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Thanksgiving Paradigm Shift

Thanksgiving Day and paradigm shifts.

I got to thinking about the connection between the two when I read the following sentence:

“Do you realize that OK looks like a little stick figure man, sideways?”

At first I didn’t know what the writer was talking about; I’d never seen OK as a sideways stick figure before. But sure enough, if you stare at it long enough and think, “sideways stick figure,” something in your brain shifts and bam, all of a sudden the stick figure appears.

Except of course it doesn’t appear…it’s always been there. It’s just that my brain, in 48 years, had never seen it that way before. And now each time I see OK I see a little stick figure man on his side.

That’s called a paradigm shift.

The term “paradigm shift” has suffered from overuse, but it’s an important concept with solid roots: I remember hearing it for the first time in a philosophy class in college, when we were studying Thomas Kuhn, who coined the term.

Kuhn’s argument was that advances in science are not evolutionary, but rather are a "series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions." During those revolutions -- think Copernicus, Galileo, germ theory, quantum physics -- "one conceptual world view is replaced by another."

A paradigm shift, in other words, is a change from one way of thinking to another.

We don’t see things “as they are,” Kuhn argued -- there is no such thing, even in the supposedly “objective” world of science and math, as “the way things are.” There is only the way things are, the way we see them, as we are.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving, and another paradigm shift. It’s one I had while taking a long hike on the Appalachian Trail one day, when -- I swear -- I heard God almost audibly say, out of the blue (I wasn’t praying at the time, just hiking!) the following:

“John: I’ve already given you everything you need for your happiness.”


Paradigm shift.

God has already given me everything I need for my happiness?!? There’s nothing more, nothing else, nothing yet-to-come that will make me happy…or happier? It’s all, already here?

Like I said, I wasn’t praying at the time. I just heard that still, small voice of God say those words, and it literally stopped me.

I stopped hiking, and just stood there, letting the message echo off the insides of my head and seep down into my heart. (My dog Mariah, unlike Balaam’s donkey, did not seem to hear God’s voice, and so was surprised, and a little irritated, that we were stopping for no apparent reason.)

God has already given me everything I need for my happiness?!? There’s nothing more, nothing else, nothing yet-to-come that will make me happy…or happier? It’s all, already here?

It’s a paradigm shift, where one conceptual world view -- that happiness awaits me, that happiness will come with the accomplishment of X, or Y, or Z, or when I finally ________________(fill in the blank)… is replaced by another conceptual world view, which is “God has already given me everything I need for my happiness…it’s all already, right here.”

So…try it, just try it, this Thanksgiving weekend, adopting that as your mantra, as your world view:

God has already given me everything I need for my happiness. There’s nothing more, nothing else, nothing yet-to-come that will make me happy…or happier. It’s all, already, here.


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