Tomorrow I’ll be being thankful, as will most Americans, over plates full of far too much food, glasses too full of wine, and desserts too plentiful to contemplate.
I’ll be thankful for all the things in my life that continue to be good, year after year. I have plenty of good friends. I have a good place to live. I’m safe and sound and healthy, despite my now having to deal daily with pills for blood pressure and cholesterol — stuff happens when you pass 50, and I used to think that was just a joke. I’m able to enjoy the things that I enjoy, and that’s very much worth being thankful for.
I’ll be thankful, even, for the things that have changed this year. The economy is awful, and I lost my job, as did many others around me. But I’ve found new work that makes me happy, and I’m thankful for that.
And people sometimes ask me to whom or what I’m thankful. As an atheist, I’m not thankful to God, to a god, to gods. I don’t thank any deity or other entity for what I have (or, as many would put it, for what has been given to me). What does it mean, then, for an atheist to “be thankful,” when there’s not someone to be thankful to?
This atheist, at least, treats this kind of thankfulness as a combination of introspection and contemplation of the state of the world. I understand, as I think about all these things, that there are many who don’t have them. There are people who are alone, people who are ill, people who are hungry, jobless, homeless, oppressed. I look at what I have that makes me happy, and I think about how I can help others be happy as well.
There’s plenty to think about, there, and plenty to contemplate doing about it. It does no good to “pray” for others less fortunate, because there’s no one to hear those prayers nor to answer them. But if my contemplation moves me to contribute in some way to helping them, that will be the real blessing. And there don’t need to be any gods around for that one.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you all have much to be thankful for.