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being thankful

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

That cat is wearing a flashy tie. Disqualified!

Also, the lack of pants is not encouraging.

His ideas about Descartes intrigue me, however.

******************

Last year, the Philosophy Smoker posted a picture of a cute cat in a tie along with those words just before the biggest hiring conference for academic jobs in philosophy. Not this little guy, unfortunately – the original PS mascot seems to have vanished, at least from the link they used. But those words always tickle my funny bone.

Every job-seeker, particularly academic job seekers, know the absolutely insane hoops we must jump through, and the way said hoops are so often not in our control. I know two different friends on two continents who have taken a hit applying for academic jobs, for reasons that have absolutely done nothing wrong besides choosing to try to get into academia. (If this is a fault, it’s one I share.) For obvious reasons I can’t go into specifics, but I do know that this isn’t unusual to this year. I mean, the number I’ve heard of is higher because my cohort is getting nearer to the job market so I know more people applying. But the stories I hear don’t strike me as particularly egregious. They don’t stand out.

I mention all this partly because it gave me an excuse to look at pictures of cats in ties (can you begrudge me that simple pleasure) but also because for me it’s part and parcel of being thankful. That’s what we’re supposed to do this weekend, right? Being thankful? But thankfulness involves, at least for me, a recognition that I have better than I deserve. Why be thankful for for something that is yours as a simple matter of justice? As Bart Simpson once prayed, We bought and cooked this food so thanks for nothing. Amen.

Today I am thankful for the pieces of me that I react to and make sense of, but that I didn’t create and couldn’t really change if I wanted to. That I’m a Southerner, a grad student, a Christian, white and female and straight – with all the good and bad things that those things imply. Watching the news out of Gaza and Israel in particular, I’m especially thankful that I can type this in the almost-complete certainty that a siren announcing a missile coming down on my house won’t sound before I finish typing this sentence. And I’m thankful I live in a country where not only can I afford the food and medicine and other things I need, but the stores actually have it to sell. I grew up on stories about Germany between the world wars where there were ration coupons but no butter on the store shelves. I’m thankful that’s not the world I live in, and I recognize that good luck is just that: luck. Grace. However you want to put it.

That sounds Pollyannaish, I know. I don’t mean folks should just be thankful for whatever they have. This is more about the fact that I get better than I can take credit for myself. It’s hard to do well in America without someone (either you or your father or grandfather or…) doing well. But just because you have more money or more privilege or whatever doesn’t make you a better person than someone who’s poor or undocumented or anything along those lines. Because we don’t start from the same starting place, culturally and economically and all the subtle ways that race and class and gender determine the world we live in.

So this year I am thankful. I recognize that I didn’t buy and cook this food, metaphorically and otherwise. Or put in more political terms, I really and truly didn’t build this. Not all by myself. I’m thankful for the pieces, and I’m thankful for the good luck that they fell into place in a way that give me the food and shelter and security I need to live my life when other people that are just as smart and worked just as hard and made just as good of decisions as I did weren’t so lucky.

Which can be kind of a buzz-kill this weekend, so I do hope folks enjoy whatever you have going for you. Enjoy your food, football, family and friends! (And non-Americans, you enjoy your weekend as well.)

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
engarian
Nov. 22nd, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)
Thanksgiving is a time of hope, so go ahead and be a bit Pollyannaish, it's OK. There is much to be thankful for and you pointed out some very good points.

Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to you also.

- Erulisse (one L)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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