Thursday, November 22, 2007

In the Spirit of Thanksgiving.

In keeping with the intended spirit of the holiday, I've decided to try to express what I'm thankful for in my life. There were a string of topics I felt ready to comment on, but none of them seemed appropriate for this special day. Considering all the things I thought about saying made me realize just how jaded and cynical I often am. Much of the time I tend to generate a critical perspective rather than extolling the virtues of the things I appreciate. I suppose it's easy to get into that pattern. Sometimes it feels a lot more gratifying to complain about things that we'd like to see changed. It's a lot more difficult to stop and count our blessings, and express them without coming off as a sap. It's probably a valid question to ask why I feel an attitude of positivity is hard to convey without that 'danger'. Perhaps it's because so many of the the personal blessings I am thankful for actually represent the absence of things that I would perceive as negative.

For instance, I am grateful that I am not saddled with a horrible disease. I'm glad I have all of my limbs. I appreciate the fact that we haven't yet experienced a worldwide nuclear war. I consider it a blessing that we still live under the pretense that we can control our political fate. If there is a god, I thank him for the fact that George W. Bush will only be president for a little more than a year. I'm thankful that the United States hasn't invaded Iran (yet). I am lucky not to have been born in Rwanda. You see, there's really no end to the horrible possibilities that I can imagine. I'd like to extend my sincere and hearty thanks for all the bad things that haven't happened to me. But that's not really the point, is it? I guess I'm expected to frame my blessings in more positive terms. What do I actually HAVE that I feel thankful for?

OK... I can do this. I'll just simply make a list. My wife. The prospect of a child in the near future. My cats! My extended family. People who are willing to call me their friend. Validation for my artistic pursuits. Motivation, time and resources to create art. Anyone that actually reads this blog. My DVD collection (is it appropriate to be materialistic?). My books. Paintings and other artwork covering my walls. Having a piece in a NYC group show. A job that I don't hate. Weekends. Health insurance. My height. A car that takes me where I need and want to go. The Internet. Pittsburgh art galleries. Slim Cessna's Auto Club live twice a year. Extra large mochas with skim milk and half-ice. Live model drawing sessions. The Bill of Rights. Public education. The Brillo Box when it's not too crowded. A great city like Pittsburgh to live in. A creaky old house to call home.

From the profound to the profane, I have a lot of things to be thankful for. All of these things (and a lot more) make life meaningful and enjoyable. When I step back and try to get a measure of objectivity, I have to acknowledge that my life has been pretty good so far. I know I have things better than a large proportion of the world's population. So why is it that I have so much to say about the things I would like to see changed? I guess that ultimately I would like to see everyone enjoy the benefits I have. I'm not sure that it is realistic or good for the Earth, but there it is. It's hard not to get too selfish or demanding.

The big question is to whom or what I should direct my thanks. Scanning the list above, it's obvious that some of my gratitude has to go to others with whom I share my life. How often do I express my thanks to those folks? I can start by thanking you (the reader) right now. Beyond that, it gets a bit murky. Do I thank the United States? I have a lot of ambivalence about that. Would that entail all the people that lived before me that helped provide the opportunities I enjoy today? Or is it only specific individuals whom I am indebted to? What about "god"? Is there a higher being to thank? Did he/she/it put me in the place I am now? What about "nature"? Or maybe "the fates"? How abstract is that? Maybe for some things, I could even thank myself?! Or is that too self-congratulatory? These questions may obscure the entire conversation. So for now, I'll leave it to you to decide- for without the 'other', there is no communication at all. And that's what this is all about.

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