Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Can I Help?

Last Friday I, and some friends, went to see a documentary called How to Cook Your Life. In this film, Zen Master and former head cook at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California Edward Espe Brown describes how one can achieve enlightenment in the most mundane of kitchen tasks such as washing rice or baking bread.

Brown talks about how our current culture, at least here in the United States, is all about forcing The Other into submission. When growing food, for example, we do not look at the land and the weather and the plants and try to find a peaceful, sustainable way to coax food out of the Earth. Instead, we decide that we are going to grow a particular food on a particular plot of land, whether that land is well-suited to that food or not, and then proceed to dump chemicals and pump water in to make it happen.

Instead, says Brown, what we should be doing is asking, "How can I help you be what you could be if I helped you?" Of course, as with all profound thoughts, this applies not only to broccoli but also to life, and especially to parenting and teaching children. Our job is not to make our children be a particular way, but to really try to identify their individual essence and then help them be most fully themselves. It is not all about us, and our desire to make reality match what we want it to be, but instead we need to accept reality for what it is.

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