Friday, November 28, 2003

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays celebrated nationally that I enjoy taking part in. Honestly- and I know how curmudgeonly this sounds- I find most holidays negatively disruptive to my average day. I prefer my average day to the average holiday, mainly because I find my self-esteem in my daily work than in my ceasing my work and making merry about things that do not matter to me.

I especially like the Independence Day celebrations, for obvious political reasons. I am always moved on Memorial Day, for the price paid willingly (usually) by our military. I try to work on Labor Day when I can.

I am not a religious man, so I do not get religious value from Christmas, Easter, or Hannukah. But isn't Thanksgiving a day of offering gratitude to God? Not for me.

Thanksgiving is a day for me to be grateful, God or no god, for my life and for those things in my life that bring me joy. I do not need religion to be grateful for Ame and my love for her. I do not need religion to feel joy at holding my niece for the first time. I do not need a the guidance of man's interpretation of an alleged deity to appreciate the warmth of my extended family. I certainly am not thinking of anything but myself and my son as I wait in excited anticipation for seeing Alex for the first time since June.

Gratitude is a privileged sensation to possess. It is rather akin to satisfaction. I am grateful for the progress I have made in my life. This progress was achieved through my effort and my skill, and little else. After all, luck is little more than opportunity meeting preparation.

I find depressing the notion that all gifts come from God, and that man is hopeless and helpless without the blessings of God. That perspective is the notion of the successful having hit life's lottery. Does man not have free will? Does man not make choices, good and bad? Are we merely pawns on a supreme being's chessboard? If so, I should be grateful for that, and give thanks? No thanks. I'll do it my way.

Take whatever value you can from Thanksgiving, and every other day. I try to do the same with Christmas, substituting the reunion with family over the celebration of the birth of Jesus. On the whole, though, living the average day in the present, means a whole lot more to me than commemorating something from the past.

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