I love Thanksgiving. I always have. Yes, there is a genuine affinity for the food… The traditional dishes: turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, roasted winter vegetables, pumpkin pie, are all so good! They say that of all our senses, the olfactory system of taste and smell connects us to our earliest memories. And if I relax and conjure the scent of roasting turkey, and the taste of fresh -made pan gravy, I am right there, in a cloud of delight.
But certainly, there’s more than the meal. There’s more than a football game. It’s all about gratitude. We so easily fall into the rut of taking everything in our lives for granted. But that’s a trap that can create an expectation that somehow we deserve whatever we want. We can grow callous under the protective attitude of entitlement. But no one “deserves” anything. No one is guaranteed a fast track to love or attention or affluence.
Some of us have lucked into be borne at the right time, in the right place, and into the right family. It’s nothing anyone earned. It’s the luck of the draw. Some of us have worked hard to attain a level of comfort that we’ve extended to those we love. Some have earned enough money to share it generously with causes and places dear to them.
No one deserves any more or any less than anyone else. Yet there is a gravitational pull towards exclusivity, to judge those with less money or fame or privilege. And as we divide the world into us and them, we lose sight of the fundamental existential truth to which we’re attached from birth: that we are finite and that we share this impermanent state of being with every other human on earth. Or, as George Harrison put it:
But how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we’re all the same
And because of all their tears
Your eyes can’t hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Now, isn’t it a pity
On this Thanksgiving I’m pledging to look up from my plate and see the beauty that surrounds us. I’m going to try to disengage from the painful arc of impeachment news. I will attempt to put down the reports of a sitting Israeli prime minister’s multiple indictments for bribery. I will even try to avert my gaze from the apocalyptic climate change reports and debates and Boston traffic and… so forth.
Looking up does not mean abandoning a just cause. It means seeing the perfect beauty of the Universe and embracing existence itself – this wonderful, cosmic little life I have. Looking up and appreciating the greatest gifts of life and freedom reminds me of why justice is worth fighting for. That life is not always utterly absurd. There is meaning and purpose in the struggle. Goodness needs as many allies as we can muster because the good is for all of us to nurture and share.
Have a terrific Thanksgiving. Look up.