Monthly Archives: November 2013

More apple based inspiration from Cambridge: First gravity and now this!

I was in a meeting recently at Westcott House, across the road from my dear Wesley House. As I was sat, in a first floor room, looking out of the window, as is my custom during meetings and lectures, I noticed a large tree in the middle of the college garden. It was probably about 20m from where I was sat and I thought to myself how odd the leaves were. Though, soon I had realised that they weren’t leaves at all, but massive apples. By this time, during a lull in proceedings,  I’d stood up from my chair and wondered over to the window. I said “there’s an apple tree”. Olivia, a fellow student replied, “yeah, we’ll go and get some later”. I continued, with surprised exhilaration, “it’s food, and it literally grows on trees!”. Olivia agreed, a few people chuckled and we got on with our meeting.

I made the “grows on trees” comment to illustrate my realisation that the idea of food growing is a really weird concept to me. It was in that moment that I was struck by just how disconnected from the production of my food I am. I became aware that it felt more natural, and I mean felt natural, meant to be, organic, not peculiar, to me, to pick up an apple from a supermarket shelf rather than from the ground underneath an apple tree. In fact, to pick up food from under the tree from which it had grown felt abnormal, unnatural, wrong.

Obviously, I know food grows and some on trees. Well I say I do, I academically know. Like I academically know that people live on the other side of the planet. However, sadly, disturbingly, any real connection to this fact suddenly seems as far from me, from my mind, as having a meaningful friendship with someone who lives in downtown Lanzhou.

So the meeting ended and I wondered downstairs and out onto the grass, Sir Isaac Newton style, only with not quite such cool hair, but with a better beard, to find a freshly fallen apple. I eventually, after surveying several apples as well as also looking up to see if I could easily, I couldn’t, get a fresh one, picked one up with only one, very small, black mark. I then processed (it’s an Anglican college after all), with my apple, into the common room where I had been offered a cup of tea. I Joyfully cut it up, disposing of the black bit, and offered it around. Saying again “it literally grew on a tree” still strangely surprised by such an occurrence.

We wondered if it was a cooking apple; it was massive. Bigger even than a cooking apple, perhaps. However, it was sweet! So the others in the common room and I finished the thing.

Also, by the way, it was free! The tree photosynthesised using free energy from the sun, not from some extortionate, government influencing, monopolising, private energy company, but the sun.  To turn free carbon (you’re welcome tree! At least one life form has gained from humanities carbon pollution – sorry about all the toxic waste, mass destruction of rainforests etc.) into fruit! I could have had a second and that would have been free too, and a third! This, also, was a strange concept; that I could sustain myself physically without needing  to be involved in an economic transaction.

Isn’t it strange how we, as individuals, as a species, so easily sleepwalk into unnatural ways of being. Then how we let such situations program us to implicitly assume that things have always been this way and so will always be this way.

The arms trade is a blight on all of our lives, but, as the philosophers ‘Dan le Sac’ and ‘Scroobius Pip’ said, “Thou shalt remember that guns, bitches, and bling were never part of the Four Elements, and never will be.”

And so, if I can pick an apple up off the floor and eat it, then it follows that the twisted, unnatural, dehumanising, arms trade can be dismantled. Only to become a distant memory, marking a time when humans had lost their minds.

Last summer, I visited Taize, in France.  I spent two weeks there, living and working alongside the other hundreds of people from all over the world, who had visited this isolated monastic community to work, pray and spend time together.  I spent my second week in silence, and one of the books I took with me was Thomas Merton’s “Contemplative Prayer” – flicking through one morning I found a set of prayers by the Zen Buddhist Tich Nhat Hanh, who had written the forward for this beautiful, challenging, inspiring book.  I spent an afternoon gently working through these prayers.  I found considering myself, those I love and those I find less easy to reconcile myself with equally, patiently and with eyes of love at first a challenging, difficult experience, but ultimately liberating – for a short while, I was that bit freer from the weight of prejudice.

For each prayer, first consider the words in relation to yourself, then the person you like, then the person you love, then the person you are neutral to, and finally the person who makes you suffer when you think of.  

Then you can practice “May they be . . .” beginning with the group, the people, the nation, or the species you like, then the one you love, then the one that is neutral to you, and finally the one you suffer the most when you think of.

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May he/she be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May they be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.

May I be free from injury. May I live in safety.
May he/she be free…
May they be free…

May I be free from disturbance, fear, anxiety, and worry.
May he/she be free…
May they be free…

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May he/she learn…
May they learn…

May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May he/she be able…
May they be able…

May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May he/she learn…
May they learn…

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May he/she know…
May they know…

May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May he/she be able…
May they be able…

May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May he/she be free…
May they be free…

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