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Thanks Given

by on November 27, 2017

                                                               Thanks Given

                                                           by Marco M. Pardi

“Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.”

Tacitus. (CE 56?-120?)

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All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

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Those of you familiar with American holidays know we just passed through Thanksgiving – or it passed through us.  Or, wait a minute, maybe that was Black Friday. It’s sometimes hard to remember what to celebrate in a society which conflates consumerism with happiness.

This year I’ve noticed a great increase in the frequency of people asking, “What are you thankful for?” The most egregious example came from the White House press secretary when, during a daily briefing, she demanded that each member of the press corps with a question preface their question with a statement of what they were thankful for. I might have said I would be thankful for the truth, but understood it was not to be found here.

Even the gaggle of newscasters and television talk show hosts parrot this question and respond with maudlin replies from their little worlds. I suspect the very marked increase this year reflects the sense of helplessness and resignation as the once good American society is finally and admittedly lost to the Fascist regime which seized power last November. The replies portray a desperate search for something pleasant in an overwhelmingly unpleasant reality.

But I always had problems with the What are you thankful for question.  The term thankful implies, to me, a specific entity as the recipient of the thanks. Most if not all of my life I have viewed everything holistically; isolating something as an autonomous entity is artificial, incomplete, and misleading. I recognize that we do this, but only for the sake of establishing order in what otherwise would be our chaotic mind. So, when someone asks my views on gratitude to God, I say the question is irrelevant; something which is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient is everything at once, hence it is no thing and cannot even be referred to much less thanked. I could more easily thank Orgasma von Klampitt who, some sixty years ago, introduced me to all things carnal. I suspect she would respond with, Who are you?

Perhaps I should send my thanks further back.  Thank you, Big Bang, for exploding outward some 14 billion years ago, sending energy into nothingness in a gigantic pinball game that, in one infinitesimally tiny area of space eventually resulted in the collision of a sperm cell and an egg from which came me. I’m not ready to render thanks for all that came afterward, the jury is still out on that. And there have even been times when I questioned the wisdom of blowing yourself up in the first place (and I do mean first place). 

I think a lot may have happened in those 14 billion years.  Since quantum mechanics teaches us to view existence in probabilities and potentials, was (am) I in there somewhere?  We sometimes tell children they were once a “twinkle in your daddy’s eye”.  Was I a twinkle in some supernova?

But look, here we are, slogging through life like inchworms on a flat and finite plane unable to look back for origins or look ahead to the exact day we fall off.  Yet, completely out of context we attribute causes and declare effects pronouncing some to be thankful for and others bad luck. Does that make a shred of sense?  Is it any wonder so many people are fully embedded in the “It’s all about me!” mentality? I didn’t think so.

It seems to me that gratitude, thankfulness, whatever you want to call it is, if it is realized in the fullness of context, remarkably like the triple omni concept of God:  Omni-present means there is nothing it is not in, so there is no sense in conceiving of it since the act of conceiving of it immediately isolates it into whatever it is you think it is and disregards the rest. When I look at how certain events in my life unfolded I can say with certainty I did not set them in motion (and that’s as well for “good” and “bad”); thinking otherwise, when realized in full context, awards me the power of omnipotence. It also suggests I did so fully knowingly, giving me the power of omniscience.  

How much of our lives is our own doing and how much the doing of other people, factors, etc.?  For untold generations people have treated maladies as something the affected persons brought on themselves. Worse yet, I’ve heard people declare birth defects in newborns as divine justice for some imagined transgression of the parents.  Cancer patients faced suspicion that some behavior, smoking, drinking, etc. caused them to “get” cancer.  It must have been allowed in from the outside. Our language still betrays these biases: What’s gotten into you? What’s eating you?

But attitudes are changing, if only slowly.  A few years ago I had a run of atrial fibrillation with tachycardia.  I went to a hospital emergency room.  While addressing the issues the physician asked my academic and career background. He then asked me, “What’s going on? I have six patients of various ages with symptoms just like yours.”

I reminded him we were in the midst of a violent solar storm and, the heart being a largely electrical device, I was not surprised at possible effects from the incoming solar electric activity. We considered that and I promised to do a retrospective analysis of the MMWR (Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report) for the appropriate weeks to determine any statistical spikes in reported cardiac issues.  Indeed, I did the analysis and found that, unfortunately, sub-lethal cardiac events were not recorded. And, I could find no cardiac lethality rate exceeding standard deviation.

Yet, I well remember chronic episodes of these symptoms when stationed in places where, for instance, air pollution was profound or where I was at great altitude.  I do not recall deciding to spend the day gasping as my heart leapt randomly around my chest or my pulse stuck at 160 beats per minute. 

I recently read that one of the survivors of the Las Vegas mass shooting was later run over and killed by a hit and run driver.  I’m sure some people would say Death tried and missed in Vegas but got him in the end. Others would say, No, he was not supposed to die in Vegas. His death was supposed to be a life changing event for the driver of the car that hit him.  These are inch worms some of us know; they are the ones who look at the present and extrapolate the past, complete with “plans” and events to be thankful for.  Commonly we hear, “It was God’s plan.” And we hear that from the very same people who assure us it is impossible to know the mind of God.

Some people express gratitude for longevity. My impression is they haven’t yet gotten old enough to experience being old.  Most of the truly old people I’ve known spent their last years saying they would be thankful when it’s over.

For me, a person who is thankful for extra years is simply a person who mistakenly presumed they were supposed to already be dead.  There’s no one to thank. There is, however, someone (the thankful person) who needs to re-examine the quality of their thinking.

So feel free to call me an ingrate.  I won’t thank you for it, but neither will I blame you.  I am, however, thankful for any and all your comments.

 

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4 Comments
  1. Gary permalink

    I rather enjoy the routine of asking family members what they are thankful for. Anything that causes people to reflect on things they might have skated over or taken for granted is all to the good. If they respond with triteness or fatuousness, so be it. It tells you something about them. At one such Thanksgiving go around our daughter-in-law informed us that she was grateful for being pregnant with our fourth grandchild (her second) – a surprise announcement We couldn’t top that one.

    My wife and I have a ritual we perform every January 1st. We don’t make resolutions, we evaluate our relationship. We each come up with at least 3 things that we value the other person for and at least one thing we would like to see changed. I suppose the first part of the exercise is a form of thanks.

    If you want to see thankfulness taken to the heights of the ridiculous, just watch any Academy Awards Show.

    • Thank you, Gary – and I do mean that. You appear to have a family life and candor I am sure many would be thankful for. Perhaps I was a bit too harsh in my cynicism; I do appreciate your artful way of pointing that out. And, speaking of art, I agree about the awards shows. I’ll thank them to take them off the air. Marco

  2. “Old age ain’t for sissies” applies very much to my mother. She is nearly 82 years old and has Parkinson’s disease, yet she still manages to walk a mile every day, and is an active Girl Scout. Despite our issues and differences, I am thankful for her continued existence.

    I tend to be more thankful “for” than thankful “to”. I am thankful most days to still be alive. There are days when depression gets the best of me, but not yet so strongly as to want me to end my life. I am thankful each day to know that you are still on this earth. I wish all of your days were healthy and pain-free, but I am selfish enough to want my friend despite whatever life hands us.

    My belief (as I’ve stated before) is that the large things in life are destined, and have been “given” to us by a universal source from which we come, and to which we will return upon our death. The way in which we respond to these things, as well as all the minutia of daily life, are under our control. There is no one or nothing to praise or blame for our lives.

    You have been one of my large things.

  3. Thank you, Rose. Your mother sounds like an inspiration and I wish her continued good life. I share your view of the cosmos/universe, seeing it as Conscious – though that doesn’t endorse any theology. Furthermore, I extend that all encompassing view to even the little things, though I do not subscribe to extreme determinism. Somehow, the randomness of the quantum world meshes with the order of the macro world and we interpret that mesh in ways which allow (some of us) to function. That said, I would have to extend a sense of thankfulness to literally everything “Past, Present and Future” which, in my appreciation of Isness, I feel I do. Specific thanks, then, are irrelevant, even superfluous.

    But I will definitely affirm I am thankful for you.

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