People of wildly varying philosophical stripes give thanks each year beginning about now. According to the CIA and World Fact Books, between 74% and 89% of Americans claim a belief in God. So, I’m assuming that God is the entity to whom they offer their thanks.
This also means that between 11% and 26% of the others are either agnostics or atheists—whether they broadcast the fact or not. And these, too, give thanks: just not to God. Nor, is their gratitude less sincere than that of the believers.
None of us had a thing to do with the circumstances of our birth. Having been born into a loving, nurturing family that planned and eagerly awaited our arrival, or having been the result of a drug/alcohol, lust-driven carnal “accident” to uncaring assholes, was strictly a matter of luck.
And, in addition to the luck I mention in the above paragraph (or lack thereof), an even greater stroke of pure luck was having been born in a free country rather than in any one of a multitude of hell-holes like so many other members of the world’s population.
None of us is any more than an MRI away from receiving devastating confirmation of our mortality and the specifics of our pending longevity. And, this does not begin to account for sudden fatal heart attacks, debilitating strokes, fatal accidents, and myriad fates that make life just plain suck.
So, as long as we have hope in our hearts, all of us—believers, non-believers, and bet-hedgers—need to give thanks, to either God, luck, or both.
More than three hundred years ago a pilgrim colony came out of a winter of suffering and hardship; a tiny band of men, women and children who braved a new world. And a governor named William Bradford said, “Let us give thanks.”
Nearly a century and a half later, George Washington turned to a nation born out of a crucible of pain and sacrifice to say, “Let us give thanks.”
Seventy-five years later, Abraham Lincoln came out of a long night in which a nation, its people, and its destiny were caught in a valley of crisis. And he, too, chose a day in November for a day of thanksgiving.
Today we look out on our world and somewhere a surplus of voices wearied by burdens echo, “What reason do WE have to give thanks?” In other places, perhaps in our own neighborhoods, men and women in their 70s despair as the chasm of old age yawns before them.
Most of them, due to circumstances beyond their control, see not a sunset of tranquility, but rather instead, a nightmare of need and hardship. “For what do we give thanks,” they wonder.
For what shall we give thanks? For life itself. People who have come face-to-face with their mortality—believers AND non-believers—and have, within the dark solitude of their bedrooms, defeated those haunting nightly demons of despair, give thanks for life itself.
They know that to live is to be thankful; to know night and day, and changing seasons; to hear golden laughter, and even to weep softly – just to be alive is to be thankful. People who have faced death, even though they know it’s still coming for them, give thanks.
They’re thankful for children’s laughter; for grass and trees and water and sunshine, the rustle of leaves, the friendly bark of a dog or purring of a kitten; for neighbors and friends, and strangers too, who pause in a teeming, turbulent highway called LIFE to remind us that it is good to live.
Only pitiful fools look to the size of their bank accounts as the ONLY justification for any measure of gratitude. Whether we give thanks to God or to Mother Nature, does not matter as long as we feel a real exultation and deep humility for being alive.
Our windows of consciousness are temporal; one day they’ll close. Give thanks for them; enjoy them. What, if anything, lies beyond no one KNOWS. If you’re a non-believer, understand that LIFE is the very root of gratitude. AND, if you’re a believer, understand that it’s not only the root of gratitude, but it’s also the binding essence of Divine Law—or at least it should be.
Again, happy Thanksgiving!.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.