Thanksgiving 2021: The Road Goes On

Thoughts of gratitude on Thanksgiving 2021: the road goes on and we follow in the path of those who came before us, building on their accomplishments and insights.

Thanksgiving 2021: The Road Goes On

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.
J. R. R. Tolkien in “The Return of the King

The road goes on and we follow in the path of those who came before us, building on their accomplishments and insights

I am grateful for my health, my family, my friends, and the opportunities I have been given. It’s a little early for New Year’s resolutions but I am taking my cue from an essay I read earlier this year (excerpted below). My resolutions for 2002:

  • Be useful in a crisis by first of all recognizing that it’s just the end of an illusion, cultivating calmness, and looking for opportunities as well as mitigations.
  • Make friends easily by letting go of my need to be right, pretending that I heard the apology I needed–when none was forthcoming–to be able to forgive, and keeping in touch and connecting them with others.
  • Nurture and act on good ideas when I have them by starting with well-framed experiments, tinkering and iterating, and scaling or abandoning based on what I learn.

Become Someone Who is Useful In a Crisis,
Makes Friends Easily, and Has Good Ideas

Life is full of randomness punctuated by sudden moments – crises and opportunities – with vast potential for making meaning when our skills and virtues shine.

It is about being prepared for the call to adventure, and cultivating the ability to recognize it, rather than believing we can direct our lives from the perspective of some knowable, ultimate mission.

Some sources of meaning seem to be:

  • participation in something larger that will survive ourselves – a nation, a family, a faith
  • creativity and flow states – bringing something genuinely novel into the world. When all our talents, including our deeply held and latent ones are used, this is more meaningful than when we are schlepping along
  • love – when our sense of well being has loci outside of ourselves – friends, family, and lovers
  • pro-social utility, or good works – creating a surplus of security and resources that others can use to survive and pursue their own sense of meaning
  • an internal sense of coherence, wholeness and dignity

There will be many different moments and opportunities to create meaning that arise in our life.

Time is not fungible – a given moment of opportunity, or a chance to respond appropriately to a crisis, might not occur again. Our creative powers do not flow smoothly and evenly like water from the tap to the drain, but chaotically like a babbling brook going from the mountains to the ocean – with different shoals, rapids, pools and speeds along the way. Believing that our efforts must flow from smooth, even and continuous effort rather than coming in uneven bursts leads to much unnecessary guilt and anxiety about “wasted” time.

Instead of looking for a cause to devote your life to, you might try to become someone who is useful and level-headed in a crisis, who is well connected and makes friends easily, or who regularly has good ideas.

Philosophy in Hell: “Instead of your life’s purpose

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Image Credit: James Lough “The Road Goes On”

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