Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A friend sent me this article after reading my Thanksgiving post, and I loved it so much I wanted to post it here. I've reread it many times over the past few days and it rings so true. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008 (SF Chronicle)
Happy Thanksgiving
Jon Carroll

A few years ago I wrote a Thanksgiving column that people seemed to like,
so I've reprinted it annually. Then that column began to seem a little
dated, so I wrote another one. So it's your choice; if you liked the old
one better, it can be found on, at
Gratitude is the antidote. It is useful in combatting a variety of
diseases, from something as vague as the discontents of civilization to
something as specific as personal grief. Thanksgiving is the holiday of
gratitude, and I am always willing to celebrate it.
We are told frequently that "it is what it is." That's a tautology, of
course, and an increasingly grating cliche, but it gained prominence
because it's a real reminder of a real thing: What happened happened. You
can't change the past. All we have is today. See you in the future!
But regret is real. Sorrow and pain and loss - all real. I sometimes think
of civilization or society as a kind of floor, a patchy, rickety floor in
constant need of repair. Below the floor is the chasm. Some people know
that chasm well - those who have scrabbled to exist in war zones, those
who have tried to cope after hurricanes or earthquakes, those who have
lost multiple family members simultaneously. For them, the daily comforts
of society are of little use. The network of routine, the solace of art,
hope for the future - none of it seems real.
Only the chasm seems real.
The chasm is only metaphorical, of course, but sometimes we live our lives
entirely within metaphors. Our choice of metaphors is just a matter of
taste. There's no right answer in this quiz, kids.
But still we have to get through the day. And, I am convinced, the route
through the day is gratitude. Because there is always something to be
grateful for, and that something is not in the chasm, it floats above the
chasm, denies the importance of the chasm.
You choose: sunsets, apples, bedrooms in the morning, Bruce Springsteen, a
child's second birthday, the smile on the face of a passing stranger,
rivers, mountaintops, cathedrals, Shakespeare, Tina Fey, the curve of a
thigh, the curve of a road, the nation of Switzerland, Carl Hiaasen,
grass, orange, Bola Sete, jumbo shrimp, Pascal's theorem, Ockham's razor,
clean restrooms, potable water, penguins, French kissing or peanuts.
Can you feel the floor beneath your feet get sturdier? Can you see the
holes being patched? For a moment, the bounty of the world overwhelmed
you, and you were grateful to be alive at this moment. See? Antidote.
So today, if we are at all lucky, we will gather with family and/or
friends and eat food and talk of shared alliances and shared memories.
Many Thanksgivings are family gatherings, and family gatherings are often
fraught. My suggestion is: Embrace the fraught. You'd miss the fraught if
it weren't there.
Besides, there's always the moment of escaping the fraught, going outside
for a smoke or down to the store for more whipped cream or out for a walk
with someone you love. You can't have the escape without the prison. Be
grateful for both.
What I'm going to try to do this year is slow down. What I'm going to try
to do this year is pay attention. Usually I run around. Lots of people
make me frantic - we always have lots of people at our Thanksgivings - and
there are always a thousand tasks. The point of the holiday is not the
tasks, even though it seems that way sometimes.
I'm going to think about how each of the people at the table came into my
life, and what I remember about that moment, and how we decided to become
friends instead of just people who met each other once a long time ago.
And I'm going to remember the kindness that each person has shown me, and
I'm also going to remember my kindnesses, because I'm grateful for the
times I behaved well.
And because not all the people I'm grateful for will be in the room today,
I'm going to think about them and send them good thoughts across the
miles. I don't believe in the transmission of thoughts, but I believe in
trying. It's like a flashy vehicle for mindfulness, and mindfulness is
hard when the talk is loud and the carbohydrates are disappearing at
alarming rates.
And as I walk across the floor from one room to another, I'm going to
notice how solid the floor feels beneath my feet today. I know how fragile
it is, but it doesn't matter. Today, right now, this Thanksgiving, it
feels like the oldest rock in the world, and I stand on it and rejoice.

Maybe at the end of the evening, when the dirty dishes are piled high in
the sink and the air is heavy with rich smells, take a moment to thank
someone for something.

May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true, may you
always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. May you always
be courageous, stand upright and be strong; may you stay forever ----------------------------------------------------------------------
Copyright 2008 SF Chronicle

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