Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving thanks

So, here I sit, the night before thanksgiving. The cultural zeitgeist would inform me that I supposed to be out, drinking and dancing until four in the morning, celebrating Democritus, and Hedone, Bacchus and Freyja, Pan and Ceres. Celebration, beauty, joy, wine, the harvet, the hunt...the joy, majesty, beauty, and wonder.

Instead I sit, with The Postal Service in my ears, contemplating which shirt to iron for tomorrow's inevitable family fun time meet and greet, where supposed loved ones kept a year at arm's length are embraced full throat for the annual end of November to the end of December re-affirmation of family unity.

And the thought of this next month's dance is what keeps me glued to this chair, instead of out with my fellow humans, reveling in revelry, Celebrating the harvest with joy and dancing and rivers of wine. This next month is what glues me to this chair...but this past year is what compels me to write these words.

Atheists tend to be suspicious of most holidays. The Greek, Roman, and Norse Gods that I reference above are, for better or worse, the true etymology of the celebration of the harvest. Make no mistake, it did not start with those Puritanical Puritans making all nicey nice with the indians and serving a turkey stuffed with wet bread, no. Thanksgiving is nothing more than a celebration of the fact that we are prepared to survive one more unimaginably brutal winter, that we have reserves in store, that we are ready. We give thanks to our full plate...our full plate, and the people who have helped to fill it. If this past year has taught me anything, then it is the same lesson that I have been slowly, ever so slowly, learning my entire life.

And, that lesson is that I am thankful for every stupid thing I have in my life. I am thankful for everyone I've met, and everyone who has influenced me.

I am thankful that I have a partner in my recent endeavors who has carried me more than I have carried him. Who has burned candles with me until three in the morning trying to figure out what we are doing, and the best way to accomplish our goals. A partner and friend who has taught me more then I have ever learned elsewhere.

I am thankful that I have a friend who has proven time and time again that he will always, always, always, be there for me as I try to be there for him. The sort of friend who flies 400 miles on 24 hours notice, loads all of my possessions in a truck, and carries me home when I am too weak to do so myself.

I am thankful that I have a friend who loves me with all of her heart, and whose faith in me extends so far as for her to put her career on the line in order to offer me an opportunity to better my life. A friend whose optimistic outlook on life is so contagious that I have had no choice but to conform to her joy.

I am thankful to have a friend who is the bravest person I know...the bravest person I truly believe I will ever know. A person who has stood in uniform and served on the front lines of Iraq with machine gun in hand, and now serves on a different front line defending the rights of all human beings as a trans-gendered person. Someone whose outlook on the world has effected mine more than could be explained.

I am thankful to have a friend who is an educator who wears cowboy hats and bolo ties in faculty school pictures. A person who, whenever I forget that we all should be smiling, laughing, joking, and dancing, never fails to remind me. A friend who has many of the attributes of the person who I aspire to be.

I am thankful to have a friend with an ivy league education who has chosen to pick up a shovel, and spend her days working one on one with special needs children, doing the work of saints while being an atheist. A person charged with a Sisyphean task who charges out every morning helping to better the society's forgotten. A person whose heart swells and bursts with mine.


My family is a sad, fractured state of affairs. It has been so since as long as I can recall. Tomorrow we will all eat turkey and avoid discussing where my sister might be spending her Thanksgiving. We will smile, shake hands, and likely someone will ask me how school is going. (I've been out of school for four years.) We will pretend that what we are is family.

My true family are those I have spoke of, above. My true family are those who have helped shape me. Those who I have learned from, and those I have taught.

I propose that we take this day of giving thanks, and contemplate who you would call with a flat tire at 3 a.m., who you would call asking for bail, who you would call when you were backed into a corner, when the chips were down. Contemplate who you would call when it all went south.

I propose you contemplate who those people are, and spend a minute remembering them in this season of giving thanks. I love every person listed above with all of my heart, and this is my letter to them.

-Paul Wittmeyer

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this beautiful letter, and for giving me more credit than I probably deserve. That is, after all, what we tend to do for members of our family. Your blood relations have no idea what they are missing out on. You have missed the Fire of the Giant Shelf Unit, the Fire of the Great Crappy Workbench, and the most memorable Fire of the Eight Rotting Doors, but as it stands now, the Fire of the Pile of Garbage Pine Left Behind in the Backyard awaits your presence.

    Some of *our* family, gathered around to watch something turn to ash and cinder as we raise our glasses and reaffirm that the bonds we've forged are everything we have, the only things that anyone *can* have, and are utterly precious and beautiful - that's what I call revelry.

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