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A YouTube segment from Conan O'Brien's show entitled "Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy," with guest comedian Louis C.K., has been making the rounds. In it, Louis talks about how he was on a plane that offered in flight Wi-Fi access to the Internet, one of the first planes to do so. But when it broke down in a few minutes, the man sitting next to him swore in disgust. Louis was amazed, and said to O'Brien, "How quickly the world owes him something that he didn't know existed 10 seconds ago."

Louis then talked about how many of us describe less-than perfect airline flights as if they were experiences from a horror film: "It was the worst day of my life. First of all, we didn't board for 20 minutes! And then we get on the plane and they made us sit there in the runway for 40 minutes!"

Then he said mockingly, "Oh really. Did you fly through the air incredibly, like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight? … Everybody on every plane should be going, 'O my God, wow!' … You're sitting in a chair in the sky!" And then he mocks a passenger who, trying to push his seat back, complains, "It doesn't go back a lot!"

The segment is humorous because we recognize ourselves in it. That's human nature. We take things for granted so quickly, so easily fall out of a state of gratefulness.

This week, we'll hear plenty of stories that show our ungratefulness, along with admonitions to be more thankful. Some pleas will be appropriately sentimental or patriotic. But when we think about gratefulness theologically, we find that such pleas are, in the end, not very helpful. We discover that gratefulness is a human impossibility—and a gift.

Thanksgiving Everywhere

Several biblical passages talk about thanksgiving, ...

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The Impossibility of Thanksgiving
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November 2009

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