Tag Archives: food
Divine Love, Divine Hate, an essay
Scientists have of late discovered that music stimulates the same areas of the brain as food and sex. That’s why listening to music can bring a chill, raise the small hairs on the back of the neck. That’s why music demands — and gets — our closest attention. You need me, the music calls, you need me to survive, to perpetuate your species. Without me, you will have less well-being, less pleasure and satisfaction. What a design! Food, sex and — music.
The pleasure centers of the brain — the reptilian, primitive intelligence — is not involved in abstract thought but entrusted with the very essence of staying alive. Yet the impulses and desires which originate there find means of expression in our higher intelligence. Food and sex are necessary for survival, so necessary that sometimes it seems as though the whole human world, all human society and culture, can be thought of as nothing more than an interesting mechanism to keep us supplied with food and sex.
The appreciation of music springs from that same primal area of the brain — could this possibly mean there must be a God, after all — a God who gave us another instinct, one for pleasure and beauty, in addition to our basic instincts to survive? Music, a divine invention with no practical purpose. No purpose at all other than to inspire in us joy, mystery, fear and abandon.
Think of all the emotions we can express with food, sex and music: passion, joy, disinterest, experimentation, violence, anger, tenderness, wistfulness, meditation, transcendence. Food, sex and music can be used to communicate, even intensify, all these emotions, yet the trio can also be used to push us past all of these feelings to a region of Godlike rationality and knowledge. Yes, occasionally our existence becomes clear, understood fully until surface complexity falls away into the deeper simplicity of detached understanding. A strangely quiet joy — a joy beyond anything prosaic.
A poetic joy, able to recreate itself in the mind forever. Sometimes the memory of such enlightenment is what keeps us going when the enlightenment itself feels as far away as Uranus or Pluto — as cold, as unreachable. Remembering how once we held it in our bodies and it filled us so there was nothing empty, noting lacking, nothing to fear — not even death. It is a knowledge, a contentment, which infants possess without awareness. To possess this peace with awareness is the greatest achievement, but one which few people are able to sustain for long. We hold it and fall in love with it and in an instant it twists out of our hands and flashes off into the distance like an agile, silvery minnow. Enlightenment as God’s minnow. Look at it too closely, try to keep it too long, and you may never see it again.
I myself have only a rather wobbly faith in God’s existence, but I nonetheless feel pity for people who declare without hesitation that nothing divine exists. What a drab, ugly world their interior castles must be, with only themselves for company.
The divine cannot be ruled out. We cannot know what exists beyond our senses. Certainly people have been enraptured by the idea of divinity — especially, most recently, the notions of divine anger, divine vengeance — modern terrorists have embraced these, but without embracing the corresponding ideas of divine love and divine compassion. Yes, people have fastened their wills on the idea of divine judgment, but they have ignored completely divine forgiveness.
The cockroach is as marvelous a creation as anything — see it scuttle away from the light, a most marvelous mechanism, see it copulate, see it reproduce itself, see it taste its food with pleasure twinkling in its delicate, wavelike feelers. No less miraculous than us. But we have an ability the cockroach does not have — to be self-aware of our divine impulses — our duty as human beings is to dive both below and above our own ordinary human consciousness. To bring all our unconscious knowledge and desires into to the conscious realm — both those desires labeled primitive and those labeled exalted.
Some elements of love are to be found in the roach. It loves its life: flees from danger, attempts to avoid harm, and tries to survive no matter what the odds. This is where the terrorists have failed. They have embraced only half the divine order — divine hate — the half that appeals to them more and suits their political purposes. They need to stretch themselves, accept all things God has created — even those they find distasteful or abhorrent — and leave the judging to God. They need to cultivate in themselves divine compassion and divine love. Terrorists profess they love God, but they do not love God’s creation — therefore that love is flawed, is not really love at all. Their love has turned inside out into hate.
They need to learn from the cockroach, as do we all. We possess vast potential for divine virtue, yet are so capable of falling into the abyss of pride. These terrorists have fallen, and they are trying to pull us down with them. We must not surrender to only part of the divine order. We must catch ourselves with the feelers of the insect before we tumble too far.
I cannot blame anyone who feels the need to destroy the terrorists. I feel that need myself, the blood lust of anger and retribution. But we must find a response pleasing to the divine. That is what prayer is — thinking about what a divinely perfect being might do, waiting for the small voice to tell us the right way to handle this new permutation of evil — without ourselves falling under its wicked spell.
This is what all religious searching has been aimed at. Whether we believe God exists or not — we can imagine God, as God might exist. Sometimes it is better to die than to kill the blameless. We can feel such things in our deepest selves, and these places are just as important to reach with the conscious mind as the highest levels of abstract thought.
We can imagine God, we can love God, we can honor God, and that is what matters most, not whether God truly exists. Good and evil, love and hate, right and wrong, call it whatever you like. It is our uniquely human gift, our uniquely human burden. Did we ask for this? Be careful what you wish for, goes the old admonition. Would I rather be my dog, or my cat? Sometimes I envy their peace of mind. They don’t know about world wars. But my most divine pleasures, feeling them and knowing that I am pleased, and knowing why — in this way I have my cake and eat it, too. The lure of that apple in the garden is a lovely allegory, whether it happened or not — we invented it. This is the quality of our humanity which we can never give back, no matter how much we might want to.
Purple silk, soft against my skin, phone pressed to my ear like a shell,
I’m listening for the sounds of you, the sounds of the sea in your veins,
I want to hear your voice, sweet, low, soft as the silk against my skin.
I imagine you in your bed, stretched out, as comfortable against the mattress
as you would be against my body… you’re talking, and I’m listening like
it’s the first time… oh, but it is the first time. After you, nothing will be
the same, nothing will ever taste or smell or sound the way it used to.
There was the world before you, and now it feels flat and dead and dull,
as if I can hardly see how I moved through all the endless days, waiting…
waiting to hear this, your good voice, your sweet words, the sound of your
breath, the shape of your mouth… and your lips call to me like a wolf
howls at the moon, pulling my soul out of my body, stopping the clock,
making my whole self nothing but this overwhelming hunger. It is dark,
the middle of the night, the hour when the blackness turns to velvet,
when the stars shine like diamond chips in the dark blanket of the sky.
You are far away, but your voice is gentle in my bed with me. The image
of your body glows in my head, everything is in my head, everything is
possible, I may live forever. I want to please you. By pleasing you, I please
myself. Your joy is mine, I am greedy for it. And oh, the hunger. Inside me
is a magnet, collapsing the space between us. I am sucking you through wires…
and if I were there – do you wish I were there? I’d press my own shaking electric
fingers, my palms, upon your skin, first this place, then that place, searching,
reaching, touching each square inch of you, tracing your limbs with my
tongue’s thoughtless purpose; touching, rubbing, pushing, pulling, mouth open,
warm, mouth wet, soft, lips fiery, trembling, my head intoxicated with charting
and caressing the unknown territory of your sweet flesh. First, your wise,
funny mouth; your strong, stubborn teeth; your mischievous, wanton tongue.
I draw the good scent of your skin into my body for nourishment, breathing
you again and again, my chest rising, then falling, over and over, air drawn fast,
then faster; for you; because of you; simply to delight you. Then comes
the time of your neck, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers; my face an open
flower kissing you all over; my arms anchoring your warm, solid body;
my hair touching your chest, trailing slowly down your torso, your waist,
your hips, your loins, covering you like a loosely woven silk curtain.
For you; because of you; simply to delight you. All the while I caress you
with my lips, my tongue, my fingers, I tug your body closer to mine.
We feel each other’s weight, heat, firmness. As I move over you, your back
arches like a drawn bow; my lips are sweet arrows stinging; I caress your thighs,
your belly, your ass; I am greedy; I am hungry; I want this, simply to delight you.
I will say honey upon my tongue is like ashes after tasting you;
I will say I have lost myself and do not ever want to find my way home;
will say I have well-pleased the gods who created me, for this moment
and forever. I have a fire deep inside my body and will burn through
everything between us, mountains, walls, tables, chairs, clothes; just
to reach you; simply to delight you. Someday, I would like your bedroom
to be ringed with heaps of fragrant white flowers — frangipani, gardenia,
honeysuckle, hyacinth, jasmine, lily of the valley, magnolia, narcissus, rose.
The thick, sweet scent will make you relaxed, sleepy, and perhaps then
you will know how easy it is to surrender….
Lillie Mae was the first person, other than her mother, Ella remembered being in love with. She — Lillie Mae — chewed gum, had a gold front tooth, wore long, dark auburn wigs, bright and warm against her dark brown skin. She — Ella — buried her nose in Lillie Mae’s neck, held up high in her arms. Heard the muted snapping of the gum in Lillie Mae’s mouth. Lillie Mae could get Ella, a picky eater, to eat when no one else could. For Lillie Mae, Ella would open her jaws for the spoon.
Stone Crab Fossil
My daughter and I
wear our matching crab T-shirts.
We are known for our prickly natures,
our quick defenses.
We stare at Ocalina floridana,
which, though dead, reaches out
as if for rescue with its fat claws —
now pale, delicate shades of gray rock,
not orange and black as in life:
a desperate ghost crab.
Entombed in mud for millennia,
turned slowly to stone
by seep of minerals. The flesh
would have been delicious
with melted butter. Side-walker,
harbinger of bad luck, omen of the great flood,
enemy to all snakes, brave
in the face of death, the humble crab
goes down swinging. The crab does not run
from danger, the crab does not abandon
pride in the moment of attack.
When I was pregnant with her,
I had a taste for crab-cakes.
Sometimes I wear a hard shell,
sometimes I wish I could shed it,
leave it rolling down the beach
while I slip back into the clear water.
This year she learned to read,
tells me the name of everything
in the museum. Sometimes, just like me,
she doesn’t want to talk, she wants
to be alone. I hope someday,
should she ever have need,
she seeks me out, reaches toward me
in her distress, lets me in again.
(image information — http://nerafinuota.deviantart.com/art/Dog-eat-dog-world-285292431)
Dog Eat Dog
I. Dreams After Eating A Large Meal
Cannibals exist in all species,
even primates. Chimpanzees,
long thought to be peaceful vegetarians,
love to hunt. Male chimps will kill
newborns from their own troupe
if they suspect the mother
to have consorted with outsiders.
They kill the infant
with a bite to the skull,
then tear it apart, sharing the flesh
with each other. I watched a mother chimp
chasing the males who had grabbed
her baby. She followed
at a slight distance, screaming
from the trees, shaking the branches,
filled with rage but lacking the large
canine fangs of her brothers.
When she was on the verge
of attack, the males would dangle
her infant by one limb, threatening
to drop it 25 feet to the ground.
She backed off, howling
with frustration. In the end,
she gave up. The males sat
and watched, then consumed the flesh
of her offspring. It was the soft
pink of milk-fed veal, so tender,
so sweet — they napped heavily
all afternoon, dreamed vague dreams
involving slim saplings, bent
under their weight, about to snap.
II. Fighting Biology
Every human law is an effort
to curb natural instincts.
When people kill, it is for reasons
they cannot articulate. Come to me,
they hear the victim say. Take me
into yourself and make us both
whole. Much of the time, the message
is obeyed — one wrong look
can end a life. The rule of nature,
what has this to do with love?
III. Brighter Colors, More Vivid Patterns
For scorpions, 25% of their diet
consists of other, smaller scorpions.
Frogs in South America will eat anything
smaller than themselves… though sometimes
they try to swallow another frog,
larger than themselves. Rather than give
up, they both die of suffocation.
Father fish, guarding their eggs, will eat
part of the clutch rather than leave
the eggs unattended to find food.
It is too dangerous to leave the family,
it’s better to sacrifice
a few members to save the whole.
IV. Protein Is Precious
Mother mice, when their nest is found
by a predator, will kill & consume
as much of their litter as they can hold,
recycling precious protein
they’ve spent weeks gathering.
We all want to survive.
Some of us want to survive by eating others.
Some of us want to survive by consuming
air alone. I wanted to survive
without hurting anyone — I thought
it was possible, to take less, to give more.
V. Hunger, Touch, Satisfaction
I’m so hungry. All I can think of is food,
all different kinds. Bowls and bowls
of cereal, popcorn, rice, couscous.
Buckets of slop for the bovine.
Is it really spring outside? Has the mating
dance begun again? Do you love
to curl your hair? Do you long for ringlets,
shiny tresses? Do you want your hair
to touch someone? Do you want to consume
the most tender parts, leaving the rest
for scavengers? Do you understand
what sort of need you are satisfying?