Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us, by a way that we did not know, to the end of another year.
In observance of this custom, I appoint Thursday as a day of public Thanksgiving for the blessings that have been our common lot — for all the creature comforts: the yield of the soil that has fed us and the richer yield from labor of every kind that has sustained our lives — and for all those things, as dear as breath to the body, that quicken our faith in ourselves, that nourish and strengthen our spirit to do the great work still before us: for the friendly word and act; for honor held above price; for steadfast courage and zeal in the long, long search after truth; for liberty and for justice freely granted by each to his fellow and so as freely enjoyed; and for the crowning glory and mercy of peace upon our land — that we may humbly take heart of these blessings as we gather once again with solemn and festive rites to keep our Harvest Home.
Connecticut Gov. Wilbur Cross
1936 Thanksgiving proclamation
Gratitude is not a passive response to something given to us; gratitude is being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. Gratitude is not something that is shown after the event, it is the deep, a priori state of attention that shows we understand and are equal to the gifted nature of life. Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is privilege, that we are part of something, rather than nothing. Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape. To see the full miraculous essentiality of the color blue is to be grateful with no necessity for a word of thanks. To see fully, the beauty of a daughter’s face is to be fully grateful without having to seek a God to thank him. To sit among friends and strangers, hearing many voices, strange opinions; to intuit inner lives beneath surface lives, to inhabit many worlds at once in this world, to be a someone amongst all other someones, and therefore to make a conversation without saying a word, is to deepen our sense of presence and therefore our natural sense of thankfulness that everything happens both with us and without us, that we are participants and witness all at once. Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness. We sit at the table, part of every other person’s world while making our own world without will or effort. This is what is extraordinary and gifted, this is the essence of gratefulness: seeing to the heart of privilege. Thanksgiving happens when our sense of presence meets all other presences. Being unappreciative means we are simply not paying attention.
David Whyte, poet
November Thoughts, 2013
When we die and meet whatever form divinity takes, we will be unable, through whatever form communication takes, to contain our gratitude for having been one of the privileged few to experience living — all of us, no matter the circumstances and adversities of our lives, no matter how things “turned out.”
First and foremost, therefore, I am thankful for my unique opportunity to live. I say this at the end of a year when I became acutely aware that my life will not turn out the way I had envisioned. Such realizations naturally lead back to the basics. So I’m thankful for laughter and beauty and good food, for good walks and good dreams and good company.
Goodness in general — a profound and remarkable quality, not to be taken for granted. I’m thankful that the overwhelming majority of human beings are good at heart. I’m grateful we have the capacity to appreciate the beauty in life, no matter how challenging our circumstances.
We are not entitled to happiness, but we are entitled to the pursuit of it. Some, of course, are far more blessed than others, but, as we’re well aware, no direct correlation exists between blessings and happiness. We are more than the sum of our circumstances. Some cannot appreciate all they have while others transcend great deficits. A good life cannot be measured by a balance sheet.
I have been thoroughly blessed, but I always worried — if my circumstances changed, would it ruin my sunny view of life? Would I become bitter, cynical, even cave in to despair?
Yet in spite of my bouts with disappointment’s darkness, life’s essential goodness remains apparent. Perhaps more remarkable, I continue to pay attention and can’t help noticing people demonstrating their inherent goodness on a regular basis toward one another in matters large and small.
Mankind is our business, as Jacob Marley, too late, observed.
I have learned that the circumstances of our lives are not the deciding factor.
No mood can dim the world’s beauty, and the human comedy makes me laugh in spite of myself. Despite our imperfections and deficiencies, my faith in people is, more often than not, affirmed.
Truth cannot be eclipsed by lies. Darkness cannot extinguish light. Obstruction cannot disable progress. Love will always be stronger than fear.
I’m thankful for living into my seventh decade, long enough to understand that even in November, when the world goes grey and leafless, beauty is only altered, not diminished, that the lights within shine with a warmer welcome, and that life, if anything, grows more miraculous and mysterious and precious as we get older and start to let it go, launching our unrealized dreams like so many surplus balloons.
Lately, I feel a responsibility to this gift of being born — a responsibility to see it through. And when I come to the end of my being born, by a way that I did not know, and find myself facing whatever form the divine takes, having reviewed my life, with all its challenges and circumstances, suffering and regrets, I will, in whatever form communication takes, give thanks.
Being no longer able to contain myself.