Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks Where Thanks Is Due

I've just been reading up on the somewhat thorny history of Thanksgiving Day. Despite what our kindergarten teachers led us to believe, the holiday we celebrate here in North America (yes, the Canadians celebrate their version of TD as well) has very little to do with pilgrims and native Americans. Or turkey, for that matter.

It turns out that there is, unfortunately, a strong religious odor attached to the 18th C. version of TD. It wasn't until Lincoln's time that there was national recognition of a "thanksgiving day" and it wasn't until 1941 that the day became a national holiday by law.

Rather than review the data here, I'll leave it to you to do a little research if you're at all interested. Wikipedia's entry is a pretty good starting point.

So, as in years past, I want to give thanks to the people and circumstances that have given me joy, inspiration and a better understanding of the world this past year. I will spare you the personal litany of friends and family members, all of whom make my small life worth living.

Thank you to:

Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christoper Hitchens and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I became aware of their work this year (in the order listed, if you're keeping score) and they have helped me to become articulate about the non-theistic point of view I have had for many years. They've made it clear that I am not alone in finding the concepts of god and religion to be utterly without redeeming value.

Michael Moore, creator of the film SICKO, who has raised the awareness of millions of Americans (including me) about the true nature of our national health care disaster. Again, Moore has helped me articulate what I've felt for a long time (esp as a self-employed person) and has focussed my attention on very specific ways to get involved (such as supporting H.R. 676 and candidates who openly favor a national single payer system).

Al Gore, goofy and pedantic as he can be, for his work on global warming and, in particular, the film An Inconvenient Truth. This has been a good year for raising consciousness (I use the phrase in its most secular meaning). Gore's work is another example of how someone deeply involved in an issue can galvanize millions of others to take an issue seriously. Its about time.

Modern medical technology and the thoughtful, knowledgeable and caring health care workers who have made it possible for those I love to lead longer, healthier lives. But for the grace of modern medical care go I. A special tip of the hat to the makers of buproprion.

The authors Michael Chabon, Philip Roth, Daniel Levitan, Frank McCourt, Nina Shengold, Mary Oliver, Orhan Pamuk, Annie Proulx, James Hollis and Cormac McCarthy (plus others too numerous to mention). Their work has given me many hours of reading and contemplating pleasure.

The music of Dave Holland, Kenny Werner, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Michael Brecker, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Victor Wooten, Edgar Meyer, Miles Davis, Ben Allison, Radiohead, Steely Dan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stravinsky, J.S. Bach, Yo Yo Ma, The Beatles, Megon McDonough, Peter Polzak and, again, other composers and performers too numerous to note. Their art has inspired me to feel, play and, on occasion, compose.

All of the folks who have helped and supported my PlayJazzNow business in its first full year of operation. Jeff Lane, Jim Massoth and Helena Bouchez are the most likely candidates for the business purple heart, if there was such a thing.

Best wishes to all who are reading this for a happy and safe holiday season, however you celebrate it.