I used to think that I needed to go to an all-natural diet. Raw, organic, locally sourced – I was sold on this idea. Even better – go ahead and dig up my front yard and put in some beets and carrots. Train some beans to grow up the maple tree. What a great idea! I could feel connected to the Earth and know where my food is coming from. Plenty of people are getting “homesteading” books these days. Folks are either afraid of pesticides or genetically modified foods. The terrors are there – they are real. Lab rats prove to us that you shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature. Or they want to grow their own food to help out with the grocery bill. It is always cheaper to do it yourself, you know.
But I’m a terrible gardener. I don’t know what to feed my plants. I over water or under water. I don’t know what plants need shade, and what parts of my yard have shade all day. I also work all day long – by the time I have time to work on the yard it is dark outside. And even though I was raised by a Mom who loved to garden, she didn’t teach me a single thing about it. Sure, I could look things up – I have a library and I know how to use it. Sure, I could ask friends to show me how.
But I don’t think that is the point. I don’t have to do it all. I don’t have to grow my own food. I don’t have to sew my own clothes. I don’t have to repair my own car. I think that we all benefit when we are interdependent. It is through our common efforts that we are able to live the life that we have. Not growing my own food gives me the time to create jewelry. Not sewing my own clothes gives me time to write. Not repairing my own car gives me time to read books that inspire me.
Then I started to think that all-natural was closer to the way God intended it. No artificial stuff for me. The more mankind gets involved in something , the further away from real it gets. So wear cotton or linen, no rayon. Eat sugar and butter, not aspartame or margarine. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients on the label, don’t eat it. In general, this is a good plan. Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules this basic truth. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By “food” he means non-processed. Eat foods your grandmother would recognize as food. Cheese is better than Cheese-Wiz. Eat foods that are plants, not foods that came from a (manufacturing) plant.
So now I’m back to the beginning.
Then one day I went to visit a friend. I had been running late, so I hadn’t had my coffee. My friend offered me tea and I happily accepted. But she served it to me in a Styrofoam cup. My “all-natural” side raised an eyebrow. My “recycling” side raised the other eyebrow. I was a little freaked out.
And then I remembered some things.
Buddhist monks don’t eat meat – but if they go to visit someone at their home and are served a meal with meat, they will eat it. They eat it out of respect for the fact that it is a gift that is given to them. They eat it because no good will be done by not eating it. The animal is already dead. Refusing to eat this meal will not restore the animal.
And I remembered something from Madeline L’Engle. She wrote a book called “Walking on Water”. It is about what it means to be a Christian artist. She says that it is essential to be a co-creator with God. She says that God created humankind as participants. We are His hands and His feet – we are created, and we are creators. I’ve heard similar ideas in a Jewish podcast that I enjoy listening to. It is called “Spiritual Tools for an Outrageous World” and it is by David Sacks.
Perhaps the biggest thing that came to mind was something I read in a pamphlet on Eucharistic adoration by Daniel Connors. He said in one of the prayers that it is amazing that Jesus chooses to reveal Himself to us in bread and wine. “…they do not exist without God and human beings./Even the wheat and grapes they come from/ do not occur naturally,/ but are the product of human cultivation.” He goes on to say “You are fully God and fully human./ How wise you were to choose to be present to us in a form that cannot exist/ without God and human beings/ both doing their part.”
So I sat and drank my tea in the Styrofoam cup, comforted by the teachings of my Buddhist and Episcopal and Jewish and Catholic friends in spirit. It was good.