“That Spirit which alone suffices to quiet hearts & which seems to come forth to such from every dry knoll of sere grass, from every pine stump & half-embedded stone on which the dull March sun shines will come forth only to the poor & hungry & such as are of simple taste. If thou fillest thy brain with Boston & New York, with fashion & covetousness, and wilt stimulate thy jaded senses with wine & French coffee thou shalt find no radiance of Wisdom in the lonely waste by the pinewoods.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
John Adams wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (Message from John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, Oct. 11, 1798).
What a shame that we attempt to address the inadequacies we see around us by amending and increasing government without first acknowledging our moral shortcomings. We are erecting scaffolding around a weak core. I know that if we will humble ourselves, and focus our efforts on teaching correct principles established by God, we will rejoice in the heavy burdens that are lifted from this people.
From the December 5, 1874 issue of the Saturday Evening Post:
“When the summer is past, and the beauty and bloom of the harvest garnered, while with full hands and warm hearts the year draw near its close, it is meet that we return thanks to the Giver of all good gifts for the rich largess of His seasons, that we settle our balance due of gratitude, and with a clear page open the reckoning of the year to come.
It must be admitted that but little of the spirit in which this anniversary was originally framed remains at the present day, and that Thanksgiving Day has somehow gained a special meaning as a day for family gatherings, and for being merry generally.
There’s a deep fund of vitality in the human breast, and the most solemn or most sorrowful observance cannot induce a major of the people to wear long face and penitential hearts. And who can blame them? We have all legitimate causes enough for depression without suffering ourselves to be legislated into the blues, while our hearts are merry and our horizons clear.
The right to laugh or cry is one of the reserved rights of the people, not delegated to Congress, but retained as a constituent of individual freedom.
So if we find indecorously joyful faces shaming the solemn occasion, we can console ourselves with the reflection that laughter is better than tears, and that the making of happy people is the crowning glory of a good government.
But now joy is our business. We celebrate the good that has come unto us. And God is best thanked for His gifts by clear brows and smiling faces. Then let us shout and be merry, eat our fill, and laugh to our heart’s content while east and west, north and south, the wail of the turkey is heard in the land.”
“It is likely that some troubles will befall us; but it is not a present fact. How often has the unexpected happened! How often has the expected never come to pass! And even though it is ordained to be, what does it avail to run out to meet your suffering? You will suffer soon enough, when it arrives; so look forward meanwhile to better things. What shall you gain by doing this? Time. There will be many happenings meanwhile which will serve to postpone, or end, or pass on to another person, the trials which are near or even in your very presence. A fire has opened the way to flight. Men have been let down softly by a catastrophe. Sometimes the sword has been checked even at the victim’s throat. Men have survived their own executioners. Even bad fortune is fickle. Perhaps it will come, perhaps not; in the meantime it is not. So look forward to better things.”
– Seneca in Letters from a Stoic
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,
“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.
– Thomas Hardy