Or, what the truth about that “harvest party” in 1621 best reveals….
Around this time of year, I often get more outwardly-reflective.
Not so much so that I fool myself into thinking my extended thoughts should ‘change the world,’ or any such nonsense.
Not even in a way that could remotely match the prototypical do-gooder Aunt that fly's in from “the big city” to attend to Turkey Day festivities; the one who has a penchant for monopolizing the conversation by telling everyone all the glorious things she has experienced, accomplished or done for the greater good of humanity.
Nah… it’s more like this holiday just ignites a tendency for me see one or two perimeters beyond just myself… and my immediate family and friends.
This week especially makes it much easier to SEE a bigger picture; a broader view of the overall canvas we all just might accept as “this one shared planet.”
Let’s not get carried away here Barry, I hear you thinking. You say, I don’t see you becoming some kind of idealistic well-wisher.
That, my Bear-knowledge one would be ab-so-frick-en-lutely correct. Still, I think I’m entitled (at least once a year) to get a bit teary-eyed about an aspect of history that goes undisclosed to schoolchildren across our great nation.
(yeah, yeah, okay… “planet” was too much. I’ll stick with what the point of what I feel today, American Thanksgiving, should be about)
The “official” story of why we sit around a table with a lot of delicious food — with the centerpiece being a Turkey — pretty much goes like this:
Around this time of year in 1621, some lovely pilgrims and friendly native American’s got together for 3 days to celebrate their good fortune (a plentiful harvest).
But a closer review of history tells us that things may have not have been so festive in Plymouth.
It’s not my interest in this post to dive into the more nuanced myths, misconceptions and head-shaking shameful things reported about this feast and the first official location (such as King Phillip’s head displayed on a pole in Plymouth for 25 years).
What I do want to point out, however, is the year itself:
As reported by Richard J. Maybury here, bigger problems tied to “human nature” needed to be solved due to the that years harvest.
Many of the able-bodied colonists were crotchety, lazy-ass sniveling thieves. They weren’t in the fields getting their hands dirty. In other words, 1621 was actually a year of famine.
Through Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, writer Maybury distills some of the colonial governor’s debriefings on the situation like this:
In the harvest feasts of 1621 and 1622, “all had their hungry bellies filled,” but only briefly. The prevailing condition during those years was not the abundance the official story claims, it was famine and death. The first “Thanksgiving” was not so much a celebration as it was the last meal of condemned men.
In other words, when people in any collective don’t have an individualized incentive to perform to their best ability — to out-think, outmaneuver, therefore outproduce others around them — it’s natural to succumb to stagnation and mediocrity.
Bradford writes that “young men that are most able and fit for labor and service” complained about being forced to “spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children.”
Back in 1623, Bradford had the same astute assessment that I’m sure you also have Dear fascinated reader. It’s this:
If you can’t reap greater rewards from your own chosen greater risks and efforts, then resentment is going to sit in while you watch others around you operate on a lesser (i.e., lazier, less effective) level.
So, while the concepts of gratitude, festivity and family values ARE all incredible things to appreciate on this holiday…. There’s something else to add in the mix:
Bradford nixing socialism.
After the crappy harvest of 1622…
He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.
Many early groups of colonists set up socialist states, all with the same terrible results. At Jamestown, established in 1607, out of every shipload of settlers that arrived, less than half would survive their first twelve months in America. Most of the work was being done by only one-fifth of the men, the other four-fifths choosing to be parasites. In the winter of 1609–10, called “The Starving Time,” the population fell from five-hundred to sixty.
Then the Jamestown colony was converted to a free market, and the results were every bit as dramatic as those at Plymouth.
The above little factoid is a good setup for sharing this short exchange between Joe Rogan and Mr. “Tech Buddha” himself, Naval Ravikant:
The part about narrowing down to a “communist mindset” with your family, then expanding to a “capitalist mindset” as you broaden your involvement with more and more people… it’s a brilliant way of looking at things.
For more on the later idea, be sure to check out:
The Greatest Story Ever Told
Okay… now, lemme get into something very much tied to the holiday I’m putting a critical-thinking spin on.
On the subject of outward thinking — the very reveal I made in the first sentence of this post — what about when we let our mind latch onto distractions we, ultimately, just need to just “let go” of?
The reason I’m bringing this up is because when we feel manipulated by someone… when something egregious, even pathologically twisted, has been (or current is) being done TO us, it’s very easy to want to settle the score. The go-to play is blame, shame, righteous vindictiveness…. even equal payback!
So how can you “let go” (really) of that kind of personal situation?
Via one of my favorite series, Showtime’s award-winning 8-season DEXTER, there’s a scene in season 6 (episode 6) where Dexter is wrestling with that very question.
As you watch this clip, do you also feel his confusion; the inner-conflict when hearing the advice that Brother Sam is giving him?
(Mind you, Brother Sam, a reformed ex-con is on his death bed. Is it his Preacher-identity talking here? Or is this request to Dexter truly coming from a genuine heart. I’ll let you decide…)
Brother Sam: You need to forgive him.
Dexter: I don’t know how.
Brother Sam: Just let it go. Can’t live with the hate in your heart. Eat you up inside. We gotta find some peace in life.
Dexter: Nick doesn’t deserve it.
Brother Sam: It ain’t about him. Dexter, if you don’t let that darkness go… it won’t let go of you. Let it go. Let it go.’’
To end this on a tie-in to the title of the post, I’m learning that going beyond our traditional views of Thanksgiving — gratitude and thankfulness — means taking it down a notch.
Or, back inward into a realm where most of us will do anything to not feel or be responsible for:
Dexter (bless his hardened, shallow conscience soul) just wanted to take care of the situation (viewed from the perch of a vigilante serial killer with an eye- for-an-eye kind of mindset); however, like most of us who see grave injustices, his “light” got a whiff of what those of us with a deeper sense of reality see:
Thankfulness and acceptance of What Is (i.e., what has happened, the past “bad” experiences, what currently sucks) go hand-in-hand. Otherwise it’s just lip service. Otherwise, resentment and grudges will be the ongoing fuel for our Dark Passenger.
I hear of so many stories where people’s entire lives are controlled by their experiences. They blame child-hood traumas; they herald being a ____ (sex, drug, anger, food, porn, etc, etc) addict… even having quotable image memes that disparage their upbringing; or how others need to be better parents… all while holding on tightly to feelings of entitlement, of revenge, or an internal fight-flight syndrome that drives nobody mad but themselves.
So I say instead of just saying you’re thankful today, take another path (a higher one) called COMMITMENT:
Commit to either having your past (including your current state of beliefs and mindset about it) define your future. Or, commit to truly BE-ing grateful for every aspect of your life (including “bad” things done to you… AND the “bad” things you’ve done to others) so you can start to refine yourself.
Legit forgiveness means owning and being grateful for your own fuck-ups too. It means being responsible for how you perceive your past; accepting that you can’t change the physical experiences but you can re-experience it differently mentally, and in a different light emotionally.
At the end of the day, remember:
Life always happens through you; never just TO you.
(Think about that twice, if you need to. Or in the words of Aubrey Marcus….)