For most people celebrating Thanksgiving, it’s about family coming together, great home-cooked food and a moment in time to collectively express what you’re thankful for. That’s how it should be.
We know that Thanksgiving has roots as early as the 1600s. Basically a bunch of Englishmen survived a 3-month voyage to America to establish a colony in the New World. On December 4th of 1619, they had finally made it. Upon arrival, they all knelt in appreciation. This was the first celebration of thanks. Two years after those pilgrims arrived, a harvest feast was declared and they invited the Wampanoag Indians to celebrate.
Lots of relevant events and declarations later, finally, in 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day.
Though history is important, that’s not what I want to discuss, in fact, I’d like to put the past firmly behind us and focus on what’s happening right now. Your life.
An attitude of gratitude, or a life of discontent, you decide.
I want to take this Thanksgiving holiday, this moment that you are reading this, as an opportunity to stop. Breathe. Take a huge sigh of relief and pause. Look at your life as if everything suddenly froze.
The atmosphere suspended in time, and you are the only one in motion. You look around you, the statues which are your surroundings. The people. You zoom out, looking at the immobilised roads, busy people paralysed in mid-speech. Airplanes stopped in mid-flight, hovering above chalky clouds. You zoom out even more, you see your country, the continents, the oceans, the world. Earth. Inactive. Not even spinning. Everything has frozen but you. You’re not thinking about anything for a moment, you’re just observing the world in which you live in, the body which you inhabit, the soul which is within you and the places that you find yourself. Existing. Breathing. That’s nice. Step out of your responsibilities, your deadlines, your insecurities. Step out of your traumas, your ailments, your worries. Step out of your entire life. That’s relieving. You feel no pain. You’re alone. You’re like the man on mars. That’s interesting.
Now, imagine weeks go by. You’re wandering aimlessly. You start searching. What do you start to miss? Who are you trying to revive? What did you take for granted when life was as it was… When things were in motion?
What do you wake up every day for?
What’s your point?
What meaning do you give to life? Your life.
What matters? What are you thankful for?
You don’t have to make a list, the images will come to you. Family, the ones you love. The places filled with such beauty that it can be unbelievable to witness it at times. The goodness that is alive and kicking in this world. Amongst all the bad. The people and things that give you joy. The things that make you feel good about yourself and give you hope. Give you a reason to wake up every day. The experiences that touch your senses and speak to your soul. Who knows if we are here for a bigger, unfathomable reason. Who knows if there is a grand plan for us or an afterlife that we move on to. I don’t think there is, but that’s just one person’s opinion. There could be. Nobody knows, and I think the mystery is wonderful. Others may fear it; the unknown. The moment when their time will come to leave this world and all that’s in it. The moment that is inescapable which is part of everything. So, we die. Ok, that’s how it is then. We cannot fight it, so let’s embrace it. Let’s give thanks, and feast, and drink and be merry. Let’s help one another, let us embrace this one life we have right now, and marvel in the mystery of what could be.
If there was nothing we wanted, nothing we needed, nothing we had to struggle for, nothing we had to suffer for, nothing we had to battle for, there would be nothing worth living for. There is so much to be thankful for. Often in life, we fall victim. Victim to our thoughts and emotions, victims of our experiences, becoming rattled cages where once there was a free spirit. Part of life is loss. That’s all we have ever known. Nobody can give you an answer as to why, or a reason or purpose behind it all. This is just what we have, and we cannot figure out what we really are, or why things happen at all. All we have is now. That’s all we will ever have. Life can be unfair, so very unfair and cruel, but the past is untouchable, forever lost like a pebble causing a ripple in the vast ocean. The future is uncertain, unpredictable, random. It is also untouchable. It is always ahead of us and we can never catchup.
“You can’t jump the tracks, we’re like cars on a cable and life’s like an hour glass glued to the table, no one can find the rewind button now, so cradle your head in your hands ⁓ and breathe. Just breathe.”
It’s easy to look at your life, and yourself, and magnify all that is wrong and bad. Highlighting the worst bits and dwelling on them. It is easy to look at the world and see all the violence, inhumanity, pain, suffering, disease, corruption, greed, famine and poverty. That’s there, it’s always been there. It’s real and it’s happening right now. But you are alive. So, what are you going to do? How are you going to feel? Are you going to have an attitude of gratitude and make the changes you want to see in the world? No matter how small or insignificant you think they are. Your actions matter. Oh, they matter a whole lot.
A very relevant quote by a college professor that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and pass on to whomever I can is this one:
”All of you are here because you want to make a difference in the world, that’s good. Though be not dismayed if you think you are not contributing, fall not into depression if you feel you are not succeeding. What truly matters is that you help people. Even if it’s just one person, even if that one person is yourself.”