Sunday, October 07, 2012

10 Things You (Actually) Need to Know Today

Leafing through my various news sources this morning, I keep seeing the standard story title "10 Things You Need to Know Today". The stories are full of such trite events and pseudo-news as Mitt Romney's spending a crucial second day campaigning in Florida, Obama is out-fundraising him, Truthers doubt the (independently verified) positive job numbers, there was a blown call in a baseball game.

Really? We need to know this stuff? What a load. It's thanksgiving this weekend and that seems to me like a reason to take a pause and consider what we actually need to know - some of it nice and some not so nice.

1) Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday. It's a historical one, wherein millions of people celebrate the moment colonial expansion hit the shores of North America. The fact that Canada doesn't even celebrate it on the same day as the USA should, of itself, be ample proof that this holiday isn't about the one great god but, rather, that it's politically motivated and expedient. Millions of Natives have good reason not to celebrate.

2) The people who really need a paid day off this Thanksgiving aren't getting one. They work at the grocery stores, the breakfast restaurants, the hotels, the janitorial services...they work harder, for less, than most of the people who're chewing on those dead turkeys this afternoon. What does that mean? It's not much of a holiday for many (perhaps most) of the people working and those of us being thankful for a day off should know this and, if we go to those restaurants etc. and make more work for people, we should thus tip accordingly.

3) Living in Canada is not necessarily a reason to be thankful - unless you're one of the people for whom the system works, who form the segment of society that can follow Stephen Harper's advice to invest when the economy tanks and hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs and can't replace them, unless you're not one of the victims of Canada's (still enduring though, thankfully, less so) colonization and abuse of subaltern populations, unless you're one of the few women in Canada who earns above the mean for your industry...thankfulness is a kind of indolence. For too many, it's a self-satisfied solipsism that disregards what it means to pay homage to a debt owed. We need to know that, and examine ourselves accordingly to ask if there's more we should be doing to help people become truly thankful.

4) We should be thankful. Thankful to our parents, our families, our friends; to all the people who have made an effort at some time in our lives to make those lives better. We should be thankful, who can wake up in the morning, knowing that there are folks out there who love us unequivocally - not despite our flaws, but because of them; because of the things that make us the unique, whole people that we are. Being thankful means giving thanks: call your loved ones or visit them and let them know how thankful you are that they shape your lives.

5) We all see dead people. We can't, actually, give thanks to those who've died, no matter how we miss them and still feel that they somehow remain as part of our lives. Guess what? they do. We can't thank them in person, those parents and grandparents and mentors who've passed, but we sure can share them with the people we love; we can haul out those photo albums and stories of holidays past, and we can re-iterate the love they felt for us and, by so doing, share that love with the people we have chose as our own loves and lovers.

6) Wherever we are is just one small corner in a very big world. How do we contribute to that corner? For most of us, effecting real change on a global scale is unlikely and that's fine. Even the people who effect such change (and let us not forget how frequently it's for the worse) start in their small corner. How do we define our corners and our communities? How do we contribute to them? What are the things we do that might, whether credited or not, cause people touched by us to give some kind of thanks? We need to contemplate these things and learn to know them - only then, can we appraise their worth and continue to work upon them.

7) Raised in a Mennonite community, I've had humility hammered into me since birth. Well, I'm not really a Mennonite and I'm not really a humble person. I need to know this because knowing it means that I can learn what my true gifts are and make the best use of them possible. Today, we need to know who we are - not in relation to George Clooney or to any other celebrity whose omnipresence in our faces has more to do with contractual obligations to multinational "content" providers than to any actual personhood - but in relation to ourselves and those we hold dear, whoever they are. Understanding comes from solitude and contemplation and the increasingly rare ability to put our fucking phones away and turn off the ringers. We need to know silence, to know who we are.

8) Knowing this, we need to know that we don't need to know "why". Why? is both the most and least important question in our lives. Answering it often and of habit creates the critical minds needed to resist external programming, (assuming we answer it with honest intention), it helps us actually ratify our passions, our beliefs, and our actions with vision and with clarity. However, we don't need to know why. Knowing ourselves IS knowing why - and, with that in mind, we can plan our actions, we can sing our songs, and we can love our loves without a shred of doubt and with all of the selves that we have to muster. That's why.

9) We need to know fiction. Too many people today confuse it with fact and vice versa. With Point 1 still in mind, I cannot help but remember that Saint Augustine, the founder of biblical exegesis, frankly stated that Christ spoke in parables and that the bible was analogic. That means, it stated greater truths about the being of mankind by not stating literal truths - in much the same way that poets do. For every single man and woman on earth who thinks that they need to read religious text literally I can only say this: stop it. Read those beautiful poems for what they are and understand that our language always and must be metaphoric. We all need to know a good story and to understand that it's just a story.

10) We need to know each other. We won't have much to be thankful otherwise. So, stop reading and jump on your bicycles or pick up your phones or say hello to the neighbor in your condo building or do whatever you need to do to create the outreach that is this lived experience. Happy Thanksgiving, people.

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