Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Pistachio -or- Ripples in a Pond -or- Butterfly Effect

Everything that we create touches much of the world through ripples, aka butterfly effect. I had a realization over a pistachio one night that made me realize this. I was waiting for my dinner at a restaurant’s bar, snacking from a pint glass full of pistachios. I started off in a typical unconscious fashion: crack, crunch, crack, crunch, crack crunch... opening the shells and stuffing my maw as fast as I could, barely tasting the pistachios, just trying to get full.

I became aware of this, and slowed down my eating to be present with each shell that I opened, tasting each pistachio, chewing it fully before swallowing. Feeling the nutty taste, the salty taste, letting it all linger. Then I would wash it down with a sip of ice water, noticing the weight of the glass, the coolness of it, the chill of the water, the crisp taste of the water, feeling it wet my tongue that was slightly dried and parched from the salt. After each swallow, I would then carefully reach for another pistachio, and carefully start the process over. The awareness or presence in it filled me. It made every bite memorable, important, special. With each pistachio, my awareness deepened. I was able to put full attention into the tactile feel, the smell, the taste. Soon, my mind began to contemplate the path of each pistachio.

I picked up a pistachio, then looked at the glass, and thought about the employee who cleaned the glass, the employee who brought the glass to me, the employee who filled the glass with pistachios. Who opened the bag? Who carried the bag? Who unloaded it from the truck carrying the pistachios? I traced the pistachio back along one possible path, backwards along the truck, to the person who loaded the truck, to the warehouse that originally had the pistachios, all the way back to the plantation where the pistachio grew. Who picked that pistachio? I imagined it was a man and wondered where he lived. Was it in a tropical climate – judging by the spelling of “pistachio”, I guessed the Mediterranean. Since then I’ve looked up that it was likely in the US (the world’s second largest pistachio producer), though it could be from Iran (the world’s largest pistachio producer). That man, where did he get his shirt? Was it cotton, picked in Egypt, woven in China? When he put it in a basket or bin, who made that, an Indonesian woman? Who made her clothes? Every person along the way touched so many other people, were supported by so many other people. Even the pistachio itself, was originally from the region around Iran, Turkmenistan, and Western Afghanistan, how many people were involved in cultivating it to the strain that made it to the first Californian commercial harvest of 1976? When was in bred? Was everyone in the world somehow involved in getting that pistachio into my fingers? How many people touched it directly? Easily 50, I would think. And the indirect connections are innumerable.

That pistachio has had quite an existence, and now, its proteins and minerals are part of this body that I’m in. It nourished me. Everything that I do from now on involves the pistachio. These thoughts may err on the side of overly sentimental, but in some way everything that I do is honoring the many people who bore that pistachio to me. And if you account for every morsel of food that I’ve consumed, have Billions of people touched me indirectly? Am I doing them all justice through my day-to-day actions? We sometimes pride ourselves as being independent and being able to take care of ourselves by ourselves. At some level, this is absurd. With the extremely rare exception of a complete fend-for-oneself hermit, we are all dependent on others and deeply networked. Even if you do not believe in all souls/spirits/beings being connected to the-oneness-of-the-universe (I do feel this to be true), it is clear that we are connected in one way or another.

No comments:

Post a Comment