“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”
~ Ray Bradbury
This image, dubbed “Celestial Fireworks,” was taken by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 from the Hubble Space Telescope. (Courtesy of NASA).
Waking up on a cool South Florida morning is a blessing. In fact, waking up any morning is a blessing. Yesterday the US celebrated Thanksgiving, and regardless of your beliefs regarding the origin of the holiday and the realities of colonization upon indigenous peoples of the world, there is nothing wrong with getting together with family and friends and giving thanks. In fact, we should stop and be grateful on a daily basis.
Growing up in Jamaica, one of my lasting memories is of the annual Harvest Thanksgiving. This was a church based ceremony, designed to show the abundance of Mother Nature and appreciation for her bounty. Salem Church in Chapelton would be lovingly decorated with the fruits, vegetables and flowers of the congregation’s labors. Tall sugar cane would be bent and tied in arches down the aisle. From the delicate mandarin oranges (more familiarly known as mangerines) to the grossly deformed and well-named ugli, all manner of citrus fruits would be tied and hung from the ends of pews. Piled up on the steps leading up to the platform would be the widest variety of root vegetables: yellow yam; St. Vincent yam; Negro yam; Afu yam; sweet potato; irish potato; coco and cassava. There would be huge pumpkin; avocadoes (pear) and whatever tropical fruit were in season. We would sit in church surrounded by this colorful display, this cornucopia of generosity, looking forward to Monday evening, Harvest Supper.
In the church yard, tables were set up with even more treats. The ladies (and some men) would display their baked goods: drops, gizzada and grata cake; cakes of all flavors and home-made candy. Jim Reeves songs playing over the loudspeakers, children running wild, teenagers trying to sneak away from the distracted adults. And the food. Curried goat, goat-head soup, chicken, rice and peas; a feast for all the senses.
We are so fortunate to find ourselves on this world in this time. As scientists struggle to comprehend the vastness of our universe and discover hints of way more galaxies and stars than we could ever imagine, it is easier to close our minds and get bogged down in our own little world. But photos like the one above remind us of the particular peculiarity of our existence. As a teen I struggled with those cosmic questions: Why am I here? Are we the only human beings in the universe? And if so, why? And if not, what would other worlds look like? Is there another me out there somewhere? As we grow up and find ourselves trying to pay bills and take care of more immediate problems, we let go of the big picture. It was always a little too huge to struggle with, anyway.
But do we owe it to the universe to be more appreciative of this unique set of circumstances that gave us so many talents; a wealth of abilities that we never tap into? Do we owe it to our potential cousins out there somewhere to try to do a better job of managing our resources, valuing the earth that we share? If the day comes that we have to account for our personal contribution to the betterment of mankind, or to increasing the mess we have made, are we going to be ready with our character references?
This Friday morning I am relishing the nip in the air, the touch of crisp breeze that comes down to us from the north, and reminiscing. I am hopeful for the future, that we will do a better job of sharing our resources and caring for our brothers. My message this morning is brief but far-reaching as I ponder on the speck that is our little planet and the microscopic dot that is each of us.
May you have memories to make you smile; dreams to make you aim high; and a deep appreciation for being right here right now, in this particular present moment. We have only to think of those who are no longer here, to recognize the gratitude we should demonstrate on a daily basis. In everything you do, give thanks.