Wednesday, November 21, 2012

May you never...

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[The following is an article that I wrote for the November 2011 Hearthstone Community Church's newsletter. It is reprinted in Bad Monkey: The Collected 2011 Hearthstone Community Church Articles.]

It is that time of year again when American society reminds us to count our blessings, time for the penultimate holiday of the year, Thanksgiving. This is a holiday that tends to be all about food. Personally, I find that all holidays involving food to be fascinating; my interest extends to weddings and funerals also. If there is food involved, you have my attention. I blame this fascination on my childhood.

I grew up poor. Well, poor for an American. Let us be honest; when you look at the overall standard of living that humanity has enjoyed down throughout the ages, few Americans can be considered poor based on global and historical standards. So when I say that I grew up poor, let me be clear: there were holes in the roof; we accepted donations from the local food bank, and my school clothes were bought at yard sales.

I suspect that this fact, the fact that so few Americans are really poor, is the reason that we had to create the mythical holiday of Thanksgiving. And let's be honest, our image of Thanksgiving is mythical. It is very unlikely that a society that was on the verge of extinction by starvation would have such a large feast as depicted in the American mythology. There was probably no turkey. Personally, I tend to imagine the feast as some eels and a few ears of corn. And if the Pilgrims did get a windfall of food, they probably rationed it out as long as they could.

Thanksgiving is the feast that the Pilgrims would have liked to have. It is much like the number of feasts that one encounters in fairy tales, chivalry tales, and Northern mythology. It is not that people were constantly having feasts; it is that they would have liked more food on a daily basis.

One of the things that I know from my impoverished childhood is that at a certain level of need, there arises a constant concern about where your next meal is coming from. You never really get over it. It is one of the reasons that I automatically hate politicians who want to get rid of subsidized school breakfast and lunch programs. Growing up, I was constantly hungry. The free breakfast at the local school was a meal that I could count on. I remember this when a politician claims that schools are only for instruction, and presume that the politician needs to be voted out of office.

This impoverished background colors my views of the current political and economic environment. I am suspicious of any solution that shifts more of the economic burden onto the poor, but I am equally leery of any protest screaming that the rich are hogging all the wealth that does not contain anyone that I would classify as being truly poor. Through most of my childhood, my parents wondered how they were going to keep a roof over their children's heads, where the next meal was coming from, and if they could afford to turn on the heat.

My background also colors how I react to the most common blessing in Wiccan ritual (or at least, it is the most common blessing that I have encountered). "May you never hunger; may you never thirst." Having been poor, this blessing, in many ways, represents the height of human civilization as far as I am concerned. You can talk about spiritual experiences and personal growth; but let's be honest, I have always been more interested in food.

Of course, as a Golden Dawn member, I would modify the blessing slightly. (The Golden Dawn counterpart of Cakes and Ale, the Mystic Repast involves a rose, a lit lamp, bread and salt, and a cup of wine when done according to the official ritual documents.) Or maybe the modification is because I grew up poor. Whatever---it does not matter. What matters is that I extend this blessing to you this holiday season.

May you never be ignorant; may you never be cold; may you never hunger; may you never thirst; may you always be thankful. So mote it be. Happy holidays.

1 comment:

Harold Roth said...

"You can talk about spiritual experiences and personal growth; but let's be honest, I have always been more interested in food."

Me too, and IMO, that's as it should be. Recently I had a conversation with a mage who said, in response to my remarks that helping the poor was a spiritual act, that he did not concern himself much with the material side of life. "Try not eating," was my rejoinder. I don't know what his response was, if any, but honestly, this kind of airy dismissal of the necessity for tending to the material (not to mention how enjoyable it can and should be) just irks me. But then, a lot of stuff does.:)