I've never been on a real turkey chase, and maybe you haven't either, but as we approach Thanksgiving, I suspect we're all in pursuit of something. But where will your own chase lead you, and why are you headed there? Here are some thoughts concerning "the chase" to think about this Thanksgiving. Turkeys hold a special place in American culture -- from defining early historical meals and current Thanksgiving menus, to Wild Turkey whiskey, to calling something we deem unsatisfactory "a turkey!" It was even the bird Benjamin Franklin suggested be our national symbol instead of the bald eagle. And on every Thanksgiving, there are all kinds of "turkey runs," 5K and 10K races sponsored in support of some charitable cause; if you're so inclined, it's probably not too late to find one in your community.
And yet, the notion of "a chase" conjures up the pursuit of the unattainable. Think: "chase dreams," where you cannot bring closure or finality to something in your life. Think: "ideals," which we strive to place within our grasp, knowing that they may never be fulfilled. According to Wayne Capooth, in Delta Farm Press, "Turkey chases have been a part of American history since our earliest days. Samuel Kercheval in his A History of the Valley (Shenandoah), 1833, said 'the native youth is taught the wiles of the turkey hunter.'"
This week you may be "chasing" your own way to a Thanksgiving gathering. Maybe it is across town, or in another community, or at your home. But, wherever the places you go, this time of year puts each of us in a precarious bind: running to complete our work, running to get somewhere, running to get back to work. That's me too.
I'm in the middle of writing a new book about how people can make good on their urge to do good. There are many subtexts at work, but there are two that shed light on the notion of the turkey chase.
First, there is the pressure of inwardness, which is our proclivity to see our work in public life through the prism of promoting and spreading our own efforts. Inwardness tells us to start with our own needs and programs, rather than the community in which we live and work. The second factor is the push for busyness -- a kind of "activity happy, yet action deprived" approach. Such busyness can make us feel we are doing something, moving ahead, and soothing our own anxieties about the lack of progress. But for all the running, all the activity, little changes.
I raise the ideas of inwardness and busyness because they launch us on a chase of the unattainable. If we are not careful, we risk losing sight of what we care about, and what change or goodness we hope to effect. What about you?
What is that path for you on this Thanksgiving? Is it the "chase" -- the proverbial unattainable, unachievable, even undesirable; or, is it something that you should stop to see and feel and know? There is something noble about Thanksgiving, about how it has the power to halt our busyness and inwardness; for many, it creates the space that might not otherwise exist to come together with family and friends (however difficult that can sometimes be!).
Maybe it is trite to say that this Thanksgiving should be about something doable, and that is intrinsically decent: giving thanks. It's a simple idea, I know, and one that you have already thought about. But it may not be something we each do.