Something very strange happened last week. I filed my blog about “Scars Keep A Record of Our Lives” on Tuesday March 13. The very next day, on the New Yorker magazine website there appeared promotion for an article that would appear in the March 19 issue of the New Yorker (my favorite magazine). The promotion was for an article by David Owen, entitled “Scars” which has the same theme as my blog. Inevitably I will be accused of copying, I suppose, but actually, I got the idea from my granddaughter who recently wrote a very touching piece for her high school magazine about an old man, losing his memory, who keeps his identity intact by studying the scars on his hands. My “Scars”, Rebecca’s and David Owen’s are an example of independent origin, pure and undefiled, and not all that uncommon except for the timing of publication. The coincidence in the time is just totally weird.
This sort of thing happens to me a lot, and I try to joke that it is all about the “great invisible brain wave in the sky.” I am convinced that the seething cauldron of human thought boils up in the ethereal atmosphere of ideas, a process made more substantive now by electronic communication gone wild, and that more seemingly creative people have taller antennae jutting out from behind their ears to pick up on the latest notions and theories floating around in the great brain hovering over us. For example, two years ago I wrote a novel about a church closing, a common event these days, where the parishioners rebelled and turn their closed church into a sort of food pantry, producing and dispensing local food much in the same spirit that religious institutions traditionally use communal meals in various communion services as the center focus of their liturgy. I thought I was writing humor, only to learn recently that abandoned and closed churches were being turned into exactly what I had inadvertently predicted, by people who do not know my novel existed.
Right now my antenna (and a whole lot of other peoples’ aerials) is ding, ding, dinging away, louder every day, telling me that there really is a new cultural shift taking place in society’s attitude toward food. The dinging insists that the interest in homegrown and local, well-prepared food is not a fad that will fade away as soon as the economy gets pumped up again. Examples are just everywhere. New economic models of food production and distribution, like the growing number of urban food hubs, are being developed on a philosophy that says farming is for health and independence first, not money, and in fact much of the food production system is shifting to more personal and local responsibility. There is a battle cry arising from everywhere urging society to take back control of its food from international agribusiness suppliers whose methods not only result in soil depletion but increasingly results in cases of tainted food. Food is not a factory product, says the new cultural shift, but a handicraft business and must figure out an economic model where profit is measured in ways other than worthless paper money. It makes me wonder if at least half of us will someday produce most of our food in the same spirit that we take care of our other bodily needs or make our own furniture. We brush our teeth and shower as part of our daily chores. So shall we garden.
Seems like every college now has a farm as part of the curriculum. And there is increasing talk of making agricultural instruction mandatory in school. In the printed and electronic worlds, signs of a new food economy proliferate. Among the more provocative are books like Norman Wirzba’s recent “Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating.” Whoa. A theology of eating? Dr. Wirzba, who is a professor of theology, ecology and rural life (how’s that for a strange combination) at Duke University and also a friend of mine, points out in one chapter almost the same ideas about food being at the center of religious services as I did in my novel, but he clothes his arguments in a biblical framework. Countering this approach, another revolutionary book will be out in a month or so by Masanobu Fukuoka, the author of the famed “One Straw Revolution,” titled “Sowing Seeds In The Desert.” Fukuoka exhorts society that only completely natural farming can save us and that the success of natural farming requires a renunciation all religions, all notions of God, all of traditional economics and much of science. Yet his bottom line about how society must conduct itself in the future is similar to that of Wirzba’s!
I tell you we are moving into a truly new day where even the godless and the god-fearing join hands so that we can keep on eating well. The great invisible brain wave in the sky thus speaketh. I hear it plain as day. Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.