“Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
"Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth." ~ Marcus Aurelius
November is a month of holidays that make us remember things. Armistice Day commemorates the end of the Great War, when the Allies defeated Germany in "the War to End All Wars," on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Of course it became Veterans' Day after the Allies defeated Germany again in World War II, and so it honors veterans of every war since then.
Like most of us, my family had relatives on both sides of both wars. In fact, my family has had relatives on both sides of every war since the Revolution, and answering the question of who was in the right has always been a matter of diplomatic finesse. Not that it is usually successful. We seem to have a knack for getting along famously with everyone – except each other!
That having been said, Veterans' Day is a day for remembering that we are all in this together, whatever our individual heritage. There are no atheists in foxholes, and there are no loners either.
November also hosts Thanksgiving, that quintessentially "American" holiday that symbolizes our common bond. We are on this side of "the Pond," and the Old World isn't. As O'Henry put it, "There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American."
The nice thing about Thanksgiving is that it is really a harvest festival, so it is also universal. You could say it's how we celebrate harvest day in the USA, since it has its roots in both worlds. In 1621 the Old World Pilgrims and the New World Wampanoag Indians shared what they had as neighbors.
Abraham Lincoln made it semi-official in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, proclaiming a national Thanksgiving Day to be celebrated each November.
Now it's a day when people who don't even like football will watch it for hours, and a day when many of us will give up fitting into that old, tailored suit for one more year.
November is also Native American Heritage Month, which may be coincidental but is also appropriate. Had it not been for the Wampanoag Indians the Pilgrims would likely have perished. I am happy to report that today about 3,000 Wampanoag Indians live in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and there is a reservation for the Wampanoag Indians on Martha's Vineyard. Nice spot for a reservation.
I recently spent some time with Moses Bring Plenty. He is the Community Outreach Liaison for the Kansas City Indian Center, and over the course of an hour he reminded me how broad a view of the world one needs to take in order to see it in detail.
Mo has a knack for making the simple sublime. Take the word "equality," and apply it to everything you see around you. If you include the rocks and trees, the clouds and people, you start to get a glimmer of how he sees things.
Now if you make that your personal philosophy, too, your whole worldview shifts. You come to realize that everything on earth has a role to play and that we really own nothing but are only stewards of things for our time. So each life becomes a gift, every passing flower a treasure, and sunrise a recurring miracle.
Albert Einstein understood that, too, when he observed, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." That's one man's perspective, but it holds great truth.
Robert L. Beardsley is manager of Planning & Development for the Preservation Alliance of Leavenworth.