via Flickr: The Commons

via Flickr: The Commons

I’m of the opinion that every major American holiday, if not just every holiday, is on some level a ritualistic celebration designed to disguise indulging in vice. Fourth of July is pride, Christmas avarice, Valentine’s Day is lust, and Thanksgiving is, of course, gluttony.

The counterpoint is that while enjoying these vices, we tend to be able to reflect on the best of humanity and the best of what’s in our lives. Every stupid movie about a particular holiday (except for Halloween movies, but just bear with me) is about the stress and crap of normal life that all suddenly gets washed away when some cutesy moment occurs and everyone realizes life ain’t so bad after all and we’re all pretty lucky.

In that spirit, I’ve been trying to come up with a list of stuff for which I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the internet, especially Amazon and Google and JSTOR and BitTorrent and Hulu. I’m thankful for cellphones and email and Twitter. I’m thankful for transcontinental flights and ATMs and Lonely Planet guides and the internal combustion engine. I’m thankful for the printing press and the Renaissance and translation scholars.

When I looked back over the list I made, I realized I was thankful for things that connected me to other people. The greatest technologies are the ones that let me spend more time with the people who make my life better. I’m thankful I can live in New York City and fly to my parent’s house in four hours. I’m thankful I can have friends around the country and on the other side of the planet and casually chat with them the same way I did when they were one dorm building away. I’m thankful I can coordinate drinks with a friend in the time it takes the N train to cross the Manhattan Bridge. I’m thankful I can read the best authors from around the world and throughout history with footnotes from the best scholars in my native language.

I am thankful that humanity’s most impressive creations are not weapons of war but technologies that bring us together.

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