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November 2012 Newsletter, Stories & Announcements...

With Thanksgiving Day less than a week away, I hope you will indulge me as I deliver this newsletter which is a bit more personal than normal.

Celebrating Thanksgiving around the world...
A search of the World Wide Web reveals numerous articles talking about thanksgiving or harvest day celebrations that are held in virtually every region of the world. In this sense, thanksgiving is a global holiday, even if it is held on different dates in different countries.

On the other hand; I submit that Thanksgiving day, at least insofar as the officially recognized holiday in the United States, is a uniquely American observance. Now before our subscribers outside the US take offense, I fully realize that other countries and peoples around the world celebrate their own "thanksgiving like" holidays. In fact; my less than exhaustive research reveals literally dozens of thanksgiving or harvest celebrations, where thanks is given for the harvest just completed and solicitation is made for a productive growing season during the coming year. These celebrations are observed at various times of the year, largely dependent on and coinciding with when the local harvest takes place.

Image of CornucopiaIn researching harvest or thanksgiving celebrations, as practiced around the world, many of them seem to be simple celebrations of a successful harvest. In fact, many of the articles I read seemed to go out of their way to describe the thanksgiving observances as harvest celebrations. Other thanksgiving celebrations seem to have something of a spiritual or religious element intermingled with the observance. Within those containing a spiritual element, some cultures pay homage to their ancestors as the source of blessings or good fortune. Other cultures pay homage to God and proclaim Him to be the source of blessings and prosperity. For those cultures that have little or no spiritual component to their thanksgiving or harvest day observance, the roots of their celebrations most likely go back to the dawn of farming communities which relied on the results of cultivation as opposed to the nomadic hunter/gatherer societies which relied on mobility and naturally occurring food sources for survival. In any society which eats only what it can produce; it is certainly understandable that a successful harvest, and the assurance it provides that hunger will be held at bay for another year, is an event worthy of celebration!

While I don't claim that any thanksgiving celebration is inherently good or bad, and while I have no intention of denigrating or belittling anyone's thanksgiving celebration, I submit that the US Thanksgiving day celebration has unique roots and is perhaps deserving of greater reverence in its observance than it may at times receive.

Over the thousands of years of recorded human history, there is no shortage of accounts regarding religious intolerance and the migrations that resulted from hostility towards one religious practice or another. It was just such religious intolerance that motivated many of the early settlers to migrate to the North American continent. As a result, there was a deeply spiritual if not outright religious foundation in the lives of those early immigrants to North America. What was perhaps unusual was the sheer number of diverse religions and religious practices among those early settlers, and the fact that they were able to coexist in relative harmony in adjacent communities all up and down the eastern seaboard. The result was not only a fundamental spiritual or religious underpinning to the arising civilization, but an unprecedented religious tolerance as well.

As time passed, and the great American experiment came into being, the Constitution of the United States codified this principle of religious freedom and tolerance not only as a fundamental principle in the rule of law, but as an inherent God given right of every human being. After more than 200 years, this principle seems to have become almost passé in the United States. However, when the Pilgrims, Puritans, and their contemporaries landed on the shores of North America, the concept was new and unproven. In fact, the successful implementation of religious freedom and tolerance was anything but assured and indeed the process has not always been smooth. While mistakes have certainly been made, I believe that the religious inheritance that permeates the fabric of the United States is a natural outgrowth of the religious convictions of those first immigrants who came in search of freedom to worship how, where, and what they chose.

I am convinced that any sincere investigation into the early Thanksgiving day celebrations in North America will reveal that the observance included a outpouring of gratitude for religious freedom that was every bit as heartfelt and important as the gratitude for a successful harvest that would sustain life for another year. As you and your loved ones gather for your Thanksgiving day observance, I invite you to take a few precious moments to reflect upon those inalienable rights enshrined within the Constitution of the United States of America. Rights that the founding fathers proclaimed were endowed upon all men and women by nature's God. Take those few moments to express gratitude for the blessings and bounties you enjoy, not the least of which is the right you still enjoy to worship, or to choose not to worship, all according to the dictates of your own conscience. I hope you will join with me in soliciting an outpouring of these same blessings and privileges upon all people everywhere.

May God bless you, your family, and loved ones, this Thanksgiving and throughout the coming year.

More planet globe information...
Continuing our exploration of the Solar System beyond the boundaries of our Earth, we found a fun resource that will help you learn more about the planets offered in the new MOVA Planet Collection.

For example, can you quote the planets in order from the closest to the Sun to the most distant? This fun mnemonic could help. "My Very Easy Method Just Simplifies Us Naming Planets" Translated into the names of the planets, the correct order is Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and the planetoid, Pluto.

How about this question; If you could walk on the surface of each of the eight planets in the Solar system, on which three planets, excluding Earth, would your weight be the closest to what you weigh on Earth? The answer may surprise you... Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. All three of these planets are massive in comparison with the Earth. However, due to their low density, the gravity of each of these three planets is very close to the gravity we experience on Earth.

Finally; we all know that the Earth takes one year, equaling 365 1/4 days, to make one revolution around the Sun. If we were to apply the same definition of a revolution for each of the other planets being one year for that planet, how old would a 14 year old Earthling be in Mercury years? The answer... just over 58 years old! On the other hand; how old would an 84 year old Earthling be in Uranus years? The answer... just 1 year old!

We invite you and your family to explore these and other fun facts on the planets page of the astronomy section of the Enchanted Learning web site.

A friendly reminder...
For new subscribers to this newsletter, we wish to remind you that you can find past issues posted in the newsletter archive. You may wish to go back and try the Do It Yourself pseudoglobe ornaments for a fun and inexpensive way to decorate your Christmas tree.

You are welcome to share this informative resource with your globe enthusiast friends. They are sure to find the information to be as fun and informative as you do. While they are there, they can sign up for their own free subscription to the WGU newsletter.

Thank you for spending this time with us and we'll see you next month!

Larry Murray

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