When this post goes live it will be Thanksgiving Day in the USA, a sacred tradition which is typically observed by millions of Americans attempting to eat themselves into a coma while tolerating relatives they would normally prefer to avoid. Or at least it seems that way.
There are harvest festivals in a lot of places and cultures, of course, but the US version (and I believe the Canadian which is about a month earlier thanks to the shorter growing seasons up there) has a big emphasis on being thankful for having whatever it is you’ve got – usually a whole lot of food along with decent accommodations (especially compared to what people’s lives used to be like), warmth, indoor plumbing, and all that other good stuff.
It’s not a bad way to look at things.
In my experience people who look at their lives and see only what they don’t have tend to be rather bitter and start thinking they deserve to have all that other stuff. People who look at their lives and see what they do have tend to be more inclined to both accept that sometimes you don’t get everything you want (which is not to say I’d object to one of those ridiculously immense lottery jackpots) and to work for the things they really do want. And people who have worked for something and achieved it are usually much happier with their lives and what they have and have done than people who just get whatever handed to them.
We humans seem to have a problem valuing things we don’t feel we’ve earned.
Gifts, obviously, are different – but at the same time, who hasn’t felt that if they’re given something they should in some way give something of equal value if not in return, then at an appropriate time in the future? It’s probably the same deep-seated urges that go with the resentment when someone gets a promotion they clearly didn’t earn. And may explain the way the people who win those ridiculous lottery jackpots have a tendency to blow it all in a short time frame.
This may also be why we feel kind of cheated when an Act of Author saves the hero and fixes everything too easily: the hero didn’t have to work for the victory, so it doesn’t feel right. Some deity showing up and saying, “Oh, you’re a good boy who sacrifices a goat every full moon, you can have a wonderful life with the lady of your dreams” just doesn’t cut it – it’s the fantasy equivalent of “… and he woke up and it was all a horrible dream”. Didn’t a big name TV drama kill itself with a plotline that pulled that stunt?
Anyway, even the uber-commercialized American Turkey Day ritual of eating way too much and spending the rest of the day groaning about an overloaded stomach has its good points: too often we don’t take time to appreciate meals. I know I’m guilty of this one: I tend to eat snacks most of the day and keep a stash of mostly healthy food so I actually snack healthy (mostly). But I don’t usually take the time to actually appreciate the food. It’s something that’s eaten during the day because it’s food time (to be fair, my hunger response is pretty much hosed, so I’d likely forget to eat if I didn’t have food times). Actually savoring the taste? I usually don’t.
Thanksgiving with its emphasis on food is a good reason to slow down and taste the turkey. Or whatever else it is that’s being eaten.