Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Thanksgiving: Five Things I Am Thankful For

A Thanksgiving offering: five things I'm grateful for.

My wife suggested I write down five things I'm grateful for today, and offer that as a suggestion to you. There is a power in the written word which is not accessible to the spoken word. The spoken word can arouse high feelings and communion, but the written word can readily and magically change lives. If something written is true, its impact is deep and long-lasting.

Writing down what we're sincerely grateful for is an act of truth--and truth may well be the unspoken essential for all gratitude.

It's always tempting to veer into pontificating when listing one's gratitudes ("I'm grateful for Nature, and the Universe, and for Bertrand Russell..."). Few would have the sincerity and strength to be honest about the gratitudes we actually experience--for instance, "I'm grateful for the NFL and the memory of watching Dwight Clark make The Catch."

On the other hand, as important as small gratitudes are in our daily struggle against futility and ennui, it's also a worthy exercise to ground ourselves occasionally in what gives our lives meaning and purpose: the bedrock of happiness and a life well-lived.

Without a lot of forethought, here is my list of five things I'm thankful for. I guess it reflects the preoccupations of my daily life, which revolves around this weblog, my writing, shoring up my health and our uncertain and likely troubled future.

1. I am thankful for the Web and the Constitutional right to freedom of speech, which enables us to share our thoughts, emotions, ideas and information without interference (so far) from oppressive authorities. This freedom to exchange ideas and experiences, what works and what doesn't, is the foundation of my hope for the future. This weblog is my small contribution to this infinitely complex process.

2. I am grateful for the opportunity to fashion what I call hybrid work, a life that draws purpose and meaning from a variety of projects and work, some paid, some unpaid, some compensated by value other than money.

This is similar to the "Renaissance Man/Woman" lifestyle espoused by author Jacob Lund Fisker in his book Early Retirement Extreme: A philosophical and practical guide to financial independence. A "Renaissance" lifestyle develops functional expertise in a variety of fields, providing a broad foundation for self-reliance and multiple avenues for adding/creating value (something which others will pay/trade for).

In Survival+, I call this goal radical self-reliance.

I wouldn't be much of an advocate for hybrid work if I had a corporate monoculture job (i.e. one specialized skill, one employer, and thus a very high level of vulnerability to disruption). It's taken a long time to develop multiple sources of (modest) income and purpose, but it's been worth it.

3. Since a substantial part of my livelihood comes from being paid to write and from reader contributions, I am also very grateful to you, dear Reader, for investing your time in visiting this outpost on the Web and for reading my other work. Without readers, a writer has little to offer in terms of value.

4. Since I espouse an integrated understanding of our plight, then health is a key thread running through my life, and so naturally I am grateful for the health I have at 56 years of age. It is something that requires responsibility and work; I have a bunch of bad genes working against me as well as "carpenter's elbow" and a host of other consequences of lifting too much stuff over the decades. But I really am grateful for what I've got in the way of health; it is amazing that the body is designed to rejuvenate itself if given half a chance.

At this point, the urge to choose some daily gratitude is strong (red wine? Oranges? Natural gas?) just to avoid the dreaded state of pontification, but--

5. I am grateful to be alive now, when the industrialized world is poised to transition, whether it wants to or not, to another way of living/consuming/working. It may well play out badly, but perhaps not. The lifestyle that requires hundreds of barrels of oil (or equivalent) per person per year is certainly coming to an end, but a good life need not require hundreds of barrels of oil per year.

Nobody knows how the future will play out, so we will all play it as it lays. (The fancier phrase: Life is contingent.) That's pretty exciting.

I wish you all a safe, peaceful Thanksgiving.

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