As we approach our national Thanksgiving celebrations we are immediately immersed in one of the nation’s foundational storylines. As with most tales told and re-told, the historical realities and the metamorphosis into today’s traditions are difficult to reconcile. However, the principle that individuals of faith recognized a larger truth than that which was visible, and that this generated thankfulness to God for His provision of guidance, resilience, successful harvests and for life itself provided the essence for the celebration. I hope you too find this true within your holiday. Often as family members gather they share specific examples of things that they are thankful for. It is common that our nation itself is called to mind. When the discussion leans that way, you may wish to consider the symbolism represented on the back of a simple one-dollar bill.
On the green back of the bill you find two circles that comprise the Great Seal of the United States. We can thank a committee headed by Benjamin Franklin for the foundation of this artwork. Several of the symbols in the left portion of the seal are not well understood. If you think of the left circle in a north-south orientation you’ll recognize that the western surface of the unfinished pyramid is dark. Some imagine that this is a representation of the fact that our western territories remained undiscovered. Since Franklin’s committee did not include the pyramid it is probably best to agree that in general the unfinished pyramid itself is a better reference to the fact that our nation was unfinished and not yet a clear force in Western Civilization. The eye on the pyramid is a reference to divinity. This symbol and the words, “In God We Trust” and “Annuit Coeptis” (God has favored our undertaking) were included to express the belief that God was instrumental in our national development.
In the right-hand portion of the Great Seal we find the familiar American bald eagle. This symbol is often used to mark locations of national significance. The eagle is truly bald as a symbol to clearly indicate that we are a nation of leaders who wear no crowns. The shield in front of the eagle floats free indicating that we are prepared to stand on our own. The bar across the shield’s top edge symbolizes the fact that congress unifies the nation and the shield’s stripes mirror those on the American flag. Of course, the famous “E Pluribus Unum” means one nation from many people. Most citizens realize that the eagle carries an olive branch and arrows as clear references to peace balanced with might; many fewer people know that the eagle’s head originally faced the talon with the arrows but it was reversed to face the olive branch many years later to signify our commitment to peace. The original version with the eagle facing the arrows is used if and when congress declares war.
Now, for all of you numerologists, here is a discovery assignment. Find as many ways as you can that the artists have paid respect to the number 13 on the surfaces of the $1 bill. Remember, we had 13 original colonies and 13 signers of the Declaration of Independence! There are many aspects within our national symbolism that are filled with meaning. Perhaps in “thanks giving” you will have the opportunity to share some of the symbolism you employ in your family or you will have additional national stories to share!