“Thanksgiving in the USA. Of a time when food was scarce. Now abundant, at dinner we over-eat even more than we usually do.” — Neil deGrasse Tyson
Despite the oddity surrounding the circumstances which precipitated our holiday of “thanks,” I’d like to take the time to conform to this American tradition and roughly adumbrate things this year has brought me so far. It’s too seldom that I–or my friends and family–give thanks openly and around each other. Our culture tends to glorify those who are hard-working and independent which, as a result, conditions us to dislike those who ask for or need “handouts.” But everyone needs a handout from time to time. There is no harm in that. Altruism is one of the strongest, most positive traits of human kind.
When we think of Thanksgiving, we need not think of the alleged pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. If we are to look into the distant past at all, I would argue that we reflect on the unchecked despotism the early American settlers enacted upon the natives. Let us reflect on the octicimation of their population, not all intentional, but fatal all the same. Let us remember that these lands are stolen property, and this Earth is patient with our failures and abuses. That, I believe, would be a true empathic exercise.
So what am I thankful for? Well I suppose I would begin by being thankful for the cosmos, which may sound fatuously large-scale, but without it we would not exist. This is to include not only the planet on which we find ourselves alive, but the Universe which contains it.
In terms of my education, I am thankful to have stopped vacillating between major choices. I am now a self-declared Philosophy & English double major. I have realized that I am not to follow the traditional path America has lain out for me; instead, I shall be a lifelong learner. The play between thought, language, and reality will never cease to fascinate me and I don’t believe these topics will come to firm conclusions any time soon.
I am thankful for the sciences, large and small, who have messily saved countless lives and, in many ways, allowed us to create the (decent) society we participate in today. I am thankful for science educators and researchers and philosophers alike who contribute to the advancement of our global community. I am thankful for those who research into human health so I can read their work and not die any time in the near future.
I am thankful for the immense intellectual door-stoppers left behind by dead people, such as Christopher Hitchens, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sigmund Freud, Carl Sagan, and many others. I have read more books in 2014 than I believe I have in my entire life and hope to double that by next year.
I am thankful for nature and my growing love for her. I have adopted several plants throughout my house and garden this year and, as a result, have started noticing my perception of the world shift a bit. I am thankful for my cats, Smokie and Zuko. They are my “mobile decorative objects,” to borrow from Muriel Bradbury, but also my friends.
I am thankful for those in my life who are, above all else, willing to be honest and listen. Those two characteristics are invaluable in a person. Honesty is nothing particularly profound, but without it, we would be living in a rather backwards world. The willingness to listen is indispensable. Taking the time to listen to others is the best way to learn about yourself. I mean to say, in other words, that whether you listen to your friends or audiobooks or debates online is irrelevant. Listening to others is fascinating and is one of the most helpful tools to facilitate empathy towards people.
Those are simply a handful of things I find myself thankful for this year. I could absolutely expand this list. There have been beautiful moments of camaraderie, fascination, struggles, trips, and isolated serenity. Hopefully “future me” won’t come back and criticize this list to hell.
And finally, what am I hopeful for in the years to come? (And these will be slightly naive and ridiculous and fallacious: point acknowledged.)
I would hope to see true equality emerge in the world, creating a global community not separated by country lines and province divides. We are one and the same: Life. This planet is the only chance we currently are aware about to keep life alive. So far, I would argue, we are not doing a fantastic job of breaking down these barriers. We can do better.
I would hope to see self-driving cars take over the methods of transportation in the world. I don’t currently have access to recent global car crash rates, but in the United States alone, each year over 30,000 lives are brutally ended in wrecks. Self-driving cars would eliminate the vast majority of that senseless killing, reduce stress in general, eliminate the insanity of insurance rates, police tickets, and perhaps (getting optimistic here), removing the need of owning cars altogether.
I would hope to see space travel to become commercialized AND accessibly priced. We have the technology budding, its simply a matter of time.
I would hope to see the Internet continue to grow freely and without legislative barriers. Filtering human consciousness is of no concern to a “democracy” (I’m looking at you, U.S.A.) and to do so is to hinder innovation of all forms, most notably social progress.
Again, Future-Blake will likely return to this post with consternation. Hopefully, but hopefully not. Those are my thoughts for today. Happy Thanksgiving, and stay curious.