Thursday, November 22, 2012

Some Things a Humanist is Thankful For

 By Gary Berg-Cross

Once again it is time to turn the thanking function up high in the human brain. Religious groups have their top 10 lists. Faith. Usually makes that list of things to be thankful for:

Knowing that there is a higher power you can turn to when things become to difficult for you to deal with on your own is a blessing. We all have our doubts about this from time to time and most seem to return to the idea that something much more powerful than we are has had a hand in making this all happen. 

Sports fans, comics, foodies & regular folks have their lists too filled with family, friends, food, health and prosperity. In austere times many young people, such as new grads, would be in hot water without the family safety net. Not everyone can start a business borrowing their parent’s money. And tweeting makes for silly lists of things like Justin Bieber, tanning lotion and Funyuns.

But as I asked last year, why not a humanist/nonbeliever list for Thanksgiving? Here’s a small update.

Sure family will be on that list too. My older grandkids celebrated a pilgrammy activity time in run up to turkey day at school filled.  They feasted on seasonal wordfinding along with  harvest and preparation rituals including gathering firewood and folding bedsheets. For my son's new 6 month old I am extremely thankful. He brings everyone happiness.

 Here’s a start on a list of things I’d be happy to happen, that I’m thankful for happening or that people might say or think about on Thanksgiving.

  10. The end of a long political season and I'm still glad that I won’t be bombarded by silly gaffes of politicians on Thanksgiving day. Can we hope to move to effective policies and government? Wait are pols already visiting Iowa. I’d be thankful if we could rein that in a bit and give us a break.

9. More peace efforts and more effective ones…I’m thankful for the modest success we’ve had, but people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine and Israel  are only a short list of folks who, at times, can’t defend themselves from missiles of various kinds. I’m not thankful for the folly that let’s that mess continue.

8. More accurate historical skeptics to properly celebrate, educate and entertain our  dinner guests with some myth busting facts. That Pilgrims' festival?  The Pilgrims and the Indians did not, as the myth has it, sit down at tables, bless their food or pass the serving dishes. Did they really invite the natives or did the natives investigate what all the gun fire was about?. Finding a party they brought there own food and cooked accordingly.  

7. I celebrate Thanksgiving as a multicultural, humanist event rather than a religious one. Greg Epstein Humanist Chaplain @Harvard has a simple 3 item Outline for a Humanist Thanksgiving Dinner Discussion. Yes, food and thankfulness  it has  but it also has some guiding questions about community: For those who are part of a Humanist/secular group: how could our Humanist community be a better resource for ourselves and for others seeking community? How might we get more involved? Should we do dinners like this together more often? For those who aren’t part of a Humanist/secular group: what would you want your own connection to community to look like a year from now?
 6. And while we are on community, I celebrate some of the national humanist and secular organizations like CFI and AHA that move us towards a better society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. You can find secular grace statements on the AHA celebration site:
A Secular Grace:
For what we are about to receive
let us be truly thankful
…to those who planted the crops
…to those who cultivated the fields
…to those who gathered the harvest.
For what we are about to receive
let us be truly thankful
to those who prepared it and those who served it.
In this festivity let us remember too
those who have no festivity
those who cannot share this plenty
those whose lives are more affected than our own
by war, oppression and exploitation
those who are hungry, sick and cold
In sharing in this meal
let us be truly thankful
for the good things we have
for the warm hospitality 
and for this good company.
  5. Last year we  could celebrate the failure of the not-so-democratically-super, Super Committee. This year we can’t yet celebrate handing a fiscal bump in the road but I still look forward to solving our problems, rationally. Let’s celebrate rationality and balance. Let’s celebrate that type of productive thinking employed across the wider scope of society.  
4. Managing and pulling off a great Thanksgiving feast requires quality planning and critical thinking. We can celebrate people who exemplify this with an affirming balance and a concern humanity and civil society. We lost a leading practitioner this year in Paul Kurtz, but we can still celebrate his life and remember.  

3. Despite our best selfish and self-centered efforts damaging it we still have to be thankful for Nature, its system resilience and mystery. One is reminded of the Albert Einstein  quote in this regard, “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”  I’m not thankful about the former part, but contemplating the latter can sure be oceanically wonderful.

2. I’m still glad that America is an exceptional nation and not yet an oligarchy. True, our stats aren’t what they once were and there is a growing wealth gap that suggests the exceptionalism isn’t trickling down, if that’s where it comes from. I’m glad that Elizabeth Warren is a senator along with people like Bernie Sanders and Angus King.  They are more in the mold of public servants that our founders might celebrate.

1. Not sure what is the # one thing to be glad of? One thought is that it’s only a month or so  till Tom Flynn (he of "The Trouble with Christmas") goes to work on Dec. 25th. That’s a Tuesday so he isn’t off the hook like last year. 

So we have to decide whose turn is it to give him a call while he's in the office?

Celebrate and make your own rituals, even if they are modest and human sized. “When some as small as speaking a simple truth for human values becomes ritual, it finds  a place in the human heart. And as  Muriel Barbery, noted in her The Elegance of the Hedgehog our ability to see greatness in small things is deeply important:

 Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”

  Happy Thanksgiving.

1 comment:

Edd.Doerr said...

Very good. I celebrate the victories of Obama and other Dems on Nov. 6. A Romney win would have meant the addition to the Supreme Court of clones of Scalia, Thomas and Robt Bork.