Thanksgiving – Recipe Diem

It is important to "seize the day." It is also important to "receive the day."

Yme Woensdregt

In “Dead Poets Society”, Robin Williams plays English professor John Keating, who inspired his class of English boarding school boys to a love of poetry. He wants to mold them so that they learn to imagine new possibilities and dream new dreams for their lives.

In a key speech near the beginning of the movie, in a hallway with portraits of famous men, he urges the boys, “Carpe diem; seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

I wrote about this 4 or so years ago, and this year I was reflecting on that again as we approach this thanksgiving weekend. There is indeed a place and time in life for us all to seize the day, to take bold and courageous action. The world needs such witnesses to goodness and truth. Carpe diem, indeed.

But there is also a time in life for us to simply “recipe diem”, “receive the day”. One of my favourite prayers in the Anglican tradition comes from the service of Compline (night prayer): “O God, your unfailing providence sustains the earth which nurtures us and the life we live: watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

This prayer reminds us that the world which we inhabit, the lives we share, all that we are and all that we have, comes to us as a gift. Our lives are bounded by grace and undeserved generosity. It is not something we can seize or hold. We can only receive and give thanks.

“Recipe diem.” To receive in this way is not a passive thing. It is an active attentiveness to each moment as an irreplaceable, intimate gift. Buddhism calls it the practice of mindfulness. We are mindful of each joy in our life, each breath, each person, each event. We pay attention, and as we do so, we delight once again in the sheer giftedness of life.

The prayer also reminds us that we are dependant on each other’s toil. The notion of an autonomous individual is false. It is fundamentally absurd. We are born into, and dependent upon a web of relationships from start to finish. We live with others. Our lives are deeply interconnected with other lives. Part of the discipline of active, attentive gratitude is giving thanks for everyone else.

Margaret Visser, in her book “The Gift of Thanks”, writes, “Gratitude is always a matter of paying attention, of deliberately beholding and appreciating the other.” Thanksgiving is a good reminder to pay attention and deliberately behold and appreciate others as we acknowledge our dependence on one another.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to be grateful for the giftedness of my life. I will give thanks for all those other folk on whose toil my life depends. That includes family and friends. But it also includes a whole host of people who are unknown to me, all those who had a hand in making my Thanksgiving feast possible: those who planted, those who harvested, those who processed and packed, those who drove the trucks and those who loaded and unloaded the trucks, those who stocked the shelves and those who checked out the groceries. I thank the power company electrician who makes sure the power gets to my home, sometimes in inclement weather.

I will also thank sister turkey and brother pig for the sacrifice of their lives for my nourishment. This web of mutual dependency also includes non–human creatures with whom we share this world.

One of the things I wish to learn is to be more mindful. Thanksgiving reminds me once again, in the midst of all my busy–ness to “recipe diem”, to know that it doesn’t all depend on me but that there are times I can simply receive the goodness that comes as sheer gift.

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Kimberley residents were treated to the first Farmers' Market of the season, and the feeling of a return to normalcy. Paul Rodgers photos.
WATCH: Kimberley’s first Farmers’ Market of the season

Kimberley residents enjoyed the first Farmers’ Market of the year on Thursday,… Continue reading

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

British Columbia’s premier says he’s received a second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. (Twitter/John Horgan)
B.C. premier gets 2nd dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

John Horgan shared a photo of himself on social media Friday afternoon holding a completed vaccination card

A lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS
No winning ticket sold for Friday’s $70 million Lotto Max jackpot

The huge jackpot has remained unclaimed for several weeks now

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Most Read