In the 21st century, we often take a lot for granted. We have luxuries that were inconceivable even a few decades ago. Our level of comfort and ease has never been better. But there are more important things than just our material well-being for which we need to be grateful. The immaterial is what really matters in life, and we must never forget that. In lieu of this, I think there are at least four important things we should all be grateful for this Thanksgiving.
When, on leaving the agitations of the political world, the American returns to the bosom of his family, he immediately meets the image of order and peace. There, all his pleasures are simple and natural, his joys innocent and tranquil; and as he arrives at happiness through regularity of life, he becomes habituated to regulation his opinions as well as his tastes without difficulty… The American draws from his home the love of order, which he afterwards brings into affairs of state. -Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”
The family is the backbone of a healthy society. It is the family that raises the strong, virtuous people that enables a free society to thrive. At this time, when we all come together for Thanksgiving, let us not take our families for granted. The nit-picky things about our relatives that always seem to get under our skin should not abrogate the connection we have with them. If we do not have strong families, what will we be? A collection of isolated individuals, floating in our self-centered lives. I believe that we are fast approaching a time when such may be the norm, or maybe even already is the norm. Let us not be complacent in this decline of the family. Let us not take our families for granted. Continue to cultivate strong relationships with your family. You’ll be glad you did (and so will they).
[A] human being by nature is a political animal. -Aristotle, “The Politics”
When you live far away from your family (as many of us do these days), there is an absolute need for close friends. Without these friends, our lives would only be filled with work and Netflix. Who wants that? We as humans are social beings, and we need to interact with other people regularly. Our friends are a secondary support network for us during our times away from family. When your car breaks down, would a friend not be the one to help you out? When life gets difficult, is a close friend not the one who is at your side to be the support you need? Where would we each be without our network of friends? Don’t take your friend circle for granted. Sure, sometimes they get on your nerves for all sorts of reasons, but when the time comes, all of us need to rely on someone for help. And there is no shame in that.
How could society fail to perish if, while the political bond is relaxed, the moral bond were not tightened? And what makes a people master of itself if it has not submitted to God? -Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”
Many of us still are believers in God. I am grateful that I have my faith. It gives a sense of purpose that is greater than one’s self. All that do serves a purpose higher than my own motives. It gives one a perspective on life that would otherwise be unattainable. It gives strength to get through the tough times. The overarching focus on life is rooted in the transcendent and eternal, rather than the transient and fleeting. For myself, and more than two billion others, our faith is the driving force behind our lives. It provides us a motivation to get up in the morning, to work hard, to do things with excellence, and to serve our fellow man.
The revolution in the United States was produced by a mature and reflective taste for freedom, and not by a vague and indefinite instinct of independence. It was not supported by passions of disorder; but, on the contrary, it advanced with a love of order and of legality. -Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America”**
There are seemingly endless stories of how the government is restricting our constitutional freedoms. Whether it’s new economic regulations, higher taxes, gun confiscation schemes, or crony capitalism, there is never a shortage of stories to feed our cynicism. While a strong knowledge of what is happening to our system is good to have, we must not let that knowledge be a constant downer. It is unhealthy to always be pessimistic about life. After all, who wants to be around a person who is constantly griping?
We should be grateful for the freedoms that we still do have in the United States. We have the right to freedom of speech, of the free exercise of religion, of the right to bear arms, of the right to due process under the law, etc. These are all cherished freedoms that we should not take for granted, as very few people in the world are privileged to have such freedom. This love of freedom that Tocqueville wrote about in 1830, let us not let that go. Let us not forget our fortunate situation, and appreciate what our forefathers have fought to secure for us. Further, let us not allow our cynicism to damper our entire lives.
There are so many things that we should be grateful for, too many to list here. These were just a few that came to mind that I wanted to share with you all. I encourage you to cherish each of these immaterial goods, and to continue to cultivate them for a healthy and flourishing life.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
**I’m sure you noticed all of the Tocqueville references here. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that I am very much an admirer of Tocqueville’s work. Therefore, I must recommend that you read Democracy in America. I consider it to be the most thorough treatise on American politics ever written, and I believe that you will as well.