I was sitting in the orthodontist’s office, waiting for him to get to me, reexamining the various implements on the dentist chair and half listening to the conversation between my orthodontist and one of his assistants.
The orthodontist described how he was taking care of his elderly next-door neighbor’s lawn and was in general looking out for him – certainly very kind behavior on his part.
His assistant agreed that it was very sweet of him, adding with a sincere expression, “It’ll bring you good karma. It really will.”
That struck me. A fellow does kind things and it is natural to believe that it will somehow help his own life in the future. But how does that happen – how does one explain that feeling? Once you’ve stopped believing in God, I suppose karma is all that’s left.
When this assistant, who is a perfectly pleasant and well-intentioned lady, sits down to her Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, whom does she imagine that she is thanking?
“Thank you for allowing me to enjoy this meal,” she will say (or will at least mean). But thank who? Is she thanking her karma? Is she thanking herself perhaps – “good work on getting through another year”? But it would seem sort of silly to have a national day of personal self-congratulation.
Thanksgiving Day is of course a religious holiday – one that an atheist cannot celebrate. The first American Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 by the Puritans, but it did not become a annual holiday until