The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Sunday, January 2, 2011
Personal Reflections ...

To start the New Year, I came up with another metaphor for my life. Or this metaphor came to me, one way or another. So what’s the metaphor? Well, my life is like a seasoning, an herb or spice. The basic idea here is to look at life and community as a feast. Just who is eating this feast? Well, I guess that we all are, in living our lives and having our many experiences. We are all at the table, and our lives are all on the plates, all mixed up together on a social basis . . . like a big soup or stew or whatnot. Got all that so far?

So, what food roles can an individual play in this big “feast of life”? Well, you can be a main course, a slab of meat (or preferably beans or tofu, given that I am a vegetarian) or a slice of apple pie. If you are a main dish, then you are in tune with life. You are noticed, you are part of the main event.

Or you can be a side dish or a sauce. You don’t get as much acclaim as the main dish, but you still have your big moments. You might also be a glass of wine or coffee. Again, you have your moment of brilliance.

But that’s just not how my life has gone. I haven’t had any big moments, any great accomplishments, and very few not-so-great accomplishments. I don’t have kids, I never built or owned a house, I never wrote a book, I didn’t compose any music (famous or otherwise), I didn’t make a scientific discovery, I didn’t start a business. . . . So, I will not be remembered as a “serving” at the great meal of life. Most people didn’t want me to be a part of the mainstream work of raising kids, managing workers, making real estate deals, deciding court cases, running city councils, etc. But yet they appeared to want me around for something. They know that I am different from the pack, and every now and then I make things more interesting for them. So they allow me to survive, even if they only need me every once in a while.

Thus, I’m like a jar of herbal seasoning, sitting unused and unnoticed most of the time on the kitchen spice rack. And even when someone decides that I should be added to the mix, they only use a little bit. And when the dish is done, I am not really noticed. Just as when you eat a soup or a sauce, you don’t notice the parsley or cumin or oregano. But if they aren’t there, then you don’t notice the soup or sauce as much. Just like an herb, I am hardly noticed, but if I’m doing my job right, I raise over all awareness. I make the overall mix of life more tasty for others (a few, anyway).

I think that there is a Zen aspect to this. Perhaps on certain occasions, I help raise awareness in others to the taste of life – I help them ‘awaken’, as the Buddha spoke of. And perhaps there’s a Biblical aspect too – sort of like the parable on salt in Mark 9 (48-50). Like herbs and spices, salt raises the eater’s awareness of what she or he is eating. Jesus said that his followers are to be salt to each other, as they themselves would be ‘salted’ with fire. Their ‘seasoning’ to the world would be no ordinary condiment.

And yet, for me, the herbal life is not very spicy. Most of the time is spent on the shelf, unnoticed. But, someone’s gotta do it, I guess. So, onward into 2011 we go!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:02 pm      

  1. Jim, Strangely enough, your metaphor is a dream I have had often in my life–well previously in my life; not so much now. The dream is much as you describe your metaphor: A great many people sitting around a table eating with much activity going on (perhaps talking to each other). When I read your metaphor, I tho’t, of course, the “feast of life.”

    I do say I have to disagree with you on one thing: the point about not having any “big” accomplishments. I say one must define “big.” “Big” may be influencing one person’s life in a way one may not even know he has influenced the life. I recently read that Daniel Berrigan said this (I paraphrase): “You may never know if you have done any good at all in your life. Do it anyway.” You may not know the good you’ve done, but so what? That does not negate it’s goodness.

    And as to being a “herbal seasoning” that may not be added to the soup: It may be precisely that seasoning that makes the soup good, worth eating–a most valuable contribution, I’d say. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — January 3, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

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