The 400th Thanksgiving

It’s incredible to think just how far we’ve come in the past 400 years.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

A bunch of incensed Pilgrims boarded a ship to a new world, seeking respite from an overbearing church and state. They made their sojourn to Zion.

Many died. Those who didn’t nearly starved to death.

But those who survived discovered the bedrock upon which to build a new civilization: freedom (and property rights).

You’ve got to think those early colonists understood the price of their newfound freedom.

It cost many their lives. But even those who outlived famine-like conditions, disease, high infant mortality, brutal weather, bouts with wildlife, and countless other challenging conditions…they all paid their pound of flesh for their freedom.

During that chapter of the American experiment, freedom didn’t equal material comfort.

It was impossible to escape from the reality of responsibility.

Even while the early colonists experimented with commune-style living and production, if enough people didn’t produce, everyone would starve.

How’s that for responsibility staring you in the face?

“He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”

John Smith

Modern Abundance

It’s a tall order to imagine what it really must’ve been like in the earliest chapters of America.

I imagine people were brutally aware of their own mortality. Even those who still wanted to mooch off the labor of producers.

Quite unlike the world we live in today. Abundance outflanks us all in this modern chapter.

The standard of living has risen at least ~1000x over the past 400 years.

We’ve continued to innovate our way through challenges (in spite of those who’d still prefer to mooch off the labor of producers).

But with so much abundance, it’s often easy to forget the imperative of responsibility.

Abundance is not a given.

It’s the byproduct of men and women who’ve (metaphorically speaking) boarded ships to a new world, sojourning to Zion.

People who’ve taken radical responsibility for breathing life into their own visions for a better world. In so doing, they’ve put their shoulder to the plow, and produced a windrow of abundance.

What will my grandchildren be thankful for?

Sometimes as a thought experiment, I like to imagine what the world will be like several generations from now. (Especially for my family, if I have the good fortune of having kids and living long enough to witness grandchildren.)

Two generations from now, will people look back at think, “Wow, I’m thankful for the sacrifices previous generations made to build the world into something better.”

Who knows. Most of us will be long dead.

But I have to think, if enough of us today do our damndest to live out the best version of ourselves, and build the best “now” that we can, then the future ought to end up a little brighter and better than it is today.

We have such an advantage in building the future today. Especially compared to the harsh conditions of the past.

Sure, plenty of opportunity for progress remains. But so long as we don’t completely burn the American experiment to the ground, then maybe, just maybe, every future generation can continue to find it a little bit easier than the previous one had it to make a start.

That’s the true miracle of the past 400 years, in my opinion.