HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone!
First, my thanks to the folks at the daily mull, who have been kind enough to channel me and set me up with this blog.
My topic, in this first post, is Thanksgiving, so I'm going to stick to that, and leave all the questions that I'm sure (well, I know, right?) you're all asking for another post—things like "why is he breaking the silence after all this time?" or "why is she doing it on an atheist blog?"
But I promise to get around to all that, sooner or later, and if you have any other questions you want to ask me, just leave them in the comments section at the bottom of this post.
Today, though, is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, and I want to address a few misconceptions about that from my point of view—which I think has some relevance—and offer, if you don't mind, a little advice.
First of all, I know that you all have been lectured and sermonized to death on the importance of expressing your gratitude for, well, for everything, to me.
The idea seems to be that it's important to me—that I want, or need, or (worse yet) demand your thanks.
It constantly amazes me that people can attribute all that is good and healthy and wholesome to me and then assume that I have the ego of a type A+ corporate CEO.
I'm not an authoritarian jerk.
I'll admit that it's nice to be appreciated. Everybody likes that. But give me some credit.
Look at my work. Is it really the quality that comes from someone whose idea of a good day is lying on a raised cushion, listening to one person after another fawn?
I appreciate the occasional spontaneous bit of gratitude, over a sunset or a smile from your mate, but I don't need it, and I would never command it.
Which brings me to another point about Thanksgiving. The whole idea is way too formal for my tastes.
I'm not suggesting you get rid of it. It's a wonderful holiday. I'm just saying that the idea of formal "thanks" lacks a certain, well, sincerity.
There's the "thanks" that comes spontaneously, from a sort of overwhelming sense of gratitude in the moment, like when someone does you a real favor that you didn't expect.
That's one end of the continuum. And it's a very nice thank-you to get.
Then there's the "thank you" that comes when someone really wants, in the moment they say it, for you to know that they appreciate you or what you did, even if they're not overwhelmed.
That's maybe a quarter of the way along the continuum.
Then there's the thanks that someone says because it's the normal polite thing to do, even though they have no particular feelings about it at all at the moment.
Get the picture? The further along the continuum you move, the less real the thanks is.
Nothing wrong with that. Politeness has its purposes.
But then there's the fawning gratitude paid to the emperor because it's a state event, and the fawning is part of the protocol.
At that point it's all pretty meaningless.
I mean the emperor knows that you know that he knows that you aren't really feeling anything, so what's the point?
Now Thanksgiving day is, actually, a state occasion, and I've been cast as the emperor.
So the perfunctory thanks-giving stuff around the table is, well, pretty meaningless for the most part.
I don't mind, if you want to do it anyway. Sometimes there's something to be said for empty ritual. I just want you to know that I know it's not always the real thing, and that's okay.
Some of you actually do feel grateful at that moment, and I appreciate that, too.
But I know that you can't just turn gratitude on and off, like a faucet.
Here's the thing. I'm not the center of the universe. I am the universe, in any really meaningful use of my name.
And that means that the universe is me, as well—along with every part of it: including you, and the person sitting next to you at the table.
And although you can't turn feelings of gratitude on or off by an act of will, you can, and sometimes do, hold those feelings in—instead of expressing them.
I just want you to know that I appreciate thanks more when it's specific.
And it's most specific when it's directed to the part of me you're really grateful to, or for—especially if that part of me is another human being.
So the next time you are overcome with a sense of gratitude in the presence of a friend or family member, you might want to consider letting them know.
Not as a duty.
You certainly don't have to. I'm just saying it might be nice—for them and you.
As for the holiday, there's lots to enjoy about it whether you do the whole "thanks" ritual or not. The turkey, the family meal, the Macy's parade.
If you just relax and enjoy it, you'll probably find yourself feeling grateful to the people you're with.
And you might even want to tell them.
If you feel like it.
The Ground of All Being