I love the intent and possibilities of Thanksgiving. It ushers us into a complex season of contemplation, of goodwill and reverie. But the season is often replete with too much melodrama and jejune behavior, which I'm totally guilty of propagating. We bundle-up at the first signs of winter, it’s icy fingers compelling us early to rest in warmth near a fire or with a loved one, our day-dreamy gazes oscillating from quotidian responsibilities, to where the year has gone, to existential thoughts, and back again. With urgency and welcomed obligation, we meet with friends and family, play catch-up, reminisce, and encircle a table bursting with our modern harvests and gratitude. Some of us indulge in traditional feasts, tested and consecrated by place and history; others among us subscribe to unique fare, eschewing the culinary mandate of the season and adding our own delights to the collective menu. Regardless, commensality endears us to one another, perpetuates our traditions, and updates our narratives. With a feast as the centerpiece, we preserve a broader human tradition, one that’s been resurrected, like fallow fields, annually for millennia. We show gratitude for the harvest, for the bounty of resources that we cultivate daily, which sustain us. We transcend years and borders, and we celebrate with our forebears the globe over, who, with submission and humility, have rejoiced in the same bounty.
This is the power of Thanksgiving. In recognition of those forces greater than ourselves, and to those ties that bind, we acknowledge our smallness and our needs and those profound forces that sustain us. Humility reigns us in, reminding us that the life bursting forth is temporal, that our mortality and vitality are mutable; Kazantzakis reminds us over and over in Report to Greco that to know suffering is to know joy. Consequently, we reflect with awe and reverence on the good fortune that we have to be here, with friends and food, fire and shelter. With sustenance.
Certain ignoble forces try extinguish the light in this darkness with black markets (!) and gluttony; if we succumb to them, gratitude dies and consumption prevails. And we are cleaved from each other, from our traditions, and from the historical narrative of gratitude itself. It’s hard to think of anything else when your mouth is full.
As the cold comes, and people the globe-over suffer more than just a shiver, we should embrace gratitude, the progenitor of community and the tonic of our suffering. We are, after all, celebrating one virtue that is truly universal. There is the common theme from which we can start anew, a human polity founded and focused on core beliefs. Thanksgiving in all hearts, year round.
To conclude, here are some final thoughts from some big minds.
"To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; to rest at the noon hour and meditate on love's ecstasy; to return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips."
-Kahil Gibran, "On Love", The Prophet
"And let there be in the song a remembrance for the autumn days, and for the vineyard, and for the winepress."
-KG, "On Eating and Drinking," The Prophet
"And travelling mercies, too. I can't help but say again what I said on the beach that day, in a whisper this time and without even being exactly sure to whom I'm saying it: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." -Annie Lamott, Travelling Mercies
"I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."
-Oliver Sacks, Gratitude
Global Initiatives Director
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