"My cup runneth over." Those words from the 23rd Psalm seem especially appropriate as we approach the last Thanksgiving of the millennium. Actually, they seem appropriate regardless of our place in the millennium. The millennium is an arbitrary human marker. Such markers provide us with an excuse to reminisce or to prognosticate, but have no objective significance.
The coming of the millennium has even less significance than birthdays and anniversaries and is more arbitrary than the other markers of time we use to order our lives. The debate that rages over whether the next millennium will begin in 2000 or 2001 is emblematic of the confusion. "In 2001", say the purists, asserting that since there was no year "Zero," counting started with "one" and therefore, a thousand years didn't pass until 1001 and so forth. But there was no year "one" either, or two or three or four.
Counting didn't begin for centuries and even then, the exact year of Jesus' birth, and thus the advent of the "Common Era" is not known. (From my childhood memories of the Christmas SkyShow at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, it seems to me the actual date may have been what we now call the 4 C.E. (or A.D.) But that memory, too, is shrouded by the mist of years.
But I digress.
Thanksgiving is fast upon us. A marker of more than arbitrary significance. Although Thanksgiving clearly has a historical basis and commemorates the experience of the early Pilgrims and their thanks to God for their survival and for God's bounty in very difficult times, it is more an occasion for pause in the present than a commemoration of the past. Arbitrary in its position on the calendar, yet it demands that we take stock of where we are now and take at least a few moments to acknowledge the good in our lives. Perhaps it is the ability to do this which makes us fully human. This occasion demands not that we dwell in the past but, in a sense, that we live fully in the moment and acknowledge the present, in both senses of that word.
And the holiday is meaningful regardless of religious tradition. It is accessible to atheist as well as believer. It asks simply that we, however briefly, acknowledge the wonder of the world in which we live, regardless of our understanding of the source of that wonder. In its universality, it is the one truly American holiday. American in spirit, but one which we can export without guilt over imperialism. It is in itself a gift.
So we have set aside the Fourth Thursday of the Eleventh Month to make lists. Lists of that for which we give thanks. And to draw pictures of turkeys and black hats and to eat too much.
My list begins like this:
- I have a wonderful family.
- I have a beautiful wife who has become ten years younger in the past few years as she sets out in a new career.
- I have a magnificent daughter who brings joy and receives praise from all of our friends.
- I have a fantastic mother who has more energy in her late 80's than I have in my mid 50's.
- I have . . . .
What does it mean to have people?
We don't have them. We don't possess them. If we are lucky we share some time and space with them. Their lives touch ours and they allow us to touch theirs. And in that touching there is magic, power, joy - a deepening of who we are, for which, if we are lucky, we will take a moment and give thanks. And I do.
I also give thanks for the community in which we live. It is not a perfect community. Many of us received hate literature in our mailboxes over the last few months. (It even promised to explain the secrets of the Jews. I have been studying Talmud for years and gave up on Kabala - maybe someone found it easy.) But on a more personal level, in recent weeks a Jewish family found a swastika made of children's stickers on their front sidewalk. (Is there a lesson in the medium?)
But it is a community not afraid to come together to say this is not who we are.
After less than three weeks of planning, hundreds of my neighbors came together in a vigil against hate. An evening of symbolism and action. There was a candle light vigil and, as corny as it seemed at first, group dance - 250 people holding hands and changing partners in a circle on the darkened lawn.
Sixth grade girls presented a powerful piece of choreographed reader's theater. It made me proud of them and of their teacher. It gave me reason to give thanks.
This week a church that ministers to gays and lesbians, among others, received a vile threat of arson and worse on its web page guest book. Word began to spread by e-mail at the start of the weekend.
This Sunday morning, in the small, elegant, chapel -- space provided by a more mainstream congregation, members of more than a half a dozen other churches and synagogues joined with the members of the threatened congregation in solidarity. In the golden glow of the stained glass windows one after another visitor rose to convey messages of love and prayer. As the service drew to a close, large numbers of members of the host congregation and another congregation a mile away filed into the room, to the melody of organ music and a joyful hymn. Every inch along the walls and in the aisles was filled with worshipers praying with and over the threatened members. It was another powerful statement of community. One at a time representatives of the visiting congregations rose to express greetings of love and prayer.
I had planned to write this month about my theories about hate. But instead I give thanks for communities which refuse to give in - - to communities which try to be inclusive. To empower those who otherwise would feel the least among us.
This season's movies, from Summer of Sam to the Fight Club give us much to think about. Clues as to hopelessness and hate. But rather, let us give thanks and continue to work to empower all who feel powerless. To enable all who feel hopeless and helpless. To diffuse rage and hate. We have this within our power.
Our cups truly do run over. Let us give thanks.
I also give thanks for this year's extended Fall. The forecasters said there would be no color in the trees this year. But instead, this Fall there has been one glorious day after another. Each beautiful day demands attention because it surely must be the last . . . and then this year, at least here in the Midwest, each has been followed by another. And I give thanks that we have been able to pause and enjoy at least some of them.
We do have things. And for that we are also grateful.
An honest job that leaves me the time to take walks in the woods, and to surf the web, and gives me the wherewithal to provide for those I care about, and to buy other things for which I also give a measure of thanks.
My cup truly does run over. Which brings me to another subject. The image of a cup running over conveys a gentle feeling of fullness and sufficiency. But imagine a glass full of water sitting in a sink. Now imagine turning on the faucet full force. In an instant the glass will be only half full.
Last month I made the leap, after ten years of dial-up communications I got cable modem access. While I have noticed download speeds of over 400 kb/sec., during peak hours speed can still slow to less than one kilobyte. I have the sinking feeling that it is not worth it but that I will never be able to go back to my old dial-up and my 56 k modem (speeds between 33.6 and 44.0). Now that I have downloaded a 14 meg file in a few minutes, have I lost my innocence? Time will tell.
For useful information on getting the most out of your cable modem take a look at The Navas Cable Modem/DSL Tuning Guide.
Along with the cable modem came cable t.v. Nearly 100 channels. Strangely, most of the time I find nothing on I want to see. It is just too much to figure out. Too much, too fast. The cup is spilling out. I will definitely be cutting back after the trial period is over.
It is too soon to give a full report on the pros and cons of cable access. Stay tuned.
With the advent of cable access came a strange coincidence. A few days later, George Matyaszek, the sysop of the Syslink BBS announced he was ending service after 18 years. I became a subscriber nearly ten years ago. I still logon every morning to check mail and play a trivia game. It was Syslink that got me hooked. The gift of a 1200 baud modem had destroyed my willpower. Since Syslink started keeping statistics I have logged on there over 7600 times.
George's little BBS opened up a world to me. My family and community are very important. The Internet is my hobby not my life. But I would be remiss, if at this time I did not express my thanks to George, as well. If anyone is interested in buying George's TBBS system, software and hardware, drop me a note. Thanks, George.
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Copyright 1999 Leonard Grossman
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