List Your Blessings

A popular Thanksgiving tradition is to go around the table, listing the things for which those present are thankful. It can be a very powerful exercise to actually compose such a list. Lists create a sense of scale and the cumulative effect of each item listed tends to compound the others.

Take, for example, the catalog of ships in The Iliad. Several pages of that text are dedicated to listing all of the ships, along with the numbers of their fighting men, that came to the Trojan shores. The seemingly ceaseless recital of the Greeks emphasizes the scale of the conflict. During the battles, the narrative follows individuals as they engage in one-on-one combat. And this is why the catalogue of ships is so important. Without that list to establish the scale of the armies, one could be mislead into thinking of the war as a series of encounters between a handful of individuals rather than between mighty hosts. The knowledge that the Greek and Trojan armies are quite large gives a sense of scale to the dramatic face-offs between the individual heroes.

So this Thanksgiving, give some thought to the vast number of the world’s blessings and how that great list gives context to each individual blessing.

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Beer of the week: Saranac Pale Ale – Saranac, New York is about 300 miles from the site of the fabled first Thanksgiving. In American terms, that’s rather close enough to count as local. This beer has a solid malt body with just a bit of hops bitterness to back it up. Saranac Pale Ale makes for a really good beer for a casual drink.

Reading for the week: The Fourth Book by François Rabelais, Chapter 4.LIX – Some would argue that there is virtually no way to stay awake through the entire catalogue of ships, especially in the drowsy afterglow a large meal. This list is probably more appropriate for Thanksgiving. Rabelais was a master of writing lists, and this particular excerpt is the menu of the Gastrolaters, a people whose god is the stomach and whose religion is eating.

Question for the holiday: In certain cases, shorter lists arguably indicate greater importance. A short list of experts in a field may indicate a higher level of expertise. A short list of friends may indicate more intense or close friendship than a longer list. Are there certain sorts of blessings for which this is also true?

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Take your tablets along with you…

“It is wonderful how the mind is stirred and quickened into activity by brisk bodily exercise.” – Pliny the Younger

The weather is finally right for outdoor activity and outdoor beers. Throw around the generic plastic flying disc toy. Jog through the park. Grill up some burgers. Crack a cold one and drink to your own vitality. Or, if you prefer a more peaceful outing:

“There is something, too, in the solemnity of the venerable woods with which one is surrounded, together with that profound silence which is observed on these occasions, that forcibly disposes the mind to meditation.” – Pliny the Younger

Stroll leisurely through the forrest. Read a book in the shade of an ancient tree. Compose original verses on the nature of springtime. Casually sip your beer and envelope yourself “in the solemnity of the venerable woods.”   20130702-212742.jpg Beer of the Week: Saranac Wild Hop Pils – This American pilsner is brewed with Belma hops, a variety of hops that was discovered growing wild in Oregon. The pale gold beer has a nice foamy head that leaves good lacing on the glass. Grassy and slightly floral hops dominate the flavor, but it is not especially strong. Overall, this is a light, crisp beer that seems well suited to drinking in large quantities.

Reading of the Week: Letter To Cornelius Tacitus by Pliny the Younger – Pliny went hunting one day (much out of keeping with his genteel and bookish character.) While in the forest, he made more use of his pencil than of his spear. “Whenever you hunt, to take your tablets along with you, as well as your basket and bottle, for be assured you will find Minerva no less fond of traversing the hills than Diana.”

Question of the Week: Is there a better place than the forrest for calm reflection?