Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for humbly recalling the ways we have benefited from kindness or luck over the previous year. Unfortunately, that tradition has mutated into the start of a month-long buying binge that dishonors both the holiday and the self-sacrificing man whose birth is celebrated at its end.

This year, I have a lot to be thankful for. As I've been for the past eight years, I am first and foremost grateful for my wife Debbie being in my life; meeting her was the single greatest bit of luck I've ever had, and every minute I spend with her feels like a gift from a caring universe, a gift I try to be worthy of. I'm also thankful for more of the ability to understand what is necessary for the world to become a better place for the majority of people, and to find more hints about how to contribute to that. I was lucky enough to have a job a large part of the year so I could meet my financial obligations and catch up on basic maintenance that had been neglected the previous year.

I will be going light on shopping during this year's Gluttony Season for a number of reasons, not the least being an uncomfortable amount of debt. Perhaps most importantly, I'm finally feeling inoculated against over-consumption, to the point that shopping has become an almost nauseating experience – though I still have a weakness for books. Having struggled with guilt over the damage my lifestyle has inflicted on the world, both now and in the future, I've even seriously considered going the radical simplicity route.

A recent calculation showed that for civilization to survive in the long-term, all of us will need to learn to live on the equivalent of $3 per hour. For the poorest countries, that would involve a considerable pay raise. For the rest of us, it will take considerable creativity to keep from losing the gains in health and freedom that have accompanied our relatively huge wealth. Despite its uniquely American origins, Thanksgiving in its purest sense can be applied to the rest of the world through our simple decision to exercise that creativity and share its fruits with others as Native Americans once shared their knowledge of sustainable survival with starving immigrants from Europe.