Whether a person is religious, spiritual, rational and/or philosophical, a common sentiment expressed today is that we should each be thankful for the loving people and good things in our lives. We should also be cognizant of the fact that there are a lot of people the world over who live lives much worse than we do and so, I suppose, we should be grateful that we aren't them!
In taking a look at this word, thankful
, we find that it means to be appreciative (to admire greatly; value) and grateful (Appreciative of benefits received; Affording pleasure or comfort; agreeable). It would appear to be a word that most usually is associated with happiness and good feelings.
Unfortunately, I find this connotation to be a bit problematic.
For starters, if you believe in an invisible man in the sky or some other such place, you may well believe that this supernatural entity has a specific plan for your life. If your life is predicated on this divine plan, then everything that happens to you -- good and bad, loving and hateful, beautiful and ugly -- is part of the master blueprint.
Consequently, from my perspective, if you truly desire to be thankful, then you've got to be thankful for the whole shebang
. That means you must be thankful for all the good fortune you've experienced throughout the past year as well as all the downright shitty and excruciatingly painful times.
But how realistic is that? In years past, I don't recall attending a family Thanksgiving feast in which the festivities were launched by chronicling all the misfortune everyone around the table had suffered through. Can you imagine Uncle Bob raising a glass of wine to say, "Today we give thanks to God for all he has provided this year. We thank him for sister Debbie's stillborn child, cousin Tommie's death from a heroin overdose, Aunt Delores's amputated left leg from cancer, grandpa Steve's bankruptcy and let's not forget about my divorce in which the ex took me to the cleaners
! All praise to God."
No, that's not the kind of thing most people hear around the table. Rather than list off all the negative circumstances of the last twelve months, we hear about all the good fortune and favorable situations. We hear about the births, marriages, graduations, raises, promotions and anything else slightly positive and pleasurable.
It would seem that such people are thankful only for those aspects of the master plan that make them feel good about themselves.
A Taoist Thanksgiving would encounter a similar problem. Since most of us don't believe in a supernatural entity, who exactly do we thank? One really can't thank Tao because the Way is impersonal and impartial. It has no designs on anyone's life and thanking it makes no difference to it one way or the other.
Taoists realize that each life will have its good times and bad times, so if we choose to be thankful, we too should be thankful for our lives in their entirety.
Of course, since this particular Taoist doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving Day, it's not a problem for me. I'm not particularly thankful for anything and I don't mean this in a negative vein. I'm learning to accept life -- the good AND the bad -- for what it is; part of the journey that each of us must tread.