Thanksgiving Day

Tomorrow (November 25th) the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day.  How great it would be if other countries (like Oz) took time to be “intentionally” grateful.  The Australian Christian Lobby has recommended an annual weekend in May be a time of national celebration and thanksgiving, especially in Christian groups, but for that matter in whatever way people choose.

Here are some things for which I am especially thankful…


  • My dear wife Helen and my family (children, parents, siblings, and yes, most certainly my in-laws too)
  • The gift of life – I had to have surgery at 10 days and would have died 30 years earlier
  • My Christian faith as “caught” from my parents and supported by Helen – it’s rich, liberating, genuine and practical
  • “Finishing well” – my last chapter of full-time paid work has been very productive, harmonious and satisfying

My wider circle

  1. The great personal values and qualities I’ve inherited via my Dutch origins and belonging to Australia
  2. The wonderful teachers, mentors and colleagues I believe God has given me
  3. Many of the people I’ve been privileged to work with – enjoying so much trust and respect
  4. What I’ve learnt from a significant though modest amount of international travel
  5. What we know and have learnt about this wonderful world – I especially love geography, medicine, and psychology

What are the things you feel most thankful for?  And, does it show?



  1. Hi Fred,

    Yes. I agree that Thanksgiving is one of the more useful things that the USA has given us.

    I guess that I now regard myself as having been raised within a non-church religion. I have since learned that religio in Latin means “binding together” and in that spirit, I think I have tried to maintain an integrity between my philosophy and my behaviour; tried rather than always succeeded, mind you.

    I remember at my church school, at around 16, my Divinity exam included the question: Discuss why the Bible is God’s spoken word. At 16, I had a bit of an attitude and my rebelious spirit soared as I proceded to explain, in my exam answer, why the Bible was not particularly special and that when I felt the need for divine inspiration, I could just as well turn to Shakespeare, Dickens, Chaucer, etc, all of which in my opinion, had equally remarkable things to say about the human condition and the mysteries of the cosmos.

    Anyway, back came the marked paper and I was quite looking forward to being the first student ever to fail Divinity. Instead the Minister had gone right through my answer and inserted or removed a “not” wherever he chose; and in the process had converted my piece of heresey into perfect conformity – and then would you believe, had given me 9 out of 10.

    My adolescent sense of truth was outraged. And something fused in my Gestalt that I summed up as “I would rater die than be a hypocrite.”

    This article of faith was reinforced by my Dad saying, “Don’t try to give what you don’t have to give.” He was always rather big on the idea that the road to hell was paved with good intentions.

    And when it comes to Thanksgiving, I think I still cherish this sense of truth being found everywhere you choose to explore and Carl Jung’s assertion that any group, especially worshippers and scientists, will have its group lies – the things, true or not, that you have to believe in order to be in that group.

    Like many other boomers, I think I have mellowed with age. Stridence has been replaced by a stronger desire for balance and indeed a sense of shame at some my earlier dogmatic, anti-establishment views and the way I may have imposed them on the interested and uninterested alike.

    As a non-conformist I have shown little loyalty for the various groups I have joined at various stages in my life, like academia and the teaching professions.

    The result, near my retirement, is a rather non-gloroius life history with more shameful regrets than recognitions from my fellow citizens. Such is the lot of the loner and the non-joiner; not that I haven’t done the odd nice thing, that at least I feel proud of.

    The other sad thing for me (and I am still not sure if it was my fault or not) is that when I did offer loyalty to a group in the form of two failed marriages, I still feel so dreadfully betrayed. I mean, when it comes to commitment, I feel I was in there boots and all. At the material level, I certainly gave my all to situations that appeared to need what I had to offer. And at the relationship level, my commitment was equally faithful, although it was to an extended family, which certainly raised the ire of at least one of my ex-spouses.

    At the spiritual level, I don’t know.

    One thing I have always admired about you and your Dad, Fred, was your sense of balance and broad perspective. Even now in your writing, it comes through; that sense that there is more to this particular story, than we can currently see.

    And I value that quality above all else. That essentially our logic and rationality will always exist within an envelope of mystery; where did we come from and where are we going? or for the scientist, what observable fact am I still not seeing?

    This, I believe is what unites many of us, inside and outside the church (although the dogmatists in both camps, so often seem to remain in charge). Hopefully, our core beliefs will always include the notion that there is still more to see; I have yet to see the whole truth of this situation.

    And as I sit here, in my rather inglorious, reclusive relationship with the rest of the world, any disappointments with my life are eased with the notion that the story has not yet ended. There is still more to discover, especially in the spiritual realm.

    In that sense, I salute your blog and your honesty in sharing your deeper insights.

    In fact if I was rewriting my essay at 16, I would include the works of Fred VDB, among those with a strong potential to reveal the truth about life.

    “We shall never cease our searching, but the end of our journey will be to arrive at the place from which we began, and to know that place for the first time.” (TS Elliot)

    Regards, Brian.

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