The Theme Of Gratitude As A Beacon Of Hope As Seen In Station Eleven

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Station 11, by Emily Mandel, revolves around the topic of gratitude and reveals that people, when they lose certain privileges, realize the gravity of the things that they actually have. In the book, before the pandemic, society is presented as unremarkable. In the golden age of technology, people seem to sleepwalk through their day to day lives. Yet after the post-pandemic, these gadgets and devices that were considered to be ordinary are viewed as phenomenal. The world suddenly lost all forms of technology that connected them to one another. In addition, the loss of basic medicine and antibiotics make routine sicknesses life-threatening. Even getting basic necessities such as food and shelter becomes significantly difficult. The way that the Symphony ponders the society that has disappeared shows how much people rely on civilization but also underscore the many miracles that they have been granted. Much like the book, in the real world, there are certain countries (Syria, Iraq, and Palestine) that have had crisis recently. This results in people being displaced and considered refugees. Although they were living comfortable lives and had luxuries, they now realize the gravity of these privileges as they fight for survival. Additionally, this theme of gratitude can be applied more on a personal level to Kevin Hart’s near-death experience. The theme of gratitude and how people realize the gravity of their privileges once they lose them can be seen expressed multiple times throughout the novel and can be applied to the situation of refugees in the Middle East and in personal experiences, such as Kevin Hart.

Throughout the novel, one can see many scenarios where this theme of gratitude is displayed. After the collapse and the pandemic, many loved ones and their lives were lost throughout the book. The people that were still alive decided to form groups, one in particular called the Symphony. To go from it being normal to know where the next meal is going to come from, the Symphony struggled to get their meals initially. ‘Civilization in Year Twenty was an archipelago of small towns. These towns had fought off ferals, buried their neighbors, lived and died and suffered together in the blood-drenched years just after the collapse, survived against unspeakable odds and then only by holding together into the calm, and these places didn’t out of their way to welcome outsiders. These small towns were not even easy” (Chapter 10 Page 48). The statement that these small towns were not even easy shows that Civilization is not easy. To become acquainted with the town was hard, and you were not even guaranteed to survive in the town that night. The people were realizing the privilege of the accessibility to shelter and protection that was prevalent before the collapse. Before the collapse, Arthur Leander was in the stage of his life where he was reflecting. “I was thinking about the island. It seems past-tense somehow, like a dream I had once. I walk down these streets and wander in and out of parks and dance in clubs and I think ‘once I walked along the beach with my best friend V., once I built forts with my little brother in the forest, once all I saw were trees’ and all those true things sound false, it’s like a fairy tale someone told me. I stand to wait for lights to change on corners in Toronto and that whole place, the island I mean, it seems like a different planet” (Chapter 25). Before, he wanted to just get out of the only place he stayed, Delano Island, and go to a big city like Toronto. From then on, fame seemed to be something ordinary to Arthur, almost annoying at times. In those times where he feels that the fame is just too much for him to handle, Arthur feels grateful for the small town and “grounded” atmosphere that his old hometown had to offer. Finally, Kirsten describes the lifestyle of those who survived the collapse and remembered their lives before it. “I can’t remember the year we spent on the road, and I think that means I can’t remember the worst of it. But my point is, doesn’t it seem to you that the people who have the hardest time in this—this current era, whatever you want to call it, the world after the Georgia Flu—doesn’t it seem like the people who struggle the most with it are the people who remember the old world clearly?” (Chapter 37). She describes the fact that the people who struggle with the post-collapse world the most are the ones who remember the old world. It seems that they are very grateful for what that world had to offer, although at the moment they did not know the gravity of those privileges (ease of access to food, shelter, and protection). All of these examples in the book show that people only realize the significance of the privileges that they have once they lose them.

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This theme of gratitude that people realize their blessings once they lose them can be seen in many instances of our civilization and society. Since the Syrian Civil War started in 2011, families have suffered and been torn apart. Their standard of living drastically reduced, with the basic necessities in question. The people have realized the blessing of just not living in fear once they lost it. In other words, they have noticed how living life under the protection of a trustworthy authority is such a privilege (World Vision). This can also be applied to the Iraqi destabilization, where many people have also been forced to flee their homes. Some of them come to Lebanon as refugees. One person (who did not want to be named) said that the mere feeling of purpose was a blessing to him now. He only felt the gravity of this blessing once he lost it. Now he strives to gain this feeling of purpose and serve his community (Jamail). Finally, this universal lesson was recently applied to Kevin Hart’s near-death experience. Laying in bed and not being able to go through the basic motions, he realized the blessing to have two functioning legs and a functioning back that can allow you to go from one place to another. He didn’t realize the privilege of mobility until he lost it (Berglund). All of these three scenarios show that people see the significance of the good things that they have been given in life once they lose them.

Our modern world seems to be trapped in a rat race. One can see that people are so busy pursuing the next material thing that indicates their success. They feel this desire for material things, while they lose sight of whatever blessings they have been given. These blessings, although may seem trivial, are actually very essential to their lives (food, shelter, protection, and basic healthcare). This principle of people realizing their blessings once they lose them can be seen repeated multiple times throughout human history.

Throughout Station 11, one can see this theme of gratitude come up multiple times. The characters constantly reflect back to the old world and realize how many privileges that they were given. Those that did not live in the old world are left to wonder how easy life was back then. We are seeing these instances where people are losing what they took for granted and realizing how fortunate they were. Gratitude is something very essential to the human psyche and helps to keep a person humble throughout his or her life. 

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