It's Thanksgiving Day in the United States. In the rest of the world, I gather, it's a regular day.
The real point of Thanksgiving seems to be to overeat, spend time with family members, and rest up for shopping tomorrow (big sales start in a few hours).
My wife has made a couple of pumpkin pies. I've got a vegan Tofurky cooking in the oven. There's thankfulness pouring out of every pore of our daily newspapers and Internet news sites.
I'm not big on holidays. I don't like following a societal script. Be thankful on Thanksgiving. Be worshipful on Christmas. Be patriotic on the Fourth of July.
Well, maybe I don't feel like it.
Today, though, it happens that I was planning to write about a subject that can be easily fitted into the thankfulness theme. To me, it's the ultimate -- and foundational -- "thank you." Because without it no other appreciation can be offered.
Be thankful you're not dead. Or, put more positively, Be thankful you're alive.
Any other sort of thanks fades into insignificance compared to this. I've harped on this theme in other blog posts. I'll almost certainly do so again. The reason:
Many times a day now, not continuously but frequently, I'm struck by a sensation that isn't a feeling, or a thought, or a perception, or an understanding, or any other categorizable content of my consciousness.
Rather, it's more an overarching knowing about what awaits my consciousness. And everybody else's.
Which, given my churchlessness, is a word that carries with it a big fat series of question marks, extending into infinity.
??????????????????????????????????... No comforting assurance of continued aliveness anywhere along the line.
I used to shun this honest assessment of what likely awaits me after my last breath and heartbeat. Namely, nothing.
Instead, I clung onto conceptions that told me, "Reincarnation is real. Or you might hit the karmic jackpot and do some soul-soaring after death, rising to a higher sphere where peachy-keen life will be yours forever."
Well, that'd be cool. But I'm not counting on it. And it's not what my existential gut is telling me -- the "this is it, dude, all there is" intuitive knowing.
For which I'm grateful.
Because if there's life after death, I'll take it. Gladly (more accurately, ecstatically). However, there's no way to know this will happen. And believing that it will dilutes the probably one-and-only life that each of us is living now.
Religious believers frequently say that life is meaningless if there is no God. Bullshit.
Actually, life is much more meaningful with no God, no belief in life after death, no expectation that heaven and hell are anything other than what is here and now.
This is hard to put into words.
What I experience in those knowing moments is a sense of wonder, of awe, of unimaginably deep appreciation for being alive -- because I realize that there won't be any more living for me to do, ever, than this lifetime.
Sometimes this makes me feel a sense of urgency to get going on important, significant, legacy-like things before death comes and they can't be done. Usually, though, I simply feel thankful that I'm able to do whatever I'm doing at the moment.
I just took the Tofurky out of the oven. I forgetfully tried to lift the glass cover off of the casserole with my bare fingers. Ouch!
The pain, however, was part of life. Ever so much existentially better than not existing at all.
And now I'm about to eat what appears to be a delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner (though I didn't read the fine print on the Tofurky box and defrosted the dumplings before boiling them, so add another adjective, "misshapen," to "delicious" and "vegetarian").
There's a lot to be thankful for, no matter our life situation. The heartiest thanks should go to Life itself, however.
No need to posit a giver of life, such as God. No need to assume a continuation of life, such as reincarnation or salvation. No need to know our condition before we were born or after we are dead.
Now. Life. Living. Gratitude. That's it.
And it's plenty. In fact, perfect.