“This is just lunch for most people. Just lunch. We can call it sacred, we can talk about communion, but it’s just lunch.”
Roughly a third into Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, the above quote made me stop and think. The author is quoting Gene Kahn, whose little back-to-the-land farm from the seventies is now a subsidiary of General Mills and one of the biggest names in the organic food industry. Kahn was explaining, unapologetically, how youthful radical idealism gradually gave way to corporate mindset. “Everything eventually morphs into the way the world is.”
But “the way the world is” really isn’t the way it should be; if this fact weren’t so deeply engrained in our Catholic theology, this book reminds me of it several times per page.
As a devotee of St. Francis of Assisi and his holistic approach to spirituality, I bristle at these quotes and their lackadaisical attitude. Just because the rest of the world doesn’t see the sacred wonder of God’s providence in every meal, it doesn’t justify the rest of us throwing in the ideological towel.
And yet …
As I read that particular section of the book I happened to be eating a greasy slice from a nearby pizza joint. In the ordinary day-to-day, it is too easy to let mundane convenience overshadow sacred mystery. And even as I protest too much, I still give in to the mindset of “just lunch”. Life too often wears away at ideals –gradually and over time – until, eventually, they settle into “the way the world is”.
Which is why this book is such a wonderful experience. Although it doesn’t present itself as a spiritual book, its thorough examination of ecological science is a remarkable faith-booster. Looking at the myriad ways God has crafted our world so that every part nourishes and is in turn nourished by each other is a powerful reminder of just how wonderful and generous a God we have. And it drives home just how far modern humanity has strayed from the ideal of Eden – how far “the way the world is” is from “the way the world was meant to be”.
Josh McDonald is a writer and cartoonist who lives and works in New Hampshire and maintains a web-based comic strip at http://www.askrachelcomic.com.