Reading Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of October 1863, thinking how the slaughtered bodies of young Americans killed at Gettysburg that same year enriched the Pennsylvania soil they were buried in. Hallowed ground, bounteous land. It is the quintessential human act, given the paradoxical creatures we are, to give thanks in a time of war -- in a spirit of "humble penitence," of course. To petition for peace and harmony while cradling the head of a fallen comrade. To say grace with a loaded gun by one's side. To eat our fill in a makeshift mess-hall while there's a break in the fighting.
This year we are again at war at Thanksgiving. In my fifty-six years has it ever been otherwise? I don't remember -- maybe once or twice. Fortunately, the wars are antiseptic now, and far enough away to pretend they are somehow not really wars at all. Perhaps we should be thankful for that too.
We know what we are called to do. Love one another. Live exuberantly, with joy, in hope and friendship, filled with wonder, and deep, deep gratitude for every waking moment. Be fully human. Yes.
But there will always be a war going on, within us, and without us, if not a struggle between tribes or nations, then a struggle between the two sides of our nature, call them what you will -- the animal and the anima -- every day a struggle. To make ends meet. To detach ourselves from suffering or to be compassionate and suffer with others. Always the opposites locked in fatal embrace: the rich and poor, the old and young, the I and Thou.
Today I give thanks in a time of war, as I've always done, for family, friends, the daily miracle of waking, the enveloping comfort of sleep, for all my fellow creatures great and small, for sustenance in a world that hardly seems sustainable itself these days. I am certain that whatever I have I didn't earn and don't deserve. I am certain that everything is a gift even if I haven't the foggiest notion who the giver is. No matter. The fact that the universe is deaf doesn't make me mute. So now I incline my heart toward something bigger than myself -- I have no idea what that is, for I'm taking a pure leap of faith -- and offer thanks.