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Thanks for the Dialogue

November 25, 2016

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today's post.

"Thanksgiving is the greatest example of what a great dinner should be: a meal that welcomes people of all religious, political or ethnic persuasions. The table is the great equalizer, and everyone around that table gets along with one another and enjoys life with family and strangers alike."- Jacques Pepin

According to Merriam-Webster, "gratitude" is the "state of being grateful". According to the same, "thanks" means "kindly or grateful thoughts". The difference is profound. To offer thanks, one does not necessarily have to be in the state of mind of gratitude. Instead, thanks is a simple acknowledgement of appreciation. It is momentary and unembodied whereas gratitude, an entire state of being, is every bit about the present moment. Do thoughts pass as quickly as a state of being? Is a state of being the same thing as an emotion? Are thoughts developed from our state of being?

Thanksgiving is an entire day set aside to dwell on the idea of thanks, but also on the fact that we exist together and depend upon each other – as one society. This is still as true today as it was in the beginning, so why does it always bring up quaint images in our minds? We still decorate the table with turkeys and we still talk of pilgrims. Of course, because it refers to an actual event in American history, our brains automatically think of the first Thanksgiving. There is something to be said for honoring the original event, of course. Thanksgiving is meant to pull on our emotions a bit, to make us remember the people or things that we are grateful for. Which is why I find it odd that Thanksgiving does not also have a strong musical tradition. Holiday music seems to be targeted at the much more commercial holidays like Christmas or Hannukah. These holiday songs ask that we be present, enjoy the moment, celebrate our families, health and resources. And yet, it is this holiday season that often creates more stress in an American lifestyle.

The entire holiday season is daunting for a number of reasons. First, winter always causes delays and unknown weather patterns. People generally receive work and school breaks, which may disrupt schedules. There are parties and family events and friendly gatherings, which are wonderful, but can overwhelm us because they demand additional time. And so we have this one day, this day of gratitude, to wonder about the years of human history, our own ancestors and where we fit into it. I think it is nice to have a quiet moment to enjoy music dedicated to holidays, to enjoy the family, to celebrate with wine and rich food. Whether your version of Thanksgiving is silly, like Adam Sandler's Thanksgiving song, or more solemn, like Johnny Cash's Thanksgiving Prayer, we wish you the best.

Either way, Thanksgiving is about people and sharing. Celebrate with those we love. Celebrate with strangers. The point, I think, is to celebrate. In the case of Harrison Middleton University, we celebrate your participation in discussion and great ideas. We are grateful for the fact that you enjoy dialogue of complicated issues and ancient texts. Enjoy the holiday and we look forward our next discussion!
 

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