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3 Spiritual Principles I Learned From Food Network

I have a confession to make…I love the Food Network and spend far too much of my time watching, what many would consider, pointless cooking competition shows.  From Iron Chef to Chopped to Cupcake Wars (do I lose a manly-man point for that last one?)  I find myself glued to the flashing screen in front of me.

In a never-ending attempt to prove to myself that I am not just “wasting time”, I have been contemplating the spiritual lessons I have gleaned from these shows.  So without further ado:

1. Tension and balance are essential.

Many a chef has been “chopped” when a judge utters the criticism that their dish was “one note”.  If there is a secret to making amazing grub, it might just be providing contrasting yet complementary flavors and textures.

Corn Ice Cream w/Habanero Tequila Caviar

Corn Ice Cream w/Habanero Tequila Caviar

If you are going to make a sweet dish, it is a good idea to add a sour or spicy flavor to create an interesting tension.  Likewise, if you are going to make a soup you had better include a piece of crunchy bread to contrast the textures. A meal without contrast is a recipe for a boring dining experience.

This is also true of our spiritual journeys.  If we think faith is all about believing what we were taught to believe and never about doubting then we can only go so far.  It becomes predictable and repetitive.  However if we truly embrace belief yet are authentic in acknowledging our doubt it usually provides a deeper more robust spiritual experience.  This can also be true with grace vs. justice, metaphysical vs. physical, and truth vs. mystery.  Finding the tension between the two is where the magic happens.

2. Deconstruction of the classics can lead us into a deeper understanding.

Bagel and Lox - Deconstructed

Deconstructed Bagel and Lox

Take for example the dish to the left.  It is a deconstructed version of the classic bagels and lox.  The chef has abstracted each of the components: bagel (in crumb form), cured salmon, cream cheese, onion, cucumber, and capers. In this the diner can experience this meal, with a long history, in a new and fresh way.  In so doing they can more easily understand what each component adds to the dish.  The bagels add the starch and crunch.  The cheese adds the creaminess.  The fish adds the smokey savoriness.  The capers add the tart sourness.  I think you get the point…  In addition the eater can play around by tasting a couple of the components in tandem to see how those flavors play off of one another.  The whole experience leaves the diner with a  far greater understanding of the meal they have eaten.

Similarly deconstructing our doctrines and theologies can lead us into a more robust comprehension.  It is easy to let our spiritual ancestors fight through all the questions and arguments for us, consuming whatever is placed before us.  It is a worthwhile effort to dig into them to find out who they were, why they made the decisions they made, what influenced them, and what impacts it has had.  When we truly understand the components that our dogmas emerged from, perhaps we can imagine them in a new way that will bring life to ourselves and those around us.

3. Exposure to diversity can produce creativity

Sea Urchin Carbonara Noodle Bento Box

Sea Urchin Carbonara Noodle Bento Box

Culinary lines have long been fought over.  The French will claim their cuisine is the best in the world, the Italians theirs, the Japanese theirs, and so on.  Purists from any tradition will often scoff at the rest of the inferior lot.  If you, like me, have watched the original Iron Chef program, Iron Chef America‘s Japanese predecessor from the 90s, you will have noticed that each of the chefs came from a specific cuisine (French, Chinese, Japanese, Italian).  Many times challengers would enter Kitchen Stadium from opposing classical schools.  Most of the time the chefs would stick to their specialized flavor profiles, but occasionally a spark of creativity would come over them as they “stole” an ingredient or flavor from the rival tradition to elevate their dish.  Over the show’s 7 year run this practice increased as it became known as a winning formula.  The Iron Chef who showed this type of creativity more than any of the others was Masaharu Morimoto, who eventually crossed the Pacific to join Iron Chef America.  In the American version of the show almost every Iron Chef and challenger follow this tradition where they “bring together the pungent flavors of east and west”.

I have found spiritual parallel here as well.  There are a great many spiritual traditions in the world.  For the longest time I saw them as rivals, as an inferior lot.  As I have opened myself to hearing what is important and meaningful to them, I have found inspiration for my own faith tradition.  Many times I have felt myself fall into a rut…thinking the same thoughts, doing the same things, falling into the same patterns.  Having a real appreciation for spiritual diversity (including the agnostics and atheists I know) provides me with the spark of creativity it takes to get out of those ruts…and I’m truly thankful for that.

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Breaking Up With G-d

Occasionally a song resonates with your soul.  Sometimes that resonation has little to do with the artist’s original intent.  Perhaps that is one of the signs of truly meaningful expressions.  There’s something wonderful about a song that transcends its topic.  I’ve had that experience over the past week.  Goyte’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” has been that song for me.  Rather than a reflection on a former romantic relationship the song has placed melody and lyrics on my former relationship with G-d…the one I knew in my youth…the one I knew from my Evangelical born-again phase.


Reflect with me, if you will, on the lyrics for a moment:

Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it’s an ache I still remember

You can be addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over

But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
No you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I’d done
But I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough
And you didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

SomebodyI used to know
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know
SomebodyI used to know
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

I used to knowThat I used to know
I used to know somebody

I should probably specify at this point that I haven’t become an atheist or agnostic.  I still believe in G-d but what that looks like is quite different from what it has been in the past.  I have broken-up with the anthropomorphic projection of my fears, hopes, insecurities, prejudices, self-doubt, anger, and desires.  Moreover, I have ended my relationship with those projections of my culture and the cultures that serve as the foundation of my culture.  There are, I still believe, parts of that affair that were shadows of the divine.  All of those elements were, though, tangled hopelessly into an idea I named “G-d”.

I feel particularly connected to the imagery in the video.  The relationship I shared with this G-d was created by filling in a paint-by-numbers pattern.  Piece by piece, doctrine by doctrine, sermon by sermon…the tapestry of our journey together took on shape and color.  It was not until later that the sharp corners and lack of shading began to bother me.  By the end…color drained away all together and the borders vanished.  All that remained was raw human flesh ready to move tentatively toward a new era, a new love.

'Broken Heart' photo (c) 2006, David Goehring - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Breaking up doesn’t mean though that I am free and clear of that previous “personal relationship”.  I will carry the baggage of that failed relationship…it has undeniably become a part of who I am.  It is intertwined with my very being for better and for worse.  That was love and it’s an ache I still remember.

Your friends, divine former lover, still come around to remind me that it’s over.  They snatch back the mementos of our relationship, as if they actually could, to serve as a reminder that you never needed me to begin with.  Though we shared a deep and meaningful history, when that relationship was over your messengers told me I could no longer call myself “Christian”.  I became a stranger and that feels so rough.  You found others who will love you more truly than I ever could.  I did love you, but we found that we could not make sense.  I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over.  

I’m deeply sorry I had to leave. I needed to.  You see, I didn’t feel like I could be myself.  The relationship demanded that I become someone I couldn’t truly be…but I’ll be damned if I didn’t try to become that person.  Every time I failed to accomplish the impossible you claimed to forgive me by acting large and when you did I felt so small.  I realize now that I was always set-up for failure.  And I don’t wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say.

In the end it is better off this way…for both of us.  I will always remember the good times we had and the love that we shared.  The past is the past though.  Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.

Somebody…

…that I used to know.

 

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Divine Favor & Tebowism

In the history of the NFL we have seen many openly Christian players.  It’s not unusual to see a finger pointing towards heaven after a big play; we’ve heard dozens (hundreds?) of appreciative sentiments offered to G-d in post-game interviews…especially after a championship.  Notably Kurt Warner, the highly decorated Super Bowl MVP (and winner of a participant ribbon on Dancing With The Stars), has always been very open about his faith.  The Christian community has always had a fondness for these sports figures.  It’s pretty normal to cheer a little louder for a player we identify with.

However, something is different this year with the emergence of Tim Tebow.  The buzz in the Christian community is bigger than its ever been before.  Even non-Christians are paying attention.  Many Evangelicals who never before found interest in the sport have started watching games specifically because of Tebow.

Tebow has always had a bit of a following among Christians.  He began to rise to fame in college while famously wearing bible verses on his eye blacks.  But Tebow Time became a national sensation about mid-way through this current NFL season.  Week after week he led the Broncos to a number of late game comebacks to secure a place in the playoffs.  And then it began…  Social media became abuzz with mentions of G-d’s favor on Tebow.  Some Christians started inferring that G-d was involved in what became known as “miracle” victories.  Tebowism reached a climax after an overtime playoff win over the Steelers.  Only 11 seconds into overtime Tim threw a great pass to Damaryius Thomas to score an 80 yard touchdown, securing the victory.  Within minutes Facebook and Twitter were flooded with messages claiming the play was some sort of immaculate reception.  Something new popped up this time though.  Christians started using numerology to interpret a heavenly message from G-d using Tebow’s passing statistics.  Tebow passed for 316 yards in that game which predictably they assigned to John 3:16.

I should say at this point that Tim has publicly stated that he does not believe G-d is supernaturally pulling strings to give him and the Broncos victories. Unfortunately this is the one message that his admirers (worshippers?) have not heard. A poll taken after this game revealed some interesting results. View the results here. An amazing 43% of respondents who were familiar with Tebow answered affirmatively when asked if his success was the result of divine intervention. This theology is quite troubling for a few reasons, but suffice it to say (for now) that if G-d is performing miracles for multi-millionaires while billions are suffering and dying in extreme poverty something is very wrong. In addition, if Tebow’s success is a result of G-d’s favor what does last week’s loss say?  Has G-d abandoned him?  This might deserve some more discussion, but we will save that for another time (or the comments).

So is our theology really this poor? Is G-d really that arbitrary and/or callous? I would suggest that something else is going on here. Perhaps the issue doesn’t say much about Tebow or about G-d, but rather says a lot about us. A very common belief among many religions (especially those from ancient societies) is that if we do something (pray, offer sacrifices, perform a ceremony, are nice to others, are obedient, etc) then a divine being will be inclined to give us what we desire. I believe Tim Tebow has become for many American Christians a symbol of this desire. Tim has a trait that we, as Christians, believe he shares with us, his faith. If G-d gives him success as a reward for his belief, then hopefully he will do the same for us. Could it be that Tebow is just a projection of our own longing for miracles in our own life?

At this point I would redirect us. I personally don’t find it all that beneficial to continuously attempt to find the right combination of variables in order to manipulate the favor of G-d to achieve success. I do think Tim can still symbolize something of importance for us though once we move past supernatural game rigging. Tebow has worked incredibly hard for many years to achieve success. Reportedly he is consistently the first one to practices and the last one to leave. He seems to always have a good attitude, supports and encourages those around him, and has a generous disposition. Tim is successful because he earned success. I can respect this form of “Tebowing” regardless of how I feel about football players taking a knee with head bowed after a good play.


idk why…I just found this picture and felt I needed to share 😉

 

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