With war in the Middle East and the religious right tightening their hold on our fair nation (recent Democratic victories notwithstanding), it can be difficult for the politically aware to find much to feel hopeful about. Chemicals are in the air and water and war is breaking out all over the damned place. For the youth of America, the future looks less than sparklingly bright.
The current goings-on in this world of ours sure read a lot like the Book of Revelation sometimes. As many of us were born into and grew up in Reagan’s America, we came into a world that was becoming more and more anaesthetized to its own disenchantment.
With hundreds of cable channels, better brands of antidepressants and the corporate culture getting more and more sly as to what the populace wants to fill its empty places, it’s becoming hard to feel anything at all. When we shake ourselves awake from the low-grade night terror that is modern life, we often find few reasons to hope and many to experience dread.
So, in a world where, as the bumper stickers say, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” what is there to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?
All you have to do is look around you. The leaves on the trees are changing colors and falling off, making a rainbow carpet through the Park Blocks and all through the city. The early, cool evenings lend themselves to cozy chats inside and give us excuses to buy cocoa or cider. The accursed rain will eventually bring about a gorgeous, verdant spring and another suffocatingly hot summer (but this is supposed to be the cheerful part of the article). Every morning the sun comes up, whether or not we can see it through the clouds, and every day we continue to breathe is another day we have to find reasons to go on.
Cynicism has its place, I suppose. Outrage is useful if it helps us get something accomplished. There are reasons to despair, plenty of them. The problem is that so few people make the effort to appreciate what’s all around them, all the time.
We take our lives for granted or we rail against all the things in the world that we think shouldn’t be the way they are. It’s easy to find things to get upset about. All you have to do is turn on the television or pick up a newspaper, and it’s there: injustice, suffering and pain. But it may be even simpler to find tons of stuff to be happy about.
Think about it: the world will go out of its way to make us miserable. Paper cuts and bruises and breakups and the shower running out of hot water – there are so many things that can ruin a whole day, or even an hour. We don’t have to go out of our way to meet trouble.
It’s also true, though, that there’s beauty all around us all the time. The way the sky reflects from a puddle, a funny exchange with a barista, getting a B+ on a test you were sure you’d flunked. We take these little doses of good as if they’re insignificant, as if they’re something we don’t have to pay any attention to. And then we bitch about how much our lives suck.
It’s become almost fashionable to be pissed off all the time. No outfit is complete without a chip jauntily placed on the shoulder. But wouldn’t it be daring and different to try, at least for an afternoon, to try to find things to feel happy about? Wouldn’t it be totally crazy if we tried this Thursday to actually think of the things we’re thankful for?
Or would it just be too uncool for words? After all, who wants to hang out with a happy person? What if it’s contagious? Would your friends still speak to you if you smiled all the time? What if you went out of your way to try to show people what’s worth being jazzed about?
Go, enjoy your turkey or tofurkey or whatever it is you cool Portland kids eat. Even if you can’t stand your family, try to find something good in each of them. What do you have to lose? Sure, the world is messed up. But you don’t have to be.