WAR – isn’t our culture comfortable with war? War on Drugs, War on Cancer, War on Poverty, War on Terrorism, War on Viruses – If this blog were titled War on Bad Food, it would click into today’s gestalt without a seam. Only one problem – experts, observers and victims – all – have seen no decline in the objects of War. Shouldn’t drugs, cancer, poverty, terrorism and viruses know that civilized people have ganged up on them and all their works, and slink away, out of sight and away from harm?
Drugs, cancer, poverty, terrorism and viruses – it’s a motley crew – one collection of chemicals, one metabolic disfunction, two unwanted results of modern economies, and one by-product of life – and the techniques of war have failed on all of them. It reminds Raw Tibicos of a dog we once had, a large Bernese Mountain Dog with a dominant personality. A dominant personality – in a dog – or a drug, or a disease, or a social problem – means that the dog enjoys challenging your status quo more than he enjoys praise or being a good team member. The maxim, “Any attention is good attention,” was written by a dominant dog. . . and perhaps perfected by The War on X, where bad news brings in more funding?
People think of peace as the opposite of war – but it is a lot more than that – peace is actually an active verb. Just as war requires both material and a certain way of thinking, so peace has its own infrastructure and peculiar ways of thinking. If war is two stags locking horns and wrestling for victory, then peace is each stag with his own grazing area and family to raise. It can be difficult to understand ourselves by simply gazing into the mirror; what is hard to see in ourselves can be easy to understand when watching other beings do the same thing. Let’s continue by looking at the household dog; the dominant Berner, mentioned earlier.
Picture yourself, hungry, sitting down to a fabulous meal – featuring @RawTibicos veggie mixes and water kefir, available here: soupkefir.ca – and a 120 pound dog, clad in the Berner dinner jacket of black back fur and white fur necktie, sits down next to you and calmly begins chewing on the table! Just in case you haven’t noticed, he leaves his jaws locked on the table, swivels his eyes toward yours, full eye contact, and gives the table a challenging bite. Dinner is perfectly cooked, the absolute right temperature for eating, smells are steaming up from the plate, the water kefir glass is frosted, and your loved dog is commanding your mad attention, because he thinks that your hunger is stronger than your desire for a well-behaved dog. Your Berner has nothing of importance to lose, but if you dash after him, then your dinner might get lost to the Golden Retriever on the other side, slyly pretending to be asleep! Isn’t this exactly what the War on Drugs, Cancer, et al, feels like?
This is a blog about bringing spirituality back to food, and so of course, the answer lies in the perfection of the human spirit. It is true that sometimes spirituality is spoken of as war. Wars are famously bad for the pleasures of the table – so we will use the metaphor of a ladder – which leads much better food.
At the bottom of the ladder is our old rival War – choosing teams, finding weapons, trash talk, it’s all about “I need”, and “You must”. We are good, they are bad – we don’t need to say much here, as our culture is stuck on this rung. Here is the hero who smacks the bad Berner, the dog with the dominant character, who already has his teeth out for the table. Things escalate from there, to the delight of the golden retriever.
Next on the ladder – spoiler alert, this ladder only has three rungs – is neutrality. Neutrality hangs on the rung of freely-entered into contracts, trade, negotiation. I’ll trade what you want, to get from you, what I want. On this level we have the saint who comes prepared with dog biscuits. One for the Golden, for being good, and one for the Berner who has now moved his mouth from chewing wood to drool on the biscuit in your hand. The saint hands Dominant Dog his biscuit; trade made, dinner gets eaten hot – at least until the Berner wants another biscuit. Everyone feels good at this level – the dogs got biscuits, dinner got eaten hot, the saint feels smug, and so does the Berner. Sound familiar? Badness had its reward – neutrality was maintained – good had something on account, too. There is a better option, but there is also a worse one – things could descend to war later in the year.
We at Raw Tibicos prefer the view from the peak, so let’s keep climbing. On the top rung, love reigns alone. Not “peace and love”, which brings up visions of irresponsibility, youth, trampled lawns, loud music, and indifferent meals. This is a love based on experience, and strength – the kind of love that good neighbours have. This is the love that can give for no reason, for no expectation, simply because love has enough to share. This is the love that leads us to have dogs in the first place, and belongs to the world of extra zucchini, checking when the house next door is empty, watching out for your friends when they have drunk too much, helping someone else to a benefit that you won’t share. On this level, our neighbour-character deescalates by looking eyeball to eyeball back at the Berner, taking a huge bite of the steaming succulent dinner, conveying to the dog by energy, attention and pleasure, the knowledge that the food on the plate is much better than the dry wood of the table.
There are dogs who would react to changing the focus, by biting more than the table. A relationship of love had already been built between this dog and the owner, and so the Berner, unable to have attention on command, with no answer to his challenge, released the table and lay under it.
Some people yearn to climb the ladder themselves, and others fight to bring everyone to their level. It can be so hard to climb the ladder – that many of us who have climbed, don’t want to step back down – I mean, those of us who have educated our palates to proper food are reluctant to step back to junk. However, is that a reason to circle the wagons, and refuse to share what we know about healthy, clean, delicious and nutritious food? Some people prefer stale chips and cheap beer, and we cannot pull them to where they do not want to go! Having dinner with this group means accepting stale chips and cheap beer, maybe without complaint. Others are looking up the ladder, hoping for help climbing to a better spiritual relationship with food.
Wisdom lies in knowing that the ladder exists, descending if needed, climbing back when done, and enjoying the view from the top. This is real food spirituality! How simple, to grow a better world, through love and sharing the gifts of our souls, redirecting attention from what is lacking, to the extra in our gardens! Why should those who love war, be able to keep down those of us who prefer to climb, for ever?
In this blog, some of those looking to climb are not even people – how does the story of the dogs’ dinner end? Yes – to answer the question – after releasing the table when redirected, being a good dog throughout the rest of the meal, both the Berner and the Golden got table scraps. Much better than dry wood! As one memorable vet said, many years ago, “Dogs are not like us – they need vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins.” ?? This vet was advocating commercial kibble – perhaps not knowing better food exists?
We began this discussion with the thought of love, rather than war, and before closing it, Raw Tibicos feels that one more animal metaphor might be appropriate. Love is more complicated than war. War is harm, and that can take many forms – monosodium glutamate, corn syrup, antibiotics left in the meat, trans-fats, glyphosate residue, dyes that cause anxiety, etc – war involves impediments. War only exists on the bottom of the ladder. Love, however, has levels. Love at the bottom of the ladder is the love of the wolf for the sheep, the love of the master for his slave, the love of convenient junk food. This is a selfish love; and being human, we have probably all experienced this. Raw Tibicos has experienced selfish love!
At the top is the kind of love a mother gives her child, the love that says, “how may I help?” without judgment, or the love a chef gives a meal, food which will be eaten and forgotten, but in which the love becomes part of not only the experience, but also the nutrition. With food, we can test the love! Cook two meals, exactly the same – one cooked by an unhappy, resentful chef, and the other – the same in material terms – cooked by a happy, love-filled chef. When Raw Tibicos tried this experiment, there were actual, measurable differences in the experience and results of the meal. Sounds crazy? Test it for yourself, and see if you look at food – or war – or even dogs – in the same way?