I count myself blessed to be one such individual.
But for a great number of our fellow earthly beings, the day-to-day events of this season are much the same as any other. Life is hard, clean water is scarce or non-existent, good food is a dearly sought privilege, and even the modest act of taking a comfortable nap in a snug home is an unfathomable dream.
And I don't mean to bum anyone out about this, but I believe it is important to acknowledge the greater context of life in order to be truly appreciative of the quality of the microcosm where each of us live.
The "First Thanksgiving," as many of us learned in grammar school, dates to the 1600s and a time when Pilgrims were still very much foreigners in this land we Americans now call home.
This "harvest feast" brought together our ancestral immigrants with our nation's native citizens, and the heart of the celebration then was thankfulness for these diverse cultures having found, at least for a short time, a way to live side-by-side with each other and prosper from each other's knowledge, skill, and means of survival in an often harsh world.
Washington's first proclamation, after his inauguration as the nation's first president in 1789, declared November 26, 1789, as a national day of "thanksgiving and prayer." Of course buy this time, the cause for thankfulness had been transmuted to a victory celebration, us fledgling Americans having defeated Great Britian, "the greatest military power on the face of the Earth," in the Revolutionary War (1775-83).
In 1863, during the ongoing battles of the Civil War (1861-65), Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the "last Thursday of November.. as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise..." Obviously, the focal point of Thanksgiving had changed again and was not a common bond amongst citizens of the North and the South.
By the mid-1900s, during the "Ozzie and Harriet" days of our American cultural youth, the focal point of Thanksgiving had again evolved, embellished with the hues of Norman Rockwell caricature and "Daddy Knows Best" brigades:
"Nobody ever raised their voice and all problems were resolved equitably - in less than half an hour! Women gladly cooked and cleaned, dressed in pearls and high heels, no less, while awaiting the arrival home of the all-knowing husband." FiftiesWeb
An entire generation of us Americans, myself included, grew up believing that this was the way life was "supposed to be" and that Thanksgiving was the hallmark celebration of it.
Wow... were we in for a shock.
Now we're here in the early years of the 21st Century and for many of us, as I said in the beginning of this musing, life (albeit quite different than we expected) is fundamentally pretty good.
So good, in fact, that we have become a tad complacent. Content to kick back, prop our feet up, smell the roasting turkey, watch the parades and games on TV, do some shopping on the Web and maintain polite oblivion to the socio-political trends that are afoot.
What are these trends? Well... Do you really need me to tell you? Read the headlines. Ponder the subtext. Think about the values we "say" are nearest and dearest to our Red, White & Blue hearts.
The hard won freedom to simply "be who we are" is under siege in the name of Homeland Security. The liberties our ancestors fought and died for are being subjugated by the stroke of political pens.
And we, all the while, are doing our dandiest to NOT pay any attention to the far reaching ramifications of our own contempt. We shy from involvement, are too busy (making money) to make waves, and don't want to risk rocking our own boat.
In light of which I'm pressed to wonder, what now is Thanksgiving really all about?
The Merchant of Venice...
"But I am bound to add that I pity the man who cannot enjoy Shakespeare. He has outlasted thousands of abler thinkers, and will outlast a thousand more." George Bernard Shaw
So the deal about the plot in Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" is this: The Jews hate the Christians and the Christians hate the Jews. And they will, respectively, go to great lengths to insult, humiliate, and lay asunder each other.
And the subtext is that the Jews really just want to be accepted as friends and neighbors, but the Christians want to "convert" them to a "better way" of life.
Yet the fact is that none of them are living according to the "truth" (they say) they are sworn to uphold.
And the story is not really about Christians and Jews, per se ... It's about all of us "winners and losers." About the foolish, self-aggrandizing, discourteous and conniving contrivances we wear like fine gabardine; firmly hard-finished with hypocritical stitchery.
Shakespeare's play is a pageant of tragic irony.
O father Abram! what these (winners and losers) are, Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect The thoughts of others! The Merchant of Venice. Act i. Sc. 3.
Why do we... How can we... From where did the tendency come for any of us to "suspect" the internal motivations of others if we have not hidden somewhere in our own un-sub-consciousness these same motivations our selves?
Where is our purity of heart? And more, what has happened to our faith? Where have we put our trust?
In "The Merchant...," its pretty obvious that while Christian and Jew alike are running round spinning mythologies about reverence to their uniquely distinct (yet intrinsically wholistic) Creator (or is that Creatrix?)... that their heads and their hearts are completely caught up with vesting their interests in the material realm.
The wealth of Antonio's attention is firmly fixed upon his merchant doings and upon utilizing all this worldly resource to enable his pal, Bassanio to find favor with the woman of his dreams, the fair lady Portia.
"My purse, my person, my extremest means, Lie all unlock’d to your occasions," says Antonio.
But what, exactly, are these "occasions" of which Antonio speaks? Does it matter that Bassanio owes money to Antonio? Does it matter that Bassanio has squandered his own small fortune? And what of the lady Portia... does it matter that she, by virtue of worldly inheritance, is filthy rich?
Subtext. Life is filled with it. Hidden motivation and covert agendas. Who among us has not carried one? Yet the doing of this for any "believer," whether Muslim, Christian or Jew, is the antithesis of sacrosanct.
Clearly no one is justified before God by the law (aka: material riches), because, "The righteous will live by faith."
Out of the Inbox...
Also, Archer reminds us: "Don't forget about the annual Leonid meteor storm next Tuesday morning, November 19. According to this NASA article, many North Americans can expect to see between 500-1000 shooting stars an hour at the peak. What a wonderful treat the Universe is sharing with us."
Autumn in the Ozarks...
I enjoy the "aliveness" that comes with such bents of "whether".... Do we do this? Or that? Can we fit both (or all three) into our (family/business/personal) schedule(s)? What gets our top priority? Who among us can take up the slack?
Yet I've always loved the (purposefully backwards) line in "Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory", where Gene Wilder says, "So much time, so little to do." It struck me, the first time I heard it, as an important point being made about the greater context of life.
It was like an inaudible sprite in my ear, whispering answers to questions larger than I could surmise. Uttering a kind of universal truth about life's greatest secrets and the mysteries of destiny, in a language I nearly recognized but could only begin to perceive.
All of which is my 'round about way of saying that during these times of passion, expression, solidarity, and the building of communal strength, I find it important -- and in fact essential -- to remember to smell the roses along the path.
Thus in the interest of sharing this sweet breath of life with everyone near and dear to us, we've put together a little "Arkansas Pictorial: Autumn in the Ozarks." just for you to view!!!
Arkansas Secretary of State Election Results
WHO'S RUNNING FOR OFFICE?
MORE VOTER RESOURCES:
FAMILY COUNCIL VOTER'S GUIDE
PROJECT VOTE-SMART "For reliable meat-and-potatoes political information, research experts nearly all recommend Project Vote Smart..." The New York Times
And should the spirit so move you to muse introspectively through a (somewhat symmetrical yet sometimes opposed) range of ideologies about the concepts supporting and collaborative implementation of the principles and standards inherent to Liberty, Democracy and Justice... have a gander at:
Finally, for those of you who believe that you have encountered or been subjected to any measure of civic impropriety with your local balloting system or election process here in the Great State of Arkansas, you are encouraged, as I understand it, to contact the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Their team will take voter complaints WHILE THE POLLS ARE OPEN!!! Reportedly, the phone numbers are 501-324-5342 or 800-379-2554 and callers are requested to "ask for the duty attorney."
Also, according to the Project Vote Smart site, the Arkansas Secretary of State "Elections Division Hotline" is 800-482-1127.
(NOTE: At the time of posting -- Sunday, Nov. 3, 2:00pm -- I did not attempt to verify the above information.)
Finally, on my homefront today, there is so much rattling 'round in my head that I could sit here schmoozing with you for the next couple of hours, but.... It's the first of the month, I have two pressing deadlines to meet and the last several days have been loaded with pleasant surprises, good company, and an accumulating work load.
Thus our gab-fest shall have to sit on the back burner for a little while now, because as someone wrote in an email I received recently, "There is a quickening going on."
"Decisions are made by those who show up. Rock the VOTE!!!"
Hey! Come visit us at SassafrasWilds!!!
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