Thanksgiving is the most radical of holidays

I’m aware that merchants think this year’s late date is pushing up against holiday shopping, but, still — Thanksgiving already?

Deep down it feels like summer just ended, but why argue — and anyway, what’s not to like?

Of all the holidays, Thanksgiving goes down the easiest, like mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie.

Even with the gilty dark magic of Black Friday darkly encroaching on Turkey Day sloth, I’m not buying it.

Better to remain as antiquated as a handwritten letter, or a face-to-face conversation — while continuing in the illusion one holiday at least remains blessedly free of guilt-induced shopping, insincere gifts, treacly music, $6 gift cards, wilted flowers, soon-to-obsolete gadgets, comatic sugar, regressive costumes or excessive sentimentality.

Just need to show up for dinner. A little football on TV, maybe a walk through autumn crispness to assuage the food remorse soon to come — and a firm resolve to avoid subjects such as Obamacare, the tea party, the morality of twerking, the immorality of reality-trash TV or relatives’ and friends’ recent divorces and/or rehab stints

Eminently doable. Other than after-dinner cleanup duties, nothing much asked, nothing much required.

Of course, you have to get past the often awkward blessing before dinner delivered by a family elder, who hurriedly intones words he or she vaguely remembers from childhood. But this too shall pass … Wait a minute — turn up the sound on the TV … did the quarterback just throw for a touchdown?

I faintly remember that while Thanksgiving started as a day of spiritual reflection, that really isn’t on most menus as we prepare to tryptophan the light fantastic into turkeyed bliss.

So, in that spirit, what to make of “thanksgiving” with a small “t?” No easy task. In a world ruled by greed and violence, it’s a stretch, isn’t it, to go deep and go thankful.

Then again, if I’ve learned anything through the valleys and sloughs, it’s just this: When I am weak, then I am strong. Accepting hard times and loss as opportunities to practice being grateful, I stop being consumed by what others have done — what they have and I don’t —and allow that to be turned inside out, bringing to light the many gifts and blessings that have come my way, despite my own failures.

Life moves so fast, and if my eyes are focused on the past, on what Mr. So-and-So said or did, or what Miss Just-So didn’t do or say, I miss out on something far more important.

What does this have to do with Thanksgiving?

Just this. Giving thanks is transforming.

It’s a kind of radical thankfulness, tough to practice, but with a huge upside.

Research shows that people who are grateful are more likely to help others in need. And helping others takes me out of the narrow place where resentment and bitterness wants me to dwell.

Gratitude as an attitude leaves a person happier, less stressed, less materialistic, more physically active, more spiritually aware, more humble.

It’s no coincidence people showered with material blessings or gifted with physical beauty or superior talents often remain unsatisfied.

Never rich enough. Never young enough. Never successful enough or noticed enough.

Grateful people often have suffered painful losses, or come up short on youthful dreams — and are only too aware of character defects and failures. We give freely, as it has been given to us.

And, yes, there’s a spiritual principle at work: In everything, give thanks .
When in doubt, give thanks .

It’s counter-intuitive — but then, it’s easy to give thanks when things seem to be going well.

Much of life is difficult, often disappointing, but gratitude in the face of this says, “I’m making a choice to trust, rather than be fearful.”

It says, “yes,” instead of “no,” invites me to share the promise with others, unleashes inner freedom, peace and the power to overcome the obsessive thought I have to grab more for myself.

It’s the opposite of self-reliance.

So today, in word and deed, I can make a decision to give thanks for:

Being able to even make the choice … to give thanks .

Waking up.

The gift of family, each of us learning these things ourselves, including overcoming struggle and disappointment.

Freedom of speech, and the freedom to disagree, even with this essay.

The solitude of late autumn. The blue-red of sunrise. Walking into late November sunsets, the soft fade of the endless horizon and the silvery ocean’s haunting call.

Forgiveness and grace.

Why wouldn’t I be thankful?

 

Posted from San Lorenzo, California, United States.

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