Life starts all over again . . .

. . . when it gets crisp in the fall.  

That’s a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic “The Great Gatsby.” When polled, most Americans pick fall as their favorite season and October as their favorite month. But, what’s this business about life starting all over again? What is there possibly about fall that could feel like a new beginning? The hummingbirds have disappeared in search of warmer weather. The leaves will soon change color and fall off the trees. The natural world is preparing for the sleep of winter. Fall is the beginning of the end, if anything, right? 

According to the Gregorian calendar, the same one we use to know what day it is and schedule meetings, January 1st is the start of a new year. Close to the beginning of winter.  Most of the world observes January 1 as a collective beginning. But, that particular day is not the only new year. 

February 1st, 2022, will be the first day of the Chinese Year of the Tiger. This observance is also known as the lunar new year because it falls on the day of the new moon between January 21 and February 20. 

In India, the New Year depends on several factors — whether a person is following the Hindi solar calendar or the Hindi lunar calendar for one, and the region of India in which a person lives, for another.  For some communities in Northern India, Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is celebrated as the start of a year. 

The Jewish culture celebrates the New Year at Rosh Hashanah, a two-day event marking the beginning of the lunar month of Tishri in the Jewish calendar, another event determined by the new moon. The most recent Rosh Hashanah began in the evening of September 6, 2021.

The Celtic New Year is Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the start of the new year. This always coincides with the day we more commonly call “Halloween” and continuing into the following day, November 1st, what Christians call “All Saints Day.” 

Many modern pagans mark the passage of time with the wheel of the year and its eight seasonal festivals or sabbats, including the four major solar events — the two solstices, and two equinoxes. These include Samhain, and although many will use this Celtic observance as the start of a new year, part of the beauty of the Wheel of the Year is that it shows the continuous turning of time thus making no day and every day the beginning of a new year.

Beginnings are possible at any time. Each morning can be a new beginning.  Each moment, even.  If you are one of the many who love fall and come a bit more alive in September and October, then you understand how something feels like it’s beginning at this time of year. So, on with the pumpkin spice and on with the hoodies and on with the autumn decor. Let the holiday planning begin. Mark the calendar with travel dates.  

The equinox has passed and taken summer with it. Fall is here, the air is crisp, and life starts all over again. 

Let’s Ask the Atheist to Say Grace


In First Thessalonians, the Christian New Testament tells us to give thanks in everything.  The Psalmist of the Old Testament bathed in gratitude.  The Quran tells us that “any who is grateful does so to the profit of his own soul.”  The Buddha taught gratitude as the response to both a kindness and a slight knowing that both contain lessons, the latter often more so than the former.  Hindu practice hinges on living from a place of constant gratitude.  Countless examples of Native American literature emphasize again and again the practice of gratitude to the Great Spirit.

I could go on, but I believe my point is made.  Spirituality, religious identity, holiness — whatever you want to call it — exists in gratitude, regardless of which brand name you prefer.  Thankfulness is perhaps the most consistent element in the history of religious thought.

But, what about those pesky atheists?  Can they even DO Thanksgiving?

I’ve heard people ask that question before.  The assumption underlying this question is that gratitude requires a celestial being as the source of all giving to whom one expresses thanks.

I read a story this past week that came from Hasidic teachings which I will (grossly) paraphrase here.

The student asks the teacher, “Teacher, why did God create atheists?”

The teacher replies, “To teach us compassion.  When an atheist sees a person in need and responds to that need, he does so not to win favor with his God, but simply to act compassionately.  Whenever you see someone in need, you should become an atheist.  Act from a heart of pure compassion and remove any possibility that you are acting out of a selfish need.”

Perhaps also in Thanksgiving we should be atheists.  Rather than thanking whatever your version of God might be — man on a cloud or ethereal energy — perhaps consider who actually provided that for which you feel grateful.  Thank the farmers who raised the turkey and threshed the wheat and bogged the cranberries.  Thank the factory worker who assembled the car you drove over the river and through the woods.  Thank the furniture maker who built the couch you can potato on all afternoon watching football.  Thank the football players who gave up their holiday for your bash-’em-up pleasure.

Thank the breeder who raised the puppy who “helps” you cook.

Now, it just so happens that I believe there is a Source in the universe (though I lean  more toward ethereal energy than man on a cloud).  I have no problem thanking that Source for everything in my life.  Here’s the thing though — when I thank the farmer and the factory worker and the football player, I feel gratitude to both the conduit and the source at the same time.  If I just thank the source, well, I sorta’ skip the middle man.

We are the brokers through which Divine goodness flows from source to other people.  We show up as God in each other’s lives all the time.  I have to believe that being grateful to each other pleases God, however you see her.

So when the big feast starts, bow your head and give thanks, if that’s your preference.  Just don’t forget to kiss the cook as well.  And, always, ALWAYS, ask the atheist to say grace.  You know, just for shits and giggles.