Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thoreau Quote on Perpetual Thanksgiving

Well, here we are. Another Thanksgiving weekend is upon us.

While Thanksgiving has come to mean for many shared time with family (which can be viewed as a blessing or a curse, depending on the individual perspective), warmth, relaxation, football, and of course, food. Way too much food, in most cases.

However, I think that it is fair to say that it is important that we remember certain things on this holiday. First of all, we should remember that this holiday is seen in entirely different eyes by Native Americans, who feel it represents a betrayal, and the beginning of the end of their traditional lifestyle.

Still, I think that Thanksgiving has come to have a different meaning over time. A more hopeful one, where those who get together to enjoy a feast truly do take a moment to give thanks for all of life's blessings. This year, more than any other, I have been trying to share in that spirit of thankfulness, and have come to appreciate this sentiment for this particular holiday.

Of course, it sometimes makes me roll my eyes to think that this holiday, of all holidays, is immediately followed by Black Friday, when we see scenes of the worst that this culture of consumption brings out in people. Right after giving thanks for all of life's blessings, people will camp out all night and go to all lengths to visit stores and find the best deals, often getting into fights to do so. There are horror stories of violence and people getting trampled on, and these indeed show that too many people are not really taking the lessons of thanksgiving seriously.

Worse still, now Black Friday has moved earlier and earlier over the course of the years, so that it now starts right on Thanksgiving afternoon. So the worst excesses of the mindless greed of Black Friday shopping deals now fall on Thanksgiving proper. I was just talking to a Walmart employee over the weekend, and he told me that all employees will be obligated to work on Thanksgiving afternoon, forcing people to make accommodations and either eat their meals early, or not show up at all.

Indeed, this is a sign of the times.

However, we should remember the more positive and noble sentiments of Thanksgiving. And so in that spirit, here is a quote from Henry David Thoreau, in which he shares his thoughts on giving thanks not just on one day or before one meal, but being perpetually thankful for all that he has been blessed with. Admittedly, it is a different and unusual perspective, yet it should make you think. It is yet one more lesson from Thoreau that we can learn from:

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”

~ Henry David Thoreau in a letter (1856)

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