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Healthy Living

The Sick Truth About Gratitude Porn

Ummm, I’m not so sure anymore.

Maybe gratitude was the key they used to lock us away. To send us down the hole.

Two things about gratitude and me:

A) I have many things to be grateful for.

I can certainly point a finger in almost any direction in time and space and say, “he has it worse! thanks be to god!”

B) Gratitude makes me feel good. Which is where the sickness begins. Gratitude sickness. Gratitude enslavement. Gratitude blindness.

I get it. I believe you. There’s science about this.

There are studies and lamas and gurus and physicists who did experiments and made equations with calculus and derivatives and proofs about space and time. Gratitude makes you happy.



What if gratitude is killing me?

What if gratitude is keeping me a slave to my current circumstances?

What if gratitude wants me to die sad?

What if I point to gratitude (“but at least…”) every time I need an excuse.

I was reading a Raymond Carver poem. Which sounds pretentious.

The truth is I was stealing.

I was at the bookstore cafe with 15 books. I was going to figure out which ones I would buy on my kindle.

Someone told me bookstores are going out of business because of people like me. I am grateful I am not a bookstore owner. Although I will be sad when the last bookstore goes.

I know this is a contradiction. I love reading physical books. But I won’t buy them.

I want to sleep in a bookstore over night and call it “Night at the Museum.”


As soon as I sat down, ready for three hours of escapism and coffee, a very polite woman came over and said, “I’m sorry, we don’t allow un-bought books in the cafe.”

And she took my books! My un-bought books.

What was I going to do now? I can’t eat without reading. I don’t sip coffee and “contemplate.”

But there was a book still on the table. Perhaps someone had bought and then forgot. I looked around. I put a finger on the book and swooshed it in front of me.


“Where Water Comes Together With Other Water – Poems” by Raymond Carver.

The first poem: “Woolworth, 1954”

And then the lines, so beautiful, the perfect summary of what it is to work and to be afraid and to need money and to be sorrowful for not achieving more in life:

“How on my first job I worked under a man named Sol. Fifty-some years old, but a stockboy like I was. Had worked his way up to nothing. But grateful for his job, same as me.”

Suddenly I liked poetry.

I liked how he split the sentences.

“how on my first job I worked”

He worked! We don’t yet know at what but, by god, he WORKED.

“under a man named Sol.”

We all work under the glare of the sun.


At some point it no longer matters. Once we were 21, going on 22. Then we were thirty-something. Then it’s just a lazy “fifty-some”.

“Had worked his way up to nothing”. “up to” and “nothing”. Beautiful!

And closing that line with. “But grateful”

Nothing, and then Grateful.

His life froze thirty years earlier. But that’s ok. Gratitude keeps him happy with the nothing he became.

Gratitude is a computer.

The input is the horror of life. Pick a horror, any horror.

The output is, “But at least…” And suddenly the horror is allowed to stay. For how long? Indefinite. Maybe forever.

Gratitude is sweet, like a marshmallow, like a cupcake, like a first kiss. And we can stay there forever always saying, “but at least…” her lips taste fine right this moment.

So I’m going to try something.

If something is bad, I often say “Well at least I am grateful for…”

But Actions speak louder than Words speak louder than Thoughts.

I’m adding a new program, a new digital card into the slot, a new extensible cable that MiFis to some other program in the cloud.

If I think a bad or depressing thought, I’ll admit it’s depressing. And then I will try to do something positive.

I’m maybe a bad dad. Ok, I’ll call my kids.

That last article was awful. Ok, I’m going to read and then write a new one.

I lost everything. Ok, I’m going to make more (or throw everything out that I own).

I could be healthier. I’m going to go to the gym.

But at least…. I’ve been in love many times. Tracy, and Sue, and Ona, and Lisa, and Beth. Stephanie Amy Wendy. And many more. All gone away to nobody knows.

Or worse. I’ll say it: dead.

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James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated.