My family uses a haggadah from the Jewish Labor Committee. It gets overbearingly, even comically, socialist at many points, but we love it. Before blessing the wine, we read:
Consider the cup of wine which we are about to drink. Countless sets of hands played a role in bringing this wine to our seder: the entrepreneurs and farm-owners who decided to direct their energies and capital into the wine business, the workers who planted and pruned the vines, those who picked the grapes, the vintners who directed the fermentation of freshly-harvested fruits into wine, the janitors who kept the winery clean and sanitary, the truck drivers and loading dock workers who transported the finished product, the clerks at the wine shops, and the servers who bring the wine to our tables tonight.
Our world is a miracle of coordinated effort. If we don’t pay attention as consumers we can forget this and casually stop remembering that food doesn’t just grow on grocery shelves.
What you consume comes from somewhere, and you might be surprised how much effort and pain is invested in bringing you your pleasures.
This principle is true, also, for philosophical consumption.
The conceptions that inspire and delight you were brought forth from the chaos somehow, and this process is strenuous and often extremely painful.
By the time ideas arrive to you as a book or paper or article, it has been processed and ready for convenient consumption.
What a delightful, playful object a smartphone is!
How delightful it is to shop at Whole Foods and buy ingredients for our dinner party!
How delightful it is to read ideas, play with them, and to feel inspired to invent one’s own original ideas!
We steal gifts when we refuse gratitude — when we just help ourselves to things as if they are just there for the taking.
Our givens have roots.
We should notice when we start taking new givens — new technologies, new services, new inspiration — even new problems…
Those givens aren’t just anonymously deposited upon the earth by reality to be mindlessly consumed.
Look for sources for these good things, and rather than feeling the ache of guilt, try feeling gratitude for the pain someone bore so you didn’t have to.
Ignoring the pain, denying the pain, squinting at the pain, or worst of all, claiming that it all could have come to you without the pain — that is just stealing gifts.
I’ve heard that is is better to thank people for their forbearance instead of apologizing for your mistakes. The former produces entangling indebtedness — relationship. The latter, release from responsibility.
Then the Jewish Labor Committee Haggadah instructs us to say:
Just as we are dependent upon so many of God’s children, many of whom we will never know, all of God’s children deserve basic dignity, respect and sustenance. With this cup, we recognize and honor our interconnectedness with all people.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam borei p’ree hagafen
Blessed are you, Source of all Life, who creates fruit of the vine.