Monday, November 23, 2009
What we are thankful for
This is Thanksgiving week. Apropos of that, there was an op-ed about the Puritans in the Wall Street Journal last week by Amy Henry, titled “Idle Hands: Some Puritan Advice for the Unemployed.”
In thinking about anti-absurdity, it would be hard to find a more anti-absurd group than the Puritans. Henry sets out to defend the Puritans against the usual charges of overly-serious, fun-hating, work-loving, unhappy prudes. (And she misquotes C.S. Lewis. The following line is the work of H.L. Mencken: “Puritanism… the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”)
But in the end Henry only damns them further in our view.
“More than just an annual turkey fest, the Puritans gave America a pedagogy of work and an attitude toward life that upsets the modern notion that a person's occupation equals his value. A man's worth, the Puritans might advise… lay in his service to God and to his fellow man, not in titles or financial portfolios. Rather than seeing life as a series of random events, the Puritan's belief in Providence imputed a profound sense of a loving God's purpose for him, a purpose that left very little room for despair.”
Well, we agree that no man should invest his sense of worth in a title or a financial portfolio. But we also see no difference between that and investing a sense of worth in a God or other people or anything else for that matter.
We think that man has no intrinsic worth or purpose; and that we might think more clearly and enjoy life more if we stopped thinking of humanity as some great exception in the scheme of things. Does a mountain have a purpose? Does a monkey? Does the pencil on my desk have “intrinsic worth”? Does anybody endure sleepless nights over it? Not the monkey.
And to write approvingly, in this day and age, that the “Puritan's belief in Providence imputed a profound sense of a loving God's purpose for him, a purpose that left very little room for despair” is to forfeit your intellect for flimflam. It is to toss your brain aside and fill your skull with sweet sounding syrupy goo.
Man does not need a sense of purpose to be happy, we argue on this blog. In fact, we go farther and say that a sense of purpose can easily lead one to unhappiness. Purpose implies an obligation that must be met, a goal. It also implies failure, it implies sacrifice, a burden… these are not happy thoughts to us.
As for idle hands… Well, idleness is a topic that we are fond of. (See our posts “In defense of idlers” and “Doing nothing”). Safe to say, we enjoy our idle moments.
On Thanksgiving Day, we will enjoy our roasted turkey ; we will savor the stuffing, the sweet potato, the cranberry sauce and the wine; and we will be merry in the companionship of our friends and family; we will be happy to be alive, to be there just then. We certainly will not wonder about our purpose or our sense of worth. Nothing matters in the end, so we’ll enjoy the moment… and we’ll be thankful for that.
Posted by Inigo Montoya at 1:27 PM