Prompt Images

It’s not the first time I’ll say it, and it certainly won’t be the last. I’m just not into the holiday spirit this year. Thanksgiving is all about giving thanks; are you even allowed to celebrate the holiday without the feeling?

At first this set off a chaotic dance of mentally checking my privilege.

“I have so much, how dare I not be thankful!”

This was followed by owning my human experience as valid in its own way regardless of my feelings.

“How I feel about what I have is not fixed and will change. What I feel is what I feel. It is not who I am and it is not a yardstick against to measure myself, now or later.”

I ended up settling on excitement because there’s gonna be food, and thinking about eating is easier than pondering the human condition.

“I am going to eat so much stuffing that it’s possible I may need to be re-classified as a new species of human, perhaps a symbiotic combination of person and bread.”

But as the emotional dust settled, I idly wondered: if I wasn’t feeling thankful, what was I feeling? What’s the opposite of thankfulness?

We humans love our opposites.

We use them to draw a line in the sand, a way to say without a doubt that “this is different than that.” But opposites aren’t real. Ever the efficient computer, the Homo sapiens brain has mastered oversimplification and uses opposites to save time. Even the robots of the future admire this about us.

“It’s amazing the way you NOTICE TWO THINGS.”

“It’s amazing the way you NOTICE TWO THINGS.”

Opposites let us bypass the exhausting mental task of understanding that most of reality falls along a spectrum.* Instead, we dumb things down and pick from discrete camps on one side or the other. Messy continuum bad – two things good!

But “up” and “down,” for example, aren’t really opposites. “Down” is just another word for “less up.” Same with “hot” and “less hot,” or “light” and “not as light.” Almost every pair of opposites is simply a way of describing two sides of the same coin.

Emotions, as well, fall into this binary fallacy. Happy and sad, calm and angry, love and hate — all examples of how we as humans try to use our meager phonics to point out where on the spectrum we’re feeling.

(If you ever think language does a perfect job of letting us convey our emotions, I invite you to listen in on the next discussion in which either I or my husband says we’re “upset.” In my defense, it’s really important to spend the first five hours talking about which of the differing and multiple definitions of upset we are feeling. Working through upset-disappointment is different from soothing upset-anger, and neither holds a candle to upset-sadness.)

Opposites are words twinned in perpetuity – are their corresponding concepts?

I’ll leave it to the philosophers to discuss if it’s possible to understand happiness without sadness. I’ve leave it to the poets to debate the opposite of love. And I’ll leave it to the religious to discern the nature of what is good, and what is evil.

I’m clearly not qualified to figure out the opposite of thankfulness. But I never admit defeat — I merely change the topic to something on which I’m more knowledgeable.

What is the opposite of Thanksgiving?

Some holidays’ opposites are easy to uncover. The opposite of Mother’s Day, of course, is Father’s Day. The opposite of Valentine’s Day, someone decided, is Single’s Awareness Day (which, I just realized, by the way, is S.A.D.). The opposite of American Christmas is actual Christmas. I’d wager this is true for lots of American religious holidays, come to think of it.

Frankincense, gold, and myrrh were good enough for the Son of God, so you can get on out of here with your 45-item long wishlist.

Frankincense, gold, and myrrh were good enough for the Son of God, so you can get on out of here with your 45-item long wish list.

But what does Thanksgiving even mean? Ignoring the apocryphal tales of Pilgrims and natives, throughout human history celebrations similar to Thanksgiving nearly always celebrated bountiful harvests or other examples of goodwill flowing from the divine.

Thanksgiving is distilled from a very basic fact of what it means to be human.

When we are delivered from loss, we celebrate.

In contrast with many American holidays that glorify accomplishments of great historical figures, Thanksgiving is almost a disavowal of the American Dream. “We are nothing,” we say as we break bread, “and what we have is given to us. Lest we receive no longer, let us give thanks.”

The opposite of Thanksgiving? It would be a day that we celebrate indifferent excess. A holiday to celebrate being born into plenty and never needing Providence to provide. A time that we ask, what need have you of a God and the promise of the next world when we have everything we need in this one?

The opposite of Thanksgiving doesn’t even celebrate people at all.

Look beyond our limited human society and realize that we share our planet with a privileged group who are born and raised, almost literally, doing nothing but basking in the sun and drinking deeply from the very foundations of the earth. They profit from every breath we take. Their defense, of course, is that without them our labors would never bear fruit. Lacking their birds’ eye perspectives, we can’t appreciate that they are the seed of our economy from which capitalism blossoms. Towering above us little people, they see the forest when we are lost in the weeds.

And when we threaten discontent, they paper over our grievances with platitudes about a society rooted in respect for hard work and never giving up. We are lulled into the illusion that if we would only branch out, we could be like them; with enough hard work and climbing the ladder, we’d reach their heights.

This, of course, is utter nonsense. But would you believe we do celebrate these very ideas? We actually devote an entire day to exalting those who’ve never worked an hour. Those who — I can guarantee — have never said the words “thank you” in their lives.

A rant against the upper class? Not quite.

The opposite of the fourth Thursday in November is the fourth Friday in April.

Arbor Day.

Fuck you, trees. Show some god-damned gratitude.

*We’re going to ignore, naturally, the scientific breakthroughs of the early 20th century that showed reality is actually not a spectrum. Sorry, Einstein and Planck.

Scott Michael

Scott is an ISTJ with an MA, and is usually MIA or AFK IRL. Interrobang him and win a prize.

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more