NPR logo Why Thanksgiving Is A Scientist's Favorite Holiday

A Thanksgiving Feast For The Ears And Eyes

Why Thanksgiving Is A Scientist's Favorite Holiday

The beauty of the natural world and Thanksgiving come together in one remarkable face. Justin Sullivan/Getty hide caption

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Justin Sullivan/Getty

I love Thanksgiving. It's the only holiday of the season that makes real sense to me. No attempt to over-commercialize gorging on turkey and trimmings can undermine the essential idea that, for one afternoon, we are supposed to stop and be grateful.

And its not just Christians who are supposed to stop and grateful.  Jews and Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, Native Americans and atheists of all stripes, EVERBODY is supposed to get in the game. No excuses. It is an equal opportunity gratitude fest.

And that is why Thanksgiving is really just an excuse to be a scientist.

Somehow in the history of western culture we developed an interpretation of scientific practice that sees it as a means of control.  Science is so-often interpreted as a cold, dispassionate investigation that keeps the "investigated" at a distance.

That interpretation, if you ask me, is crap.

Science, when practiced with an authentic intention, is a way of honoring the cosmos we find ourselves inhabiting. Rather than distancing us from the living world, science can bring us closer to that world, allow us to see its remarkable contours and its tightly woven connections stretching all the way down to the infinitesimal and all the way up to the infinite.

In between those two limits there is just us and our lives. In between there is the food that keeps us alive, a gift of natural living systems. We have our family and friends, a gift of emotion and intelligence bestowed by miracles of time and evolution.  In between, there is the interstitial reality of being human and having the capacity to take notice, to be attentive and to find gratitude in the simple fact of the world's Being.

Taking notice of the world as it is and of itself, for even just a single moment, is a fundamental act of being human and therefore being a scientist and therefore being grateful.

Can't we get some more holidays like this one?