Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time to Give Thanks

Before this weekend ends, the Empathic Rationalist would like to join in the Thanksgiving spirit.   No, that doesn’t include eating turkey.   This is strictly a tofurky zone, and the only “Turkey Day” we acknowledge is when some person makes enough of an ass of himself so as to deserve having a day recognized in his honor.   (How’s that for mixing a metaphor, animal lovers?)  Putting aside our dietary differences, I think we can all come together at this time of year to express gratitude.  What follows is my own attempt to take stock in some of our blessings.  To anyone or anything on this list, I offer my deepest thanks.

 1.      God

I wish to thank the Ultimate (God) for life itself.  Any other benefactor pales in comparison.

        2.  The Name of God

I am thankful that our species recognizes the idea of Divinity.  I realize that many have turned the Name into a divisive force – and some even kill over it -- but I remain thankful that we have reached out to the Infinite and developed a concept for the great mystery that engulfs all that exists.  Hopefully, someday, the Name will become as unifying a force as it has been a divisive one. 

3.  Street Protests

Some people in the media appear to look at street protests primarily through a lens of fear.  These journalists seem obsessed with the potential of protests to turn violent and breed lawlessness.  Clearly, they have a point.  But aren't they missing a more profound one?  I look at protests, or at least American protests, as a sign that in an increasingly complacent society, there are some people who still give a damn about fighting for higher causes.  I look at protests as a sign that in a society that in a society that increasingly seems to be controlled by a small, privileged minority, there are some people who still believe that "we the people" have some power.   
Do the “people” really have power?  Or have we hopelessly turned into an uncaring plutocracy?   Every time I see a protest, I gain a little more hope.  It really doesn’t matter why people are protesting or whether I agree with their cause, it still gives me hope.  When the protests end, that’s when we’ll know that 1984 is finally upon us.

       4.  Boycotts

Boycotts are similar to street protests in that, at least when they become widespread, they reflect a concerted effort to fight for a cause and against some symbol of the status quo.  In the last several months, the Empathic Rationalist has taken a stand against one type of boycott (those targeting the State of Israel) and in favor of another (those targeting the National Football League), so I clearly have strong feelings both for and against particular protests.  What I’m thankful for is the fact that protests exist as a way for people, peacefully, to express their commitment to a cause.

The folks who run organizations like the National Football League count on the fact that few people in our society believe in boycotts, so they can behave as badly as they want to and it won’t affect their precious revenue stream.  Thankfully, though, boycotts are a time-honored way to tell companies and organizations that “we the people” will only put up with so much B.S. and that we intend to send a message to their wallets.  May that tradition last a lot longer than my NFL boycott, which, after 12 weeks (or ¾ of a season), will partially come to an end after this weekend’s games.   You see, one of the great things about boycotts is individuals get to decide for themselves the scope and the duration of the boycott.

5.  Family
I remember studying Marxism when I was young and reading about how the institution of the “nuclear family” is decadent and should be abolished.  Well, I’m here to say that, thank God, we don’t live in a Marxist world.  I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, two beautiful and fascinating daughters, and two parents who have lived to the age of 90 (one of whom is still going strong at 93).  I can’t imagine what kind of dystopia this world would be like without the institution of family.  The phrase “lonely in a crowd” comes immediately to mind. 

     6.    The Evolving Movement Away from Bigotry and Violence

Journalists like to paint a picture of a world constantly at risk.  “Terror sells; reconciliation bores.”  That seems to be the motto of journalism today.

At the risk of boring you, let me request that you consider the results of sociological research.  Despite all the Chicken Littles who preach to us on TV and in the newspapers, the world is getting progressively more democratic, less violent, and less bigoted.  Just look at the facts and figures.   Here’s one of many fact-based articles that paints just the opposite picture from what you’d expect from the news:

And speaking of articles, last week in Washington, DC, dozens of imams and rabbis got together in an attempt to figure out a way to bring their respective communities together, and we actually got a little publicity.  Here’s one of the articles that emerged from that effort.

I am thankful to have been part of that DC imam-and-rabbi summit and hopeful that similar efforts will spring up in cities around the country and across the world. 

That’s all I have to say this Thanksgiving weekend.  Except for this – I am also thankful for all of you who read the Empathic Rationalist.  Hopefully, this part of cyberspace will continue to pique your interest during the upcoming year.

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