I would like to pause in my other blogging pursuits to reflect a bit on the holiday that is now upon us. Like, I suppose, a lot of people, there are a number of holidays that I one time enjoyed very much but am now almost completely indifferent to. For me those would include Halloween (it’s just not that much fun for me without having kids or any real connection with kids), Fourth of July (I’m always in England on the occasion, and giving the nature of the holiday and what it remembers, well, that kind of puts a damper on it) (I don’t want this to be misconstrued: I love being an American – with all the enormous problems experienced by and caused by Americans – but the business with firecrackers and fireworks and so on just has nothing much for me these days), and Easter (which I do not observe, as an agnostic; although it can be a time of reflection for me on the awesome claims of the Christian message).
There are other holidays that have been and continue to be big for me. Even though I am no longer a Christian, Christmas is a big deal. I especially appreciate the family orientation of it, the chance to get together with loved ones and give gifts to show how much I appreciate and think about them, good food and drink together, and a chance to reflect on the very nature of giving, since even for those who are avidly Christian Christmas is about the great gift God gave to humankind. For me it’s a time to think about my Christian roots and my connection (tenuous as it is most of the time) to my Christian heritage.
But if I had to pick one holiday of the year that I really enjoy and have a genuine passion for, it would be Thanksgiving. For me it’s the perfect holiday. It is not religiously oriented. It is a secular holiday for all people. And it focuses (at least for me) on family, and good food, and good drink (and, yes, on football). These are all things I am deeply passionate about (even football, though it’s obviously a superficial passion in relation to the other things) (and increasingly superficial with all the head injury issues that are coming to the fore) (but still….)
Family and Food. These are things I live for. And Thanksgiving celebrates them and allows us to celebrate them. For me these represent two things that make life worth living, they symbolize our social lives and our physical lives. And I suppose we don’t have too many lives apart from what we live socially and physically.
I am so deeply thankful for my family and for the fact of my physical existence, and I believe heartily in deepening my ties to my family and the relationships I have with others who are in it, and in celebrating the good things in life as symbolized in food.
Family. I suppose when I was a Christian I rooted my sense of belonging in the world in my faith in God and in a sense that I needed to do his will and in the hope that I would live forever in the presence of the saints. I no longer feel that way in the least, since as an atheist I do not believe in God or an afterlife. So where do I find my meaning and purpose in life? In lots of places, really, including my work and vocation (anyone on the blog may have noticed that I’m passionate about knowledge and learning and research and teaching and writing and all the other things that involve my intellectual endeavors and my opportunities of sharing them with others), my friends (I have much closer and more intimate ties with people now that I’m an agnostic / atheist than I ever did as a Christian), my all around enjoyment of life (especially things like pleasure reading, and working out, and travelling). And in family. Especially and above all in my relationship with Sarah, a genuinely amazing person; and my kids, who have both turned into loving, caring, productive, giving, and interesting human beings; my grandkids, the best the world has ever seen; and my dear 88-year old mother (with whom I am spending Thanksgiving).
Food. I love Thanksgiving because it centers around food, and I’m an avowed foodie. I love good food (and wine). I love to cook. I love to make special meals and eat them. What then could be better than Thanksgiving? Food for me is not simply something to consume when I’m hungry. It is symbolic of all the good things that both sustain life and make it enjoyable
The social and physical good things that I have in life – expressed in family and food – and that I celebrate every Thanksgiving, with millions of other people, have a flip-side too, of course. There are so many other people in our world who do not have these good things. That makes Thanksgiving, for me, not only a time for feeling grateful for everything but also for reflecting on the plight that so many in our world find themselves in: refugees from war; victims of terror; those suffering in the midst of famine, drought, and epidemic; millions in our own unbelievably wealthy country who are homeless and hungry; those who have been abandoned by their loved ones, or who no longer have any loved ones, who are lonely and depressed with no hope for a future.
Our hearts go out to everyone who does not have the many good things that we enjoy and even, much of our lives, take for granted. In this season I am a firm believer in giving thanks – if not to a big ole man in the sky, then to the universe at large, or to whomever/whatever we want to give thanks to for all the amazing things we have and can experience. I am also a firm believer in acknowledging those in need, and in committing ourselves to help their plight so that they too can be placed in a situation where they as well can give thanks.
Have a happy Thanksgiving! Cook special foods! Eat and drink to your hearts content! Remember the needy! And feel Thankful!