As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been noticing some things I’m unconsciously thankful for.
I’m thankful that I’m not in the situation of Toronto mayor Rob Ford. I don’t mean I’m thankful I’m not Rob Ford, because basically I am. So are you. We’ve all made stupid choices, and some of us have seen our lives or our marriages or our careers unravel as a result. But many of us have lucked out. Our comeuppance has been gentler. Maybe someone has forgiven us. Or maybe they haven’t found out. Yet. That means we’re still vulnerable to denial. But a fortunate fraction have faced up and still not unraveled. It’s always tricky in our own case to decide whether we’re still in denial, so my gratitude is, I guess, provisional. Maybe next Thanksgiving I’ll be grateful that I was finally unmasked and forced to face myself without denial. But, for now, I’m grateful that I’m still standing.
I’m grateful that a young woman named Rachel sat down next to me in the San Francisco airport last week. She asked me why I was on the west coast, and I said it was a mix of business and pleasure. I had reconnected with some old friends, but I was also on a book tour. I told her a bit about my philosophy book, The Trolley Problem, and she said she worked for a hedge fund that liked to hire philosophy majors and other humanities students. I asked why and she said the company thinks they’re more creative, more likely to think outside the usual parameters. She herself was a political science and biology major, and her hope is to become a novelist. (I’m not even sure exactly what a hedge fund is, so this isn’t a commercial; but I wouldn’t be totally open if I didn’t share that their name is Bridgewater, a company I had never heard of, but that is apparently the world leader in hedge fund results, an interesting factoid in this context.) In any event, I’m grateful that in some large companies, a background in the humanities makes you more employable.
I’m grateful that in Portland, Oregon last week, when I was caught in the act of looking at a pretty girl, she smiled at me. I’m 73, so I definitely qualify as harmless. Still, in New York City, where I live, that smile would be extremely unlikely. Thank you, pretty girl, for reminding me that we don’t always have to live in fortified silos.
Like a lot of people my age, I’m even more grateful than I used to be for old friends. Doug and Jane and Charlie and Susan, all friends from fifty years ago, shared a drink and a bunch of appetizers after the bookstore event in Berkeley. At one point, I said, “Look at us! We’re all lucky stiffs. We have our health and we’re all still involved in interesting stuff.” One of us has gone through a hard bout with lymphoma. Three of us are partially deaf. I’m a widower, happily remarried—to a cancer survivor—and with a lovely, grown daughter who has had more than her own share of setbacks. All still standing.
My closest friend (and oft-time co-author) Danny Klein belongs to a religion of his own making, Lucky Duckism. The principal tenet of this religion is to always remember to thank Lord Duck. Danny’s a two-time cancer survivor, but he’s still grateful, still standing.
I’m thankful we have a national holiday that celebrates Lucky Duckism. Whether at your table you say, “Thank you, Lord Duck,” or just, “Thank you, Lord,” or just “Thank you,” may you have a happy Thanksgiving.