This is a terribly confusing time of the year for the Nose.

As dependable as the annual return of those damn swallows to Capistrano, Thanksgiving brings to the Nose, with stunning reliability, the beginning of the season of ultimate paradox. Thanksgiving kicks off a holiday period that gives rise to the best of his instincts and the worst of his impulses.

It's a five-week furlough when his serene thanks for all that he is blessed with collides with his self-pitying envy of those who can afford an Xbox. It's a time of year when his uncontrollable desire to buy unnecessary gifts for close ones (who doesn't need a new set of All-Clad cookware?) crashes into disgust with the season's rampant consumerism (Is it that important, really, that he be the first on his block to own an iPod?).It's a time when the Nose pledges to take the long march to better himself, a hike that easily falls into the canyon of excessive indulgence. It's the season when piety meets pecan pie, when tithing meets Tiffany's, when sacrifice meets single-malt Scotch.

This year the conundrum has been compounded. The Nose takes a back seat to no one when it comes to lamenting the state of public education--but he was joyful when his kicker check arrived in the mail last week. He is troubled by the sorrow of those who have lost their jobs in the recession--yet thrilled at the lower interest rates the economic downturn has precipitated. He has volunteered to plant trees for an environmental organization next month--but will probably drive there in a gas-sucking minivan.

Add the aftermath of Sept. 11 to this mix, and it makes the Nose woozy. He's been reading up on Ramadan to better understand Islam, but can't help creating his own version of racial profiling at the airport. He has agonized over the plight of Afghanistan's women, yet muttered to himself that those killed by our B-52s have been necessary casualties of war. He feels the stirrings of patriotism toward this country and its institutions, while also cursing at the oil companies that prop up the House of Saud. He scorns the disdain that Islamic fundamentalism has toward our culture, yet he made sure to tune in to the Victoria's Secret special. He admires George Bush's directness, yet despises his efforts to curtail our liberties.

It's a time of such contradictions that the Nose has been walking around with his head down, feeling that if he looked up, others might tell that he has PRETENDER scrawled across his forehead.

Relief, however, came last weekend. The Nose stumbled upon F. Scott Fitzgerald's comment that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

That's it! The Nose isn't insincere, a faker, a dissembler. He's a genius.

Now that's something to give thanks for!