Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Thankfulness

It's Thanksgiving once again, and once again I want to express my thankfulness to and for my blog acquaintances and friends, especially Cyberkitten, Kevin and Cori, Mike, and CRL.

One day last week during my morning commute I got to thinking about being thankful. What is required to give thanks? I decided that the most fundamental requirement is two persons, one to give thanks and one to receive it. Implied in this is that the person receiving thanks first acted graciously and thus deserved being thanked. This seems obvious and uncontroversial. You do something for me and I give you my thanks in return. But many times, seemingly without thinking, we give thanks for things that aren't the gracious act of another person.

I am thankful for my health, but to whom do I give thanks? Myself? My parents? Neither seems reasonable. I may be responsible in part for my health, but being thankful to myself seems odd. Do my parents deserve being thanked for involuntarily passing on to me a decent set of genes which, so far, have not lead to much in the way of significant health problems? That seems odd as well. Perhaps my health isn't something for which I can be properly thankful.

I am thankful for sunny days in the 70's with low humidity, a gentle breeze, and the opportunity to be outside and enjoy it. When I say I feel thankful, I really mean it. There is an undeniable sense of appreciation for receiving a gift graciously given. But is this another case of misplaced emotions? Is this inappropriate thankfulness a result of my early indoctrination into theism without which I would not have such feelings?

Since I can't undo my upbringing I guess I'll never know, but it seems that I'm not alone in feeling this "broad brush" thankfulness for things and circumstances that can't be attributed to another person; it seems pervasive throughout the human race. Perhaps we are being loose with our language. Perhaps we are transferring commonly experienced interpersonal thankfulness onto the impersonal.

Or perhaps we are not mistaken. Perhaps we share a deeply ingrained tendency to be thankful because the foundation of reality is a Personal Being. And, perhaps, if we are among the realities that have sprung forth from this Person, we naturally return thanks for the graciousness first shown to us.

It was dark, rainy, and there were many distractions during that drive to work, so maybe I was not thinking clearly. But I made it to work and, later, back home safely. And for that I am thankful.

It's a Church and State thing, you wouldn't understand.

Last week it was reported that, in 2007, Rhode Island's Bishop Thomas Tobin requested of Rep. Patrick Kennedy that he refrain from receiving Communion in light of Kennedy's position on abortion (he's for it). Some people felt the Bishop violated the separation of Church and State. Do you think it was, and, if so, why?