How to recognize genuine Gratitude when you feel it
(hint: it’s not all “happy”).
I should not assume folks have read me, or Elephant, for years, though many millions have—I’m proud of talking about vital issues, like the thorough, disgusting, immoral, and awful rape and murder of our Indigenous sisters and brothers, long before it was mainstream or common.
“Thanksgiving is about, well, giving thanks.
Thanksgiving is about family, and community, about gathering, slowing down, about coming together from around the country and irritating the hell out of one another. It’s probably my favorite holiday—holy day—a day when simple communion around the table has held sway against our speedy, materialistic tendencies for generations.
But, of course, there’s a dark lining to this sacred, ordinary day.
We’ve also done extensive reporting on the origins of Thanksgiving, and articles about and by our Native communities.
The history of Thanksgiving is full of atrocities, genocide, the worst of humanity.
And, too, the present ritual of coming together to Give Thanks is essential, now—a time for slowing down & reconnecting in this consumerist speedy gluttonous rapacious society.
We must be honest in our history, and grateful in our present.
How we used to see Thanksgiving:
What it is:
Some true history:
Cheerful Thanksgiving to you and yours.
I’ve written before that this is my favorite holy-day (after my birthday, of course). For Thanksgiving is about acknowledging the sea we’re swimming in but too often fail to see. A sea of, hopefully, good fortune, privilege, health, a safe roof over our heads, loving community and family.
And in the areas where we feel lack, giving thanks reminds us to have the resilience and bravery to be open about our needs, and our losses, and our grief, and taking steps to grow and learn and heal, whether it’s through eating disorder therapy or exercise or meditating in the morning or joining Elephant’s writing program to help find your voice.
This year, I lost a lot. My dog, my fiancée, and 20 of Elephant’s extraordinary staff along with much of my dream to create an independent media platform for millions of beings to connect and be of benefit. And yes, I keep on keeping on, and many of you do, too.
And I’ve found myself…so close to rock bottom…rotting in loneliness…
…being grateful for what I do have.
I have the love of a mother. The love of a dear friend, who’s been there for me when I’ve been at my lowest, and who I’ve been there for when he’s at his lowest. Other friends, and golden community. My bicycle. My home sweet home. My work, that I believe in and enjoy! My memories of a well-lived, imperfect but caring, trying to help life. (Most of) my health. My books—Thoreau, Fitzgerald, histories, children’s books. My love of the ordinary things in life.
But most of all, my appreciation for what I have and how fragile is it, and what others don’t have, and how painful that is. It inspires me to want to help, and serve, our greater and local good, both. And for those who seem to have everything, but are selfish, craven, greedy…I do not want what they have, for as Dr. Seuss put it, their hearts are five sizes too small to truly enjoy those things.
When I was a child, and we didn’t want to finish our meal, our parents and many of us kids would remind ourselves, “Think about the Ethiopians.”
There was a vast and awful famine going on.
Now, I think about the Ukrainians. I think about our Iranian sisters and brothers, protesting in real risk of losing their lives, when most of us Americans can’t be bothered to vote (27% of Gen Z voted, say).
I think of the Nepali and Indian and Pakistani laborers who paid $4,000, often, only to be enslaved and make a meager living in Qatar (most of us are still happy to watch the slave-built, gay-hating, women-suppressing World Cup, or make money off of it). I think of immigrants, trying with all their heart to give their family a safe life. I think of our gay friends, shot up only miles away from my home, and the callous comments of our own Elephant fans on social saying, whatever, having all-out access to guns of war is more important than caring or changing.
And this is what gratitude feels like…
Not self-satisfied privilege and greedy wealth as we’re seeing with Elon and his Tesla board, gluttons at the trough of wealth, burying their fear by heaping gold upon their egos.
…Gratitude feels like this: that mix of broken heart and caring and love, genuine love, brave, vulnerable, heartwarming love. That’s Thanksgiving. And I wish that unto you. For that is the emotion, the feeling that is at the root of our being, our basic goodness, or Buddha Nature, and it has the power to flood and heal and cheer our world with kindness.
PS: Go Vegan.