Thankful Day 2007

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 22, 2007

Filed under: Personal 23 comments

This is a repost of my Thanksgiving post from last year. I was going to write another one, but it would just be a re-wording of what I have below. No reason for that. I suppose to what I have below I might add gratitude that I wasn’t born in the middle ages. It’s also nice that my surgery went smoothly.

Yesterday I tried to come up with a reasonable “what I am thankful for” post. There are two problems with this: 1) The subject is too huge and 2) The title ends in a preposition.

Echoing back to my earlier thoughts on how awful it would be to be a king in the middle ages, trying to enumerate all the things which I have to be thankful for is a daunting task. The original pilgrims were thankful for the fact that some of them survived, and that they were not in immediate danger of starvation. They had buried a lot of people in the past year. If I found myself in their position today my first response probably wouldn't be thankfulness. My worst day at work would be a vacation for one of them.

If I were to try to list all the ways that my life is better than theirs, it would start with big stuff like warm housing and plentiful food, and end with little stuff like Galactic Civilizations 2 and the way flash memory prices have fallen this year. Along the way I'd need to cover things like antibotics and carpeting. It's just ridiculous how good our lives are.

Would I be grateful if I won the lottery*? I already did. I was born into the middle class in the west during the second half of the 20th century. Very few human beings in the history of the planet were lucky enough to end up here. I could have lived during the great depression. Or been purged by Stalin. Been a Jew in Poland when the Germans came. Gotten “converted” during The Crusades. Buried my family as they died from the Black Plague. Had a limb sawn off in the Civil War. Gotten branded a heretic in the middle ages. Lived as a farmer during feudal times. Been a native American in the nineteenth century. Lived in Nanking when the Japanese came knocking. Lived in Rome during its decline. (If we are to believe Durant, then the population of Rome went from about a million at its peak to about 40,000 in the fifth century. I'm not even sure I'd want to be among the survivors of that.) Could have been a slave. Wound up a young girl in an arranged marriage to a guy two decades older than me at 14, then died in childbirth at 19. The catlog of human misery is such a massive volume that even the summary pages are beyond comprehension, and so far I've missed nearly all of it. Caesar never had it as good as I do.

* This is not to imply that I would ever play the lottery.

How does one express the appropriate level of thankfulness for this? Should I wake up each morning and cheer, “Alright! Another day free of dysentary! Woohoo!” If one of the pilgrims would have set down their description of what life would be like in a utopia, it would probably fall short of how I'm actually living.

Life is good. I express my gratitude the only way I can. I thank God.

Have a wonderful day.


From The Archives:

23 thoughts on “Thankful Day 2007

  1. mark says:

    Happy turkey day!

  2. Erik Lund says:

    Durant? Durant?? You have cardboard boxes made of the books that replaced the books that replaced the Durants’ research material. It takes more patience and time than anyone is likely to have, but I still recommend Chris Wickham, _Framing the Middle Ages_.
    Also, all other factors aside, the reason people left Rome (and most other major Classical cities)in the 300s/400s is that all that second century marble architecture was crashing down around them.
    “‘Ere, Dennis, let’s maybe move out from under this wobbling 10 ton piece of Cyclopean monumental piece of metamorphic statuary and get a nice place in the country where we can raise goats!”

  3. stuff says:

    hate to burst your bubble, but the vast majority of humans alive in history live now. About half of those still live in medieval conditions, and for many, living in the medieval ages would be an improvement.

  4. Carra says:

    Lovely article and it’s true. Living in this modern age in a middle class family, it’s better then being a king 500 years ago.

    We just don’t appreciate it enough.

  5. Marmot says:

    Let’s not delve into details and let’s just say, “well said”. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  6. Snook says:

    I’ll be thankful when I pass Physics.

    Happy thanksgiving, all!

  7. Rob says:

    Happy Thanksgiving Shamus from Canada (where we still have to work today and it’s freaking snowing!).

  8. Space Ace says:

    All this negativity about the Middle Ages has to stop. Medieval times were a period in time that led up to the Renaissance and, ultimately, Western civilisation as we know it.

    If you’re going to be thankful for anything on Christmas-Practice Day, be thankful for the Middle Ages. It gave us armoured knights, goddamnit, how can they not be awesome?

    And if you’re going to knock the Crusades, maybe you should mention the Islamist military aggression of the day, too. Or did you mean European Crusades (I’m willing to bet you didn’t, as no-one has ever heard of them).

  9. Davesnot says:

    Let’s see.. a holiday where we eat.. what’s not to like.. the fact that it is based on an event that wasn’t considered a “thanksgiving” to those involved.. of course there was a Harvest Feast.. and there were 2 times as many Native People there than English Colonists (only about half of those colonists came to the New World for religious reasons.. but history is easier with nice neat lables like, “pilgrim”..

    Forget the fact that most of what we know of the holiday is wrong.. They didn’t wear big buckles for example.. they didn’t eat cranberry sauce.. .. they were headed for Virginia but said the heck with it.. Forget that Squanto wasn’t named Squanto to his people.. just that the colonists couldn’t pronounce his name..

    Forget all of that.. and remember that today is a day to be happy you are where you are.. long as it’s in the US.. since it’s a US holiday.. but all tribes of people have a thanksgiving at some point in the year.. so celebrate along with those crazy colonists that froze and starved themselves into learning that it’s ok to ask for help.

    (a side note to native folk.. it’s nice to help those in need.. but that doesn’t mean you can trust them not to make you sick or fight you for the land’s resources.. not all of the european’s wanted you booted off your land.. I suppose that doesn’t help.. but anyway.. thanks for helping my relative (Myles Standish) survive back then.)

    Happy Thanksgiving! May you find time to get away from the chaos of family and play some Neverwinter Nights (no bloomin’ 2.. no bloomin’ MOTB)


  10. Jadawin says:

    Thanks, Shamus- I printed this out and read it at my in-law’s Thanksgiving dinner at lunch- it went over very well.

  11. Erik Lund says:

    Uh, apologies for coming off so flamish. I forgot that just ‘cuz you crazy foreigners celebrate Thanksgiving in the wrong month doesn’t make it important to you.
    Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless.

  12. andy says:

    You have a nice day too.


  13. Davesnot says:

    Jez… Thanksgiving isn’t a “religious” holiday.. it is a harvest feast.. which I suppose could be construed as religious.. but it’s more of a Pagan type thing… Go to this site ( for an accurate picture of what was happening in the early 1620s in Plymouth with those “Pilgrims.”

  14. Thanksgiving, the Invisible Holiday. They started putting up the Christmas decorations the day after Halloween this year at Walmart and Target. sigh.

  15. Snook says:

    Sheesh, you can’t say the word “God” or “holiday” without starting a flamewar nowadays.

  16. Taelus says:

    Thanksgiving is better than Christmas for me. There’s no pretense in the way of the real reason for those holidays being great, the chance to be with friends and family just for the sake of spending the time. No matter what else it’s related to, at least that part still happens for most.

    Since it’s all about being thankful, I’m thankful to be making it through the wife’s affair and divorcing of me (so I guess it’s technically “ex-wife”), getting my bipolar medications balanced, and all the while still being able to think there might be a bright future. Whatever allowed that, I’m just thankful I still think there’s hope for something wonderful. So, for me, it’s hard to complain about a day that makes me happy just to be where I am now, because it’s better than where I was yesterday :-)

    Happy Thanksgiving all!

  17. “If one of the pilgrims would have set down their description of what life would be like in a utopia, it would probably fall short of how I'm actually living.”

    Actually, in the Middle Ages, people would write stories of a utopia called Cockaigne, a marvelous world where people… have enough food to eat! And don’t have to labor all day in the fields!

    Imagine that, living in a world where you can think of no better utopia than having enough food to eat and not having to do physical labor.

  18. Corsair says:

    Well, back in those days, Ben Franklin had yet to invent electricity and start the first arcade.

  19. Space Ace says:

    Cockaigne sounds pretty good, still. Sex with nymphomanic, hot nuns? Sign me up.

    I have heard the word (or the Dutch equivalent) thrown around a few times, but mostly in such a configuration: “We’re not living in Cockaigne, so get your ass back to work.”

  20. Shamus says:

    I am not kidding when I say this isn’t a good place to open a theological debate. “The suffering of the world is all God’s fault” is, wether you are aware of it or not, an opening for a debate. Naturally I wouldn’t thanking Him if I thought otherwise.

    The fact that there is awfulness in the world does not shake my faith. If you ‘re really curious about how Christians (or Theists in general) think of this then you’re welcome to ask, but posting “The world sucks so an omnipotent God is impossible” is not ending the argument. It’s starting one, and doing so on a Holiday post is just rude.

  21. Space Ace says:

    I witnessed such an argument a while ago. Due to some… odd claims on the theist’s side, it was quite entertaining.

  22. Dana says:

    > Thanksgiving isn't a “religious” holiday.. it is a harvest
    > feast.. which I suppose could be construed as religious..
    > but it's more of a Pagan type thing…

    Ummm…. “Pagan” is a religious term. Paganism denotes a class of religious beliefs held by pre- (or otherwise non-)Christian farmers… Not that there’s anything wrong with that. ;)

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