Careening through our techno-modern society, it becomes easier with each passing day to imagine life in the Jetsons Age. Futuristic societies, such as the Space Federation that governs the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek, or the United States from which the Robinsons launched before they were Lost In Space appear to have homogenized their days. No one different from the next.
Captain Kirk and his crew, Captain John Robinson and even George Jetson live in worlds where all the most basic needs are met by machines of technology. Environment, the very air we breathe, the food served, transportation to and fro are accomplished without a second thought, without a first thought, by these inhabitants of the future.
George Orwell painted a grim scene in his view of the future, 1984.
Aldous Huxley took us out to the twenty-sixth century in Brave New World.
While the former works are adventurous looks at futures living with space travel, or a comic strip depicting lives in the Space Age, the latter two present more sober views.
Orwell and Huxley don’t simply tell tales of Buck Rogers lifestyles, but present us with questions. With options. With choices.
How will our future world develop? How will we choose the paths to take? Who will decide? How will we select those things to be left behind, cast aside, and which we will carry with us into future generations? If everything comes with a price, what will be the costs?
Humankind has run several circles around itself with its concepts of truths. Origins. Our very existence. The purpose and value and duty of human beings. In a brief ten thousand years, not even a tick on the Earth’s four billion-year-old clock, we have gone from savages to gods.
On the Salisbury Plain of England and across the Yucatan, humans built great stone clocks. Humans were linked to the stars. Things that were solid, consistent, predictable, reliable. Surely a conscious mind must have designed and fashioned these elements. In Egypt, pyramidal stone spires also reflected the constellations. The Pharaohs themselves Earthbound deities awaiting their return to space and the afterlife.
In a few thousand years, separated in a time without cell phones and CNN, belief systems developed. We followed these as our paths to higher callings. Things that would help us to understand –or at least endure- the harsh world as infant mortality topped fifty percent, children were buried before their tenth birthdays. Mongol hoards pillaged our villages, volcanoes buried Pompeii, the Black Death and the Yellow Fever felled people like trees before the woodsman’s ringing ax.
Christians, Jews and Muslims alike recognized and observed festivals and feasts related to their religions. Holidays to mark the creation of the world, miracles granted to ancient brethren, the crucifixion of a martyr or a savior. A day to mourn and pray for the dead, a day to celebrate resurrection.
They say ancient Rome was almost a constant party at one point. The term “Roman Holiday” refers to any given day turned into one. Every third day, on average, there would be revelry, Gladiators, Christians fed to the lions and other fun stuff. As humankind advanced through the centuries, we began to settle into more workmanlike schedules. Fishermen needed to sail on the sea, farmers needed to work their fields. Eventually, children would be sent to schoolhouses, at least ‘til the age of ten, and the teacher’s job would be full time. Elsewhere, the burden of building a modern society took up much of what once was idle time.
Science and technology make their grand entrance to the story with Galileo. The future clashing like a warrior with the past. We can see the planets. We can demonstrate scientifically that we are not at the center of anything. We all know how well that went.
Time marched on, and after seeing the undeniability of Galileo’s observations, we slowly allowed our brains to begin to trust in the truths of science. Stone temples made of 100-ton boulders were no longer needed to keep time when pocket watches and calendars took their place.
Heathenish practices like human sacrifices and the worship of stars and other deities were shown to be superstitious. Enlightened people of the world began to seek peace, engage one another with respect, courtesy and tolerance. Persecutions were recognized as an offense against mankind itself, and a new and democratic world began to emerge. Where one was free to believe and pray and celebrate the rites of one’s belief without interference.
We’re far now from the 180 Roman Holidays per year that sought to recognize every festival of every belief and season. Our industrial society has forced even the most zealous to contain their beliefs to their personal time. On Saturday or Sunday. Or maybe you could have just one big holiday so it would be easier for everyone. We have schools and State workers now, and we embrace everyone’s right to pursue one’s own religion, but there needs to be a limit. We can’t close the schools, the banks and the government every third day like Rome.
A country founded by Christians and being predominantly so is likely to recognize the holiday for the birth of their savior. Jewish holy days, older than Christianity itself, were given the respect due. (Though it seems only in recent years will schools close for some Holy Days)
Galileo and his science was a chip in the mortar of many belief systems, and for other reasons that perhaps remain unknown, many religions are now shrinking. Churches and temples closing, consolidating. Maybe there’s just too much competition for time and money. Maybe modern science and medicine has caused people to turn from faith. While many traditions remain for the sake of tradition, some aspects are seen as superstition, or exaggerations of ancient storytellers seeking to add power and impact to their words.
There is little mentioned in 1984, in Brave New World, on Star Trek or Lost In Space about religion. Belief. Practice. Holy Days (the origin of the word holi-day) No Hanukkah, no Christmas, no Ramadan. If this is an accurate look into our homogenized future, I can only hope Thanksgiving is spared.
It may be based on mythology, or perhaps it’s factual. It may have first been celebrated by the Christians that invaded this continent, but in historical tellings it is celebrated equally by the natives, who were not labeled Christians. It brings people together, not to celebrate a religious rite, or to observe an occurrence in ancient times. It is not a gathering seeking absolution, nor to testify to the power of gods.
It is the simplest affair, really. Just a feast. A meal with persons we are most thankful to have. A day and time to stop, to pause and reflect on the good and glorious in our lives.
Our American Thanksgiving Holiday is not a religious observance. If it makes sense as part of your belief system, you can give thanks to whatever powers you choose to. If you prefer, you can simply observe your thankfulness in your heart for those things in your life that are appreciated. It is the very name of the holiday, and its intent is to inspire folks to be thankful, yet also it is a gathering. It is a get-together without a solemn religious purpose. It is a feast with family and friends. A holiday that has not yet been thoroughly smothered and overtaken by the greeting card industry and other hawkers of goods. There is no perfect tree or obligatory gift, no case upon case of lights and garlands to display.
One of the wisest prophets of our time, Dr. Theodore Seuss Geisel, known to most as “Dr. Seuss”, delivers the message eloquently, quoting How The Grinch Stole Christmas. After the Grinch steals every last speck of the Whos’ holiday-the trees, the decorations, the wrapped gifts, even the feast itself, the Whos of Whoville emerge at dawn to hold hands in a circle, and sing gleefully. Mesmerized, the Grinch ponders this.
“It came without ribbons.
It came without tags.
It came without packages,
Boxes or bags.”
Though I call it homogenization, I embrace the welcoming of our new world. We are at the brink. We are moving from tolerance through acceptance and on to welcoming. Tolerating something implies opposition to its premise, and a tenuous acceptance. We are beginning to welcome all. All colors. All religions. All belief systems and self-orientations.
These are fine achievements for which humankind should give itself a pat on the back.
It is not difficult to foresee the Space Age and its all-inclusive spirit. If trends continue in the shrinking of religions and the following of science, one can envision a time when an observance from one tiny sect of an ancient religion might no longer be a broad tradition, celebrated by a holiday for much of the populace.
Still, in our most-distant futures, our 2540 A.D., won’t there still be love and beauty, caring and comforts? If our offspring leap from tubes at the age of three or our parents are from two different galaxies, won’t we still love one another?
At the Robinsons’ camp on an unidentified planet, aren’t they still glad they have each other? Parents, a son, a daughter, a son-in-law. Won’t they be thankful their food machine still works or they are able to grow odd science-fiction plants to feed themselves?
In the cold expanse of space, light years from home, isn’t Captain Kirk glad to have First Officer Spock, “Bones”, the ship’s doctor? Lieutenant Uhura and Mr. Chekov, loyal friends as well as shipmates? Won’t there still be beautiful worlds and possibilities to embrace?
Even in the Spacely Sprocket world of The Jetsons, they are family. “Meet George Jetson”, the theme song sings, “His boy Elroy. Daughter Judy. Jane, his wife.” And they have a dog. There may be no churches or temples or trees or birds, but they still have one another.
I can only hope, (and dare I say- pray) that the high-tech, homogenized, all-inclusive, automated future will hang onto this vestige of the nineteenth century. That they will park their hovercars and shut down The Transporter for just one day.
One day that was never foreseen by Orwell and Huxley.
A day to take stock of the good in our lives.
The Thanksgiving of the future.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks,
The fault lies in yourself.
Seek peace, and Happy Thanksgiving.