my arms.

My emotional process though…is what truly interests me.

I was not scared. I didn’t feel (and don’t feel) traumatized. Although, maybe when I step into a driver’s seat of a car soon, it’ll come rushing to me. (Noises make me anxious now, though.)

But more importantly, I didn’t feel any sort of spiritual anything. No life flashing before my eyes. No angels, no voice, no nothing. No thanking of deities. People often talk about experiencing the miraculous in times like these, but all I felt was having rolled the dice in a crapshoot against a beautiful, yet dangerous natural world. I didn’t crap out, apparently.

So…about those atheists in the fox holes…

I fear the worst about talking about this to some of my friends and family. My parents didn’t flip out (no pun intended, etc.,) over the actual crash (it’s kinda a spilled milk deal, I think), but I fear that if I told them about how I don’t feel all that “blessed” by a *divine power*, that would be something flipworthy for them. I dunno. They are pretty reasonable people, so maybe I’m overthinking.

For whom am I thankful? Airbag engineers. Seatbelt engineers. The people who stopped on the road, even though they were going the other way. The police. The paramedics. The hospital staff. My uncle. My father. Among others.

Is that enough? Or is this a case of ungratefulness?

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12 Comments
  1. I’m glad you’re OK! Physically, I mean not spiritually.

  2. OK, I put a *grin* tag after that, but apparently it got deleted because it was in angel brackets. Anyway, that last part was a joke.

  3. And by angel I mean angle.

  4. grin *tags*?

    😀

    just draw it out

  5. Carson N permalink

    Wow, man! Looks like you get to stick around for some more of this exciting life stuff. I am truly glad you’re okay. One of the staff at our department died in a fire over the weekend, and I’ve just been contemplating about that dice you speak of.

    Life is normal and methodical; people you know are always there and then suddenly one weekend the dice get rolled.

    Gratitude to God seems to me to be the equivalent of having a feeling of contentment brought about through an optimistic perspective. ‘God’ is just the bucket that catches all the leftover blame for it, for those people who feel more comfortable with determinism. Being grateful to God, however, can sometimes mean having perverse, Rameumptom-like beliefs: “I’m so grateful that God didn’t make me fat like her.”

  6. Sorry to here about the staff person from your department. D:

    Interesting thoughts about the “bucket for all leftover blame.”

  7. dude that’s amazing and awesome that you came out okay. the mark of the beast is a small price to pay for playing craps with death. I once had a close encounter with her, and I actually did sense some type of divine intervention on my behalf, yet I’m now atheist. So, I find your complete lack of gratitude toward God over the whole thing totally reasonable. Live long and prosper

  8. Gratitude can be unfocused, or aimed at real people. No need to create deities. But I think you are right, some atheists (like some theists) are by nature a bit ungrateful and more bitter about the world.

  9. Sabio:

    Nice post there. I love the part about interdependence (especially since my classes all focus on interdependence with other fields of business in order to maximize value.)

  10. I’m glad you’re okay! and I enjoyed (is that the right word??) reading your account.

    I don’t think you’re ungrateful, I think you’re gratitude is directed very appropriately.

  11. Sarah, as long as you just enjoy reading the account (as opposed to enjoying the actual accident).

    Actually, it seemed like a roller coaster of sorts, so I guess that’s kinda enjoyable too. Minus the realization that roller coasters have tons of engineering to only make it *look* like you’re approaching doom, whereas cars generally don’t.

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  1. From atheism to ‘agnosticism’ « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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