Jay-Z Wants You To Just Be Thankful
We can find ways to be thankful despite the madness that surrounds us
“Our external reality is an opportunity to heal our internal upset,
Let’s build a cathedral these evils couldn’t fuck with.” — Jay-Z, “ManyFacedGod”
Welcome back to another installment of what I’m hoping is becoming your favorite Medium column, “What Would Hov Do?”
If you’re just discovering, I’m Joel Leon. I write stuff. Every week, I tackle a user-submitted issue and dish out some heartfelt advice with the help of Jay-Z lyrics. It really is a win-win for errybody.
This week, I want to try something a little different. Post-Turkey Day festivities (shout out to the reclaim the land movement of Indigenous people), let’s use some Hov bars to talk about gratitude. We can find ways to be thankful despite the madness that surrounds us.
Some of us may have celebrated the holiday alone and may look toward a future where pending holidays will be more of the same. The year has pulled and twisted our hearts around, and we have all struggled with finding ways to show up for ourselves and others.
But maybe there’s some hope in Jay-Z lyrics from “ManyFacedGod,” the final bonus track off his 4:44 album. Rather than focusing on what lies outside of us, Jay-Z suggests that external circumstances are a chance to look within.
Gratitude isn’t about ignoring the bad that is happening. Instead, it leans into acceptance while also acknowledging and holding space for the good, no matter how small or insignificant it may feel in the larger scheme of things.
I talked about this somewhat in a recent LEVEL piece about finding joy following Biden’s presidential win. Our gratitude does not have to feel manufactured. We get to be thankful and hold space for grief; we get to be grateful while still in recovery, whether from substance abuse, job loss, or abusive relationships. A gratitude journal is a great way to consider the things you can be thankful for in the present moment. For example, “I woke up today.” Now, there’s a level of privilege attached to this statement, recognizing that some are waking up to conditions where they find no relief or solace.
But I woke up to my two daughters and my partner, alive and healthy. I woke up with functioning hands, arms, legs, and toes. I woke up with sight, hearing, the ability to smell, taste, touch, and think on my own.
We take things for granted, and that is no fault of ours — the world is a busy, frantic place. Just because we are from this world does not mean we have to be of it entirely.
We choose to adapt and decide that we can be grateful for what we have, rather than feeling frustrated with what we lack. It may be hard at times, but the practice of gratitude creates space in our hearts to lean into the good and what matters most: the present. Let’s build a cathedral of love evil can’t fuck with. We hear you loudly and clearly, Shawn Corey.