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EAL #16 — Meditation on a Supermarket

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If one thinks of Eden in modern conformation, this is what one might imagine. The doors open for you, no hand need be lifted. Some mysterious thing we call electricity, but which we might just call magic, slides it to the side. In you walk, only to be annoyed at the many others visiting this heavenly garden.

Did you think that such a gift should belong only to you?

The farmers of the world have conspired to place the produce of the seven lands and the four rivers before you, some invisible puppeteer controlling their dance with a finesse no maestro could manage. You carry no sickle for the harvest, no shears to cut the stems. Your thumb will never know the needle prick of the eggplant’s green crown, thorns removed for you.

For a moment, you are lost in the panic of imagination, all this dissolves and you are on your own in the wild. Where would you and your annoyance be then? But the citrus fruits still warm from the Floridian sun and the verdant lettuces of the Salinas Valley call you back here. Perhaps you should panic a bit longer. Maybe you’ll remember not to fall asleep.

You complain the beefsteak tomatoes have gone up to three dollars a pound. You know nothing of the frail, slender cotyledons that broke the ground and made the farmer smile, nor of the aphids he worked so assiduously to disperse. In the next aisle, the virgin drippings of 3,400 Mediterranean olives stand in a 1-liter bottle of dark green glass for the grand total of ten dollars. Hundreds of sauces and condiments line the shelves and you are overwhelmed by choices.

Why not be overwhelmed by beauty? Shhh, listen, they are murmuring, blessing, blessing.

You are Adam in vegetative Eden, but you are also Noah at the ark door. The animals of the field have come to you at the divine behest. You lost no sleepless nights worrying over choice pasture or filling their watering troughs, yet their marbled flesh awaits you on little black trays. There’s even fake meat that almost tastes good. The cluck-cluck of the hens never woke you, but you can fondle their featherless breasts lying quietly to the right of the beef.

Some other variety of hen has left its eggs in the aisle one over. There too is the butter you did not churn and the milk for which you squeezed no grubby teats. The yeasts and molds of the cheese caves of France rest near the mozzarellas of Italy and the cheddars of Vermont. Heavy cream and sour cream, whipped cream and iced cream, all scream blessing, blessing.

Can you hear it? Cover your ears, it’s deafening.

The ocean’s bounty has washed in here too. Your old broken rod, the torn nets you used as a child playing fisherman at the cottage lake, are lost somewhere in your garage — the fish here do not dart away. The Alaskan salmon have evaded the grizzlies (and the contestants on Outlast) and abandoned their upriver struggles to reunite with their Norwegian cousins behind the same refrigerator door, their fins and scales shed for plastic wrap. Next to them, the biome of the ocean floor has been transformed into white halibut flesh and retrieved for you from the pelagic.

Aromas of the bakery section waft over, the crusty sourdoughs with their impeccable floral scorings and their slightly burnt bottoms await you there. The folding and stretching and rising of the sensitive dough and the starter you didn’t feed are not your concern. Yours is just to relish the crunch and sustenance of a warm, fresh loaf, to munch on the tart the French pastry chef spent five years perfecting.

There has never been a time of such plenty, but it is so easy to get used to and forget it all. We are awash in blessing and we see little of it. Hedonic adaptation the academics call it, but it’s the mystics you’ll need to consult for the cure.

God removed man from Eden because he imbued man with the godliness to create his own. You are grievously mistaken if you think a supermarket is not a sanctuary.


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