If Thanksgiving gluttony is misplaced, then Black Friday is disgusting. It was nice to hear a friend opine that we don’t need more feasting; we need fasting. I couldn’t agree more. You don’t celebrate abundance with gluttony. Circumstances have changed much since those days way back then when the main challenge in life for the average bloke and his little family was keeping bellies fed. Calorie problem? Yeah, right—getting enough of them. I suspect there’d be no little astonishment at our modern-day battles with belt-lines.
But that’s not the problem. The problem is that we’re so fat and sassy with our farm-fed turkeys and our swipe-screen smart phones that we’re losing touch with the natural world and the need for struggle—yes, struggle. When Jesus said that rich people would have the hardest time getting to Heaven (however that’s defined), he wasn’t joking, like some modern apologists would like to suggest.
That struggle for existence, against all odds, can be spiritually satisfying. That extra helping of cake is not. Gluttony and spirituality are mutually incompatible. When William James talked about the ‘moral equivalent of war’ he was referring mostly to the positive aspects of the ‘greater goods’ involved in that activity, would that only the negative aspects could be avoided. That is suggested in the modern mantra to “live every day as if it were your last,” though few consider the wider consequences, I suspect.
We spend beaucoups de bucks trying to find life on other planets, and in some sort of misplaced humility masking our gods of materialism, we just assume that sooner or later they will be found, not just cyanobacteria, but Zhou Blou speaking a dialect that we’ll soon master if only we run it through the right program for analysis. Ever wonder what the odds of intelligent life on this planet are? That’s probably the more important question, the answer to which I wouldn’t really want to risk.
I suspect given the exact same climatic conditions that now prevail on the planet earth, and starting from scratch, the odds of human life occurring are vanishingly small. And I doubt that the odds of any mammal or reptile or other advanced form of life are almost as high. It took a billion—A BILLION—years or so to move from single to multi-celled organisms, without even considering the larger question of what kick-started that single-cell blue-green algae into existence in the first place. BTW comets don’t change anything; the question of what when where and how life began still lingers.
The example of the priest who went homeless recently for two weeks just to empathize with ‘those people’ is instructive. You’d likely feel lightened and enlightened in the process. My stint as a migrant fruit-picker as a twenty-year-old still rates as one of the highlights of my life, and not because it was hip or cool or otherwise exemplary. It wasn’t. It was real. I slept in a few parks in the process, too, not to mention pickers’ cabins. That was 1974. Ten years later you wouldn’t catch a self-respecting white boy out there, by then beyond all that. Thus hippies are in line to inherit the earth, they and indigenous peoples.
Now here we are in 2014, thankful for our toys, but not much else. Oh sure we pay lip service to family and friends, but not much of even that to Mother Nature, the nimble nymph that we’ve turned into our own private whore. To whatever extent the original Thanksgiving traditions are accurate, I think they exhibit a reverence for Nature, any and all gods welcomed. That is a tradition we should revive.
But Nature is not always right: witness the snowball our planet was a short 700 million years ago. Humans probably could have dealt with that. There is nothing ultimately wrong with second-guessing Nature, or even manipulating it, as long as it’s done mindfully, not simply for the love of cheap thrills. Buddha, Muhammad, and Jesus were not always right, either. Matthew 6-26:
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”
Actually that’s about all I see birds doing, but there’s still no need to worry excessively, which was the point of the speech. When you personally spend the time in harvest, you will not likely take it for granted. That’s food for thought—Happy Holidays!