“One chief idea of my life is the idea of taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.”
— G. K. Chesterton
Charles Hartshorne is one of my heroes. He died about twenty years ago at the age of 103. He earned his PhD in philosophy at Harvard and served as assistant to his teacher, the great mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. It was Whitehead who described God as “the fellow sufferer who understands.” Like his teacher, Hartshorne influenced many 20th & 21st century religious thinkers to see God as deeply involved and affected by Creation, suffering and exulting with all of Creation, including human beings. One of his books is deliciously titled Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes. In it, he argues that God’s power is persuasive, not coercive; God’s power is relational, inviting a response from Creation.
Author of some 20 books and 500 articles, Hartshorne was not simply a brilliant theologian. He became an expert ornithologist in the last third of his life. One of his claims about birds is that some, like some people, sing for the pure joy of it: they take delight simply in being alive. Do you hear the theological overtones? Throughout the Bible, and especially in the Psalms, we read how all of Creation sings God’s praises. Even the birds of the air and whales in the sea! And what is praise? Simply a way of saying “Thanks, God!” Taking things with gratitude instead of for granted, as Chesterton says.
With the birds of the air, let’s remember to give thanks for the gift of life and the abundance we share – and not just on Thanksgiving, but everyday!