Thanksgiving thoughts from Jazz Lives

November 23, 2011 at 8:36 pm (blogging, humanism, jazz, Jim D, music, poverty, solidarity, United States)

Michael Steinman, over at Jazz Lives, has been reflecting on the meaning of that old American institution, celebrated tomorrow: Thanksgiving. He starts out, quite understandably, giving thanks for jazz and all the pleasure it’s brought him. Some nice Youtube clips, too, of some great present-day musicians playing the old standard Thanks A Million (lyrics by Gus Khan, melody by Arthur Johnson).

But then Michael moves on to some more general points about love, humanity, common decency and taking action for a better world. Wonderful stuff, and I make no apologies for simply reproducing the closing paragraphs:

…And a footnote, nothing preachy.  I teach English — literature and writing — to four classes of college freshmen and sophomores, and I met with them this last Monday and Tuesday.  At the end of each class, I looked at them very sternly and said, “I have a Thanksgiving homework assignment for you.”  I can’t describe the collective skepticism in the room, because I never give “homework,” and asking students to “do work” over a holiday when the college is closed seems to them a violation of their basic rights.  And some of them know my deadpan humor.  (Others were simply waiting for me to stop talking so that their holiday could begin, and I understand this completely.)

I said, “I assume many of you are going off to have some sort of meal with family or friends this holiday?” and many of them agreed.

“OK,” I said.  “Here’s your assignment.  Find someone in that room, someone you love.  TELL that person you love him or her.”

Some of them giggled; they all looked relieved.  Maybe that’s the most important thing I will teach them this semester.

One more four-bar break.  I do, of course, have a secret purpose in all of this.  If everyone got in the habit of acknowledging their gratitude, it would be a world full of people saying and thinking THANK YOU! and I AM SO FORTUNATE, which would be lovely additions to the cosmic atmosphere.  And perhaps then we could move into the next phase: noticing those who have less to be thankful for, whether they are homeless people on the street, the Chinese workers who suffer to make our technology (see Mike Daisey’s play about Steve Jobs if you have a heart!) . . . the list is longer and sadder than I can say.  And we could then move from noticing to taking action.  What a wonderful world, then, indeed.

Wishing you all happiness — and not just on Thursday.  JAZZ LIVES wouldn’t have a reason to exist without you.

PS: Ricci Ricardi on the very greatest version of Thanks A Million.

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