What do we do with suffering, all of this potential loss and toxicity which can bleed from our brains and veins in untold amounts? Each of us, as we move through our lives, tries to find ways to transform our anger, our frustration, our hurt, our impatience, and our moments of dejection into that which can feed us and help ourselves and others heal forward.
We each move our hands, our mouths, our tongues to digest poisons in our lives, to spit them out or nullify their shocks to our systems. We try to listen in to the nature of our suffering, try to turn it out into some new and more soluble form.
In “Sonny’s Blues,” James Baldwin writes “It’s terrible sometimes, inside…You walk these streets, black and funky and cold, and there’s not really a living ass to talk to, and there’s nothing shaking, and there’s no way of getting it out- that storm inside. You can’t talk it and you can’t make love with it, and when you finally try to get with it and play it, you realize nobody’s listening. So you’ve got to listen. You got to find a way to listen.”
When we plant dry seeds in early spring’s cool soil, hydrate and tend to the sprouts as they turn into seedlings, when we spread compost and nitrogen around ground tender plants, when we spray water over leaf tops, watch them glisten and reflect, when we dig our hands into still sun warm soil to uproot a beet or carrot tethered to its dark home, when we cut, season, roast, and serve concentrated sugars and nutrients to others, we are transforming our own elements of toxicity, struggle, and disbelief into that which nourishes, heals, and makes those around us more vigorous, more capable, more able to move forward to see the lucidity of the next day. Our and others healing spins in action, in motions that bring wholeness to ourselves and others.
The act of growing, cooking, and eating converts what could kill and dull us to life into medicine, into nutrients, and into that which can feed us and others. We can take the energies that we deject and turn them into fuel and nourishment, turn them into the soil like a plow to unearth our gems of sustenance and perpetuation. Like oyster mushrooms pull toxic metals from soil viewed as uncultivatable, we can pull in and through our bodies that which we once turned from, that which poisoned us, and embrace it, filter it through our fingers, our throats, our cells and spin out healthier, more resilient, more palatable versions of ourselves.
This sacred act of converting the negative, the malignant into a form of nourishment and fuel is not solely figurative; we need to engage in physical bodily movements upon the earth’s surface to make this process happen. When we grow food for ourselves and others, we move all of our selves forward into a future of capability and promise. How we perform the cultivation and cooking of food matters in that we can use that nourishment to concoct a world where competition, hate, betrayal, anger, and slow drips of bitter drabness that swallow us get met with plates of love, bites of nutrients, worlds of abundance.
Gandhi illuminates this process of turning away from meeting hate or darkness with more of the same when he says “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” If you thwart me, if you injure me physically or emotionally, if you cheat on me, if you steal from me, if you punch me, if you injure those I love and I come back at you full force with the same, will I ever feel better, will I ever get enough of your pain to erase my own, to heal myself from your poison? We will both be incapacitated and diminished.
How we can move forward then, is cycling away from this downward spin and into the opposite revolution, into giving back, to fill in hate and bitter poison with sustenance, with nourishment, with love.
What does this mean for us now, with sanctions that keep other countries’ peoples starving or seeking for the basics to make it through? What does this mean when in every major city underpasses and river banks are crowded with homeless tents? What does this mean when according to CNN more people are behind bars in the US than are living in major cities like Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Diego, or Dallas? What does this mean when the USDA has identified that 21% of all US households are either food insecure or have very low food security?
We have the power to plant, we have the power to cultivate, we have the power to dice, chop, fry, roast, grill, and serve that which can funnel love and fill bellies empty or in need of good food, to help others rise to embrace the day. In the process, we not only nourish those who need it, we nourish and fill ourselves, covert our poison into mouthfuls of promise and regeneration.
Kann, Drew. “5 Facts behind America’s High Incarceration Rate.” CNN, CNN, 21 Apr. 2019, 3:50 ET, www.cnn.com/2018/06/28/us/mass-incarceration-five-key-facts/index.html.
“Key Statistics & Graphics.” USDA ERS – Key Statistics & Graphics, www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/key-statistics-graphics.aspx. Accessed 23 April 2021.