Updated: Nov 28, 2020
This will no doubt be the strangest giving of thanks I have ever imagined for this American holiday. There was a time when I ate turkey and pumkin pie, just like every self-respecting American is supposed to do on this day. This ritual faded away after two decades of life in France, where the third Thursday in November always ended up being one of the busiest of the year.
On this Thanksgiving 2020, something entirely different than turkey is being cooked up. As we humorously say in French: de quelle sauce va-t-on être mangé ? (with what kind of sauce are we going to be served?) Proper Americans, in spite of their radical political cleavage, will agree on the importance of this day and on the importance of being thankful. Such is a happy consensus. Yet, they will likely be expressing thanks for very different things: some for guns and others for roses.
It is nothing short of a miracle that each of us woke up this morning, and we would all be better off knowing gratefully that to be so.
As for my own gratefulness, I'm going to go way out on a limb and expose myself as the social oddity that some of you already know that I am. I would like to give thanks for a future that is yet to be, but close enough to now that it can be sniffed on the breeze. So far, you still consider me sain because you think that if I give thanks in advance, the future must be bright.
Here is where things become complicated. If I were to describe the next 30 years from what I believe to be your paradigm, what I call bright might be for you a terrible fright: a day of gloom and doom. What I believe to be your paradigm is one most all of us have been taught. It is the paradigm of endless growth, based on the presupposition of boundless resources.
The year 2020 could serve to warn us how our world can change, almost overnight. The virus will run its course (as always), but what we call "the crisis" has only begun. It's time to bunker down for the long-haul. Our growth economy is sputtering its way towards collapse. Climate change is now irreversible (must we witness a quarter of the world in flames?). It's not that there is anything wrong with the enormous material abundance we created. On the contrary, there really was plenty to go around. What was wrong, meaning contrary to nature and therefore unsustainable, was that we created this abundance without factoring in the true cost of producing it. We were feeding the flames of our hearth with the wood of our very house.
The trajectory of increasing constraint lies clearly before us. All we can do now is flatten the curb and prepare for its likely effects. One of these effects is that there may, at some point, no longer be turkeys and prepared pumpkin pie filling for Thanksgiving. This will not the worst thing that has befallen mankind. Putting the Western world on a strict diet would do it well. None must starve to death, which has been happening for no justifiable reason during the past 50 years of bloat and gloat. That bothered us not, but Covid sure did.
A Thanksgiving Day without turkey someday? Most of you reading me will find this to be a grim prophecy, but I am no pessimist. There are two ways to be optimistic about the future. One is to ignore the current trajectory and bury ours head in the sand. After all, there have been plenty of doomsayers in the past, have there not?
Another optimism is to look squarely in the face of a future you did not expect nor desire, and know that you will be able to thrive.
The radical new idea is that you will be able to thrive on half as much stuff. Yes, that is a form of optimism. We will be fine, as long as we change our minds.
As for my own future (the one for which I am already giving thanks), I have imagined it in a different light. I have determined it may indeed be very light. I will build a Light House, and one for you as well if you'd like. I will rise at dawn, in gratitude, and sing with the birds and whisper with the leaves.
What if a house breathed in the light
Of the sun at day and the moon at night?
What if you could contemplate the stars
while lying still in the soft of your bed?
What if a house felt like a nest in the trees?
Sturdy as a trunk, yet just as light as leaves?
What if it whispered with the wind,
And made you ride upon the air?
What if a house were like a boat,
With a cabin and a deck,
Only what’s required
To sail upon the land.
What if a house lifted you high
to lite you upon the horizon wide?
Perched above a river below,
rising to the hilltops into the sky.
What if a house could heal you,
And offer a new look on life?
Gratitude in the morning
And peacefulness at night?
A house of all these things,
is neither lavish nor grandiose.
Graceful, like a flower in the sun,
this house is blessed by Light.
Learn more about my Light House project here.