It is kind of funny. I woke up today and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to blog about. That is pretty rare for me, usually my thoughts don’t really coalesce until I meditate, go for a run, do my readings, and/or some hours pass. Some days, the thoughts never come and I turn to a small list of “potential blog posts” that I have on a post-it note next to my computer.
But no, not today. I knew what the subject would be and, of course, my readings inspired another several potential posts. I thought about just adding them to the list but decided against it. The Muses are whispering in my ear, I’m not going to tell them, “Thanks, I’ll get to this tomorrow.” Instead, I’m going to try and touch on all the points. That means this may be a long post, or maybe it will just be a scattered one, I really won’t know until I get to the end.
In the US, today is Thanksgiving. This holiday, like many others, is a bastardized version of an agricultural festival, many of which have Pagan roots reaching back thousands of years. The word “Pagan” comes from the Latin words pagus and paganus meaning “country, district, villager, rustic”. There is a certain irony that people in rural places of the US, who tend to be very Christian and conservative, would have been called pagans in the pre-Christian Latin world.
But I digress…
I’m not a huge fan of holidays, especially ones that have such, umm, troubled beginnings. The US has linked Thanksgiving to early colonization of the continent and that cannot be divorced from genocide and enslavement. The meeting honored by the holiday of pilgrims and Native Americans coming together in peace had terrible consequences for the Native American population. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine that this day is not celebrated by many of the ~3 million Native Americans in the US.
Did you know that the traditional “first Thanksgiving” in 1621 was attended by Squanto, the last member of the Patuxet band of the Wampanoag tribe (whic was wiped out . Squanto learned English while a slave in England and his tribe was wiped out by plagues that may have come from colonizers… so that’s fun.
So, I have mixed feelings about today. I LOVE the idea of a day of thanks and reflection on the blessings in our lives, especially if it includes recognizing our privilege and working to improve the lives of other. Linking it to a harvest festival makes sense as we give thanks to the Earth for its bounty and the ability to live through another winter of harsh weather. But do we really need to link it to the Pilgrims and genocide? Can we not find a more inclusive way to celebrate the idea of “thanks” and “harvest”?
I’m not even sure this change would need to be a legal one, it can be a cultural shift. There is no reason that giving thanks and harvest can’t be celebrated without the Pilgrims. Or we could even tell a complete story and admit how terrible many of the results were. Is our society and patriotism so fragile that we must sugarcoat our history? That is what you do with children, not adults.
I will admit, Thanksgiving is less problematic than most holidays based on people. I stand by my previous statement that there should not be any holidays named after people. If there are things that person stood for then the holiday can be based on that. We can change:
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday to Civil Rights Day
- George Washington’s Birthday to Leadership Day or something (TIL, “President’s Day” isn’t an official holiday, it is still “George Washington’s Birthday” according to law)
- Columbus Day to Exploration Day
Etc… That makes holidays more inclusive. People are problematic and their negative actions (which range from minor to absolutely unforgivable in the list above) cannot be divorced from the person or the holiday. As much as the modern Federal government is treated more like a religion than anything else, I think we should avoid deifying people. If there are principles to celebrate and reflect on (and I think there are!) then let’s do that instead of trying to anthropomorphize ideas.
With all that criticism above I do want to honor the idea of thanks and the harvest. Here is an incomplete list of things that I’m thankful for:
- My overall mental and physical health
- My partner who continues to enrich my life in ways I couldn’t imagine
- A secure job and housing
- The health of my loved ones
- The help I’ve received from my therapist
- My dentist
- Modern medication
- The continued strengthening of my relationship with my parents and siblings
- Poncho the Cat and The Higgins
- Coffee and other drugs
- Financial security
- Those who challenged me and mentored me in the past
- My many friends around the world who accept me for who I am but don’t let me use that as an excuse for bad behavior
Whew, now on to the readings today that sparked some thought and reflection.
“Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On” – The quote from the end of today’s reflection is just sitting with me a little and I wanted to share.
Only in a house where one has learnt to be lonely, does one have this solicitation for things. One’s relation to them, the daily seeing or touching, begins to become love and to lay open to pain. – Elizabeth Bowen
“A Year with Rumi” – It has been a while since I quoted Rumi in this blog. Like I said before, I don’t really connect with his writing very easily. Today, things were a little different. “The Guest House” is probably one of his most famous poems but I think it is worth sharing again and reflecting on a bit.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
It is so easy and natural to try and embrace positive emotions and suppress negative emotions. We welcome in joy, happiness, and love, but ignore or push down sorrow, disappointment, and hate. I don’t think we should necessarily act on these negative emotions but we can’t pretend they don’t exist. They are a result of some disruption of our psychological homeostasis, they need to be observed and, in a way, honored. They are a messenger and message, they are not the root of any problems.
We all have a darkness in us. That is one of the major lessons I got from one of my very few LSD experiences. I have a darkness, I am not a being of light or goodness, I am a mixture and I (like you) are closer to committing “evil” acts than is comfortable to admit. But we must admit this, we must observe and respect our darkness, if we don’t then it will grow powerful and toxic. Problems don’t go away by turning your back on them, that only guarantees that you won’t see them coming when they want to stab you.
“The War of Art” – The Muses are among us whispering inspiration into our minds. Are you listening? I’m usually not… But they keep trying and they are rooting for me. The blocks that come up are my own creation, not theirs. They live on a different plane of existence, they do not grow tired or impatient, but someday I will die and be beyond their reach. I honor them for their divine nature and pray to them, sustain me for my song. I don’t need sparks of inspiration, I need the strength to endure the time and hardships that are required for me to do my Work.
That’s all for today (maybe). I hope you all have a wonderful day that gives you a bit of what you need, whether that is time with your family eating or time alone or just a normal day. I love you.
Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions: pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”