Giving Thanks Where Thanks Is Due

Just a cursory glimpse of The Face will tell us that expressing gratitude is super hot right now.

All of our heartfelt feelings of blessing and indebtedness will soon (tomorrow!) culminate in that one big thankfulness orgy known as Thanksgiving. On this day our overflowing feelings of gratitude and the abundant goodness of life in relationship with nature and community, convert to overflowing feelings of breaded stuffing and sweet potatoes filling our very person. Fullness of spirit turns to fullness of body. Buttons symbolically pop off our pants and we fall into blissful, ego-less stupors that are reminiscent of the later, more tragic deaths of the pilgrims and Indians.

Well I want in on that action. I have to admit I’m thankful for a lot of the typical things–friends, family, health, freedom, Nature…I’m thankful for all of it. And more.


But there are some things that I haven’t seen mentioned much online. So I made a short list here, rather than posting it on The Face where, for all we know, the things we’re thankful for are being put on file so that they can be used to control and becalm us in the dystopian future (which I’m thankful doesn’t yet exist.)

For These Things, I Give Thanks:

1)  Counter-Reformation-Era Decorated Skeletons

In an effort to recapture their former glory after the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church removed skeletons from the Roman catacombs and sent them by parcel post all over the Catholic realm, baptizing them and passing them off as Christian saints.

Can you believe there are hundreds of such snazzy skeletons all over Europe? Nuns worked really hard to gussy them up and make them look glorious and resplendent.

I think it worked.  And when I look at them I have to ask, “Now Where O, Death is thy victory? Now Where, O Death, is thy sting?”

I’m thankful.



- Waldsassen, Germany, detail of St. Gratian. The Basilika at Waldsassen holds the largest extent collection of presumed skeletons of martyrs from the Roman Catacombs still on display. There are ten ful -

(I learned all of this from Paul Koudounaris’s lecture on his book “Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints From the Catacombs.” These are his pictures.)

2) The New Norman Rockwell

Rockwell-freedom from want

Now that we know Norman Rockwell was a depressed obsessive-compulsive who repressed his homosexuality, his paintings are suddenly waaaay more interesting (but they were pretty interesting before, you have to admit). Those whimsical, wholesome paeans to mainstream America are now fraught with unsuspected layers. Here we have the immaculate Thanksgiving table with not even a fingerprint smudge on the drinking glasses. The cherry jelly is glistening, perfectly molded, yet there is no bread to spread it upon. The table itself, and the window behind it, is emanating a sort of celestial, puritanical glow. And oh, we are given to believe that the multi-generational family will soon be enjoying the crisp and clean delights of that most watery of foods–the celery stick!!. And see how the turkey is not even steaming…because steam is kind of dirty. And now we see that these people’s smiles aren’t actually reaching their eyes.

What is really happening here? Norman Rockwell was never living that unique brand of sanitized American happiness that appeared in his works. I am thankful for his painting “Freedom From Want” because it reminds me that these sorts of fantasies so full of elisions and lies (no steam, no fingerprints, no bread…celery sticks are delicious) were probably known to be lies by Rockwell himself. Instead, what we have are deeper layers of bodily torment, disillusion, longing and death.

I am thankful.

3) Victorians


Yes, I sometimes am thankful for that most hilarious of human self-constructs–the Victorian person. Sometimes I think they weren’t so bad. If there were no Victorians, who would there be circa 1837-1901? Maybe someone worse.

I’m thankful I’ll never know.

I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers!


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