Appreciation is possibly the most fragile thing of all. What is ironic is that appreciation is most easily destroyed not by dearth and deprivation, but by prosperity and abundance. Looking around at America, it is easy to see that we are victims of our own wealth. Buried as we are by the daily avalanche of stimuli in every possible form, how could we not but fail to appreciate what we have, but instead have just enough time to look around, wild-eyed, asking “What’s next?” The sheer pace of our encounter with the bounty that surrounds us makes it almost impossible to create the space for actual appreciation.
It is especially difficult because we are in no way encouraged to slow down, to be reflective about our culture of consumption; on the contrary, we are swept up in a more and more frantic effort to experience the latest and most spectacular trends, flying by us so quickly that we have no more than a few seconds to notice the “simple,” amazing things that we encounter in a day: the taste of a slice of good cheddar cheese, the comfort of a certain chair, the smell of fresh air in the fall.
Much of this dynamic is built into the human character and into life itself, I guess, but even so it serves to make me very aware of the value of traditions like the Sabbath and Thanksgiving. Without them and the chances they provide to slow down enough to “get” the beauty of both the things nature offers us and the things we have crafted for ourselves to make our lives easier or more fun, we would be living on a constantly accelerating, profane carrousel to nowhere.
So I’m pretty grateful for Thanksgiving.