Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, A Source of Eternal Joy

by Chris Masterjohn

Sandrine Hahn, a Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader, created a wonderful Thanksgiving illustration, found here.  It contains a beautiful quote from Konrad von Gesner:
Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song.
Gesner was a sixteenth century Swedish naturalist with many professional pursuits and interests including botany, medicine, mountains, and theology.

Gesner's quote is particularly beautiful because it urges us to be thankful for everything.  That we be thankful every time our heart beats, not simply for our heartbeat, but for whatever we have been given at the very moment our heart beats.

Another quote I very much enjoy is from Alexander Schmemman:
Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.
Schmemman (1921-1983) was an influential Orthodox Christian priest living, teaching, and writing in the United States.

One need not share Gesner's faith or Schmemman's faith to appreciate the liberating and saving power of gratitude.  In a recent conversation with some friends, we ennumerated the many things we were thankful for, but also concluded that we should be thankful for everything, including the things that seem to have caused us harm or seem to have made us suffer, because there are lessons for us hidden deep within each of these things.  This attitude is truly liberating and truly saving, because it frees us from anxiety, greed, anger, and fear.

If we are thankful for everything, we need not worry about what will happen next.  If we are thankful for what we already have, we need not live our lives for the sake of taking more and more.  We will never become angry at what we are thankful for.  If we are thankful for everything, there is nothing to fear.

Of course, we should not be thankful that other people suffer.  Our thankfulness should turn inward, and our compassion should turn outward.  But when we see suffering, we should be thankful for the opportunity to help someone in need.

There are many of you reading this to whom I am very grateful, and I hope to ennumerate all of this as time goes on, and I hope I have appropriately thanked many of you in past posts.  Today is an opportunity to remember what we should remember at every moment our heart beats, with every breath, that the world is marvelous, and we are thankful to be here.

Read more about Chris Masterjohn, PhD, here.


  1. I'm thankful for your blog :) Among many things of course! But your last posts have been especially fantastic!

  2. Gratitude works for those who can afford it but it is insulting to suggest it to those who cannot.

  3. Melissa, thanks! I'm thankful for your blog, your friendship, and all the good that you do as well!

    Anonymous, I agree and did not support laying the expectation of gratitude upon anyone else. On the contrary, I do not believe that anyone should expect anything of anyone else, ever. But whether other people expect things of other people is their business. Rather, I believe in doing good myself without expectations. If I can share with others who want to hear it the joy that this brings, I will do so. :)

  4. Yes, I'm thankful for this blog, too. I'm learning tons.

    Although I'm not exactly thankful for being unwell, I do recognize that being unwell is what motivated me to learn more about nutrition, & examine my family's diet. We are all benefiting from the significant changes we've made; changes I would've been unwilling to make before I got sick.

    Thank you to all who have helped us along the way!

  5. Jin,

    Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope you continue to regain the vibrant health that belongs to you.

    Mrs Ed, you're welcome, and thanks!


  6. Chris:

    With each post you reveal more brilliance and wisdom. Please keep sharing.

  7. Hi Anonymous,

    It is not my brilliance and wisdom; I am just passing it on.

    But thank you, and I will. :)


  8. Are you Orthodox? I am curious how you are acquainted with my favorite author, Schmemann? He isn't well know outside of Orthodox circles. I am also curious, if you know, about how an Orthodox person should view the fasting guidelines that call for fat free veganism during Lent, Advent, W and F of each week, and several smaller fasts throughout the year. These guidelines have troubled me in light of NT science, your research. for example, the monks of Mt Athos who eat this way year round...yet they live long lives. it is a conundrum for our family. I have refused to subject my children to it.

  9. Hi Shelley,

    Yes. :)

    There are no calls for fat-free veganism during Great Lent. In the theoretical ideal, weekdays contain one meal per day after the ninth hour after sunset containing dry foods with no oil and insufficient to produce full satiety. In practice, most non-monastics eat several meals a day and eat shellfish and shelled land animals all week long. For example, in Crete, snails are a huge component of the Lenten diet. The exception is among the Inuit and Aleuts, where the climate does not allow for anything but a hunting-based diet and thus traditionally they emphasized the intermittent fasting rather than abstaining from certain foods.

    Even in the absence of oil, one could eat plenty of fat by using coconut products. Coconut milk is especially easy to incorporate into soups.

    By emphasizing shellfish, coconut products, and leafy vegetables, one could eat a very nutrient-dense Lenten diet. The main limiting factor would be calcium. Cruciferous vegetables and small bones are good sources of calcium, but I think it would be pretty understandable to feed children dairy to be on the safe side, which I think most people do.

    In any case, by far and away the most important component of the fast is to fast from anger, slander, judgmentalism, laziness, lust of power, and idle talk, and instead to acquire a spirit of humility, patience and love. :)


  10. Hi Chris,
    i have amillion questions! But none of them related to this blog. i think my email is included with my google ID but if not, would you email me at

    And I live in Alaska and was aware that some places make an allowance for salmon...I think it's called the St innocent's Fast (or St herman)


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