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A Thanksgiving For The Best Of All Mankind
Knowing that much more than a tea tax was at stake, the latter group and all their fellow-patriots risked life and limb in the name of values their oppressors claimed as their own, but were honouring, routinely at this time, in the breach rather than the observance. The gallant band of brothers who rebelled changed the face of history. They made it glow and smile and radiate eternal youth and hope.
It's fitting on such an occasion to extend a broader salute to the best of humanity across the globe who epitomise the explosive flowering of reason and freedom nurtured by that magnificent document, The Declaration of Independence. For me personally this means a hymn of unstinting praise to the following, among others:
1) The scientists and physicians who have so enhanced the quality and longevity of human life. They have unlocked nature's secrets and unashamedly exploited them for human edification. They have understood that "nature, to be commanded must be obeyed"; they have understood equally that nature, to be obeyed, must be commanded. In our day they include the computer "geeks" who have enabled us to transmit words and images across the globe in a second. The enrichment they have brought to human life is incalculable. I think of them and paraphrase the words of the literal hymn .... Oh splendid men, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the works thine hands have made ...
2) In that most spiritual of aspects - music - of that most spiritual of realms - art - the composers and performers who have brought unclouded exaltation to human beings worthy of it. In my case I single out Rachmaninoff and Puccini and other Romantic composers whose soaring symphonies and concerti and operas sweep all before them. I single out Mario Lanza, of whom it has been said if there were a God, this would be his voice; I single out his recordings of Strange Harmony of Contrasts and The Stars Were Brightly Shining from Tosca, where he rumbles those very stars himself. I single out Fritz Wunderlich and Anna Moffo and Maria Callas and so many others ... To those who are oblivious to such wonders, the saying is truly applicable that no explanation is possible while to those who are not, none is necessary!
3) The philosophers who have asked the most fundamental questions known to man. They have wrestled with these questions, and with each other, sometimes so hard they have lost their bearings and fallen out of the ring. Gratitude of unbounded enormity is owed to Ayn Rand who showed them all where they had made wrong moves. Gratitude is also owed to her unsung American predecessor, Robert Green Ingersoll, who, while not a professional philosopher, held the torch of reason aloft while professional philosophers were fumbling with it and dropping it.
4) NEM everywhere, of whom I have written elsewhere ... New Enlightenment Men (including women!); those for whom their very lives are a work of art, who combine innocence with playfulness, intellect with passion, spirituality with physicality; the Objectivists who do not forget that reason and morality are not their highest purpose but tools for the achievement of their highest purpose, their own personal happiness; SOLOists who take a stand against the travesty of our philosophy that says we live in order to think and be moral rather than the other way round.
Such people throughout history have transformed religion's self-fulfilling prophecy of life as a vale of tears into rational, radiant thinking's projection of life as a mountain of laughter and joy. The Founding Fathers were among their greatest exemplars. Let us be thankful for them, and all like them, on this day.
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