Monday, October 28, 2013


Every now and then I drive my son to school. Normally we walk to the bus stop, stare at the mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca (be careful not to mis-pronounce his last name, if you please), gaze at the trees in the forest across the street, watch the eagles and other birds fly about, and talk about God and life and all sorts of wonderful things. But every now and then, like once a week or so, I drive him to school.

When I do, I always turn on the radio after dropping him off. (I can just hear myself saying, "I don't always listen to the radio, but when I do, it's CBC.") (Well, it is.)

A few weeks ago, after dropping him off and turning on the radio (CBC), I heard an interesting story. It was about cooking. Home cooking. Home cooking, and how it has declined by over 50% since the mid-60s in North America.

And as you may guess, it got me thinking.

Why, you may ask? Well, I'm glad you did, dear Reader.

It got me thinking about the importance of cooking, food, and eating together (an activity that is sorely lacking in my home, which I keep hoping to change, but keep failing at miserably).

Cooking, and home cooking in particular, is, in many ways, a basis of community. When you forage, you eat whenever you find food. When you cook, it suddenly becomes a more communal activity. You have to plan, ensuring that you have the ingredients you need. Someone has to prepare the food. You have to look forward to it, rather than having than just eating whenever you are hungry. It also becomes a point of communication, talking over the dinner table.

But, as I mentioned, home cooking has seriously declined, with more and more people preferring pre-packaged food, or fast food. In spite of this, and this is what got me thinking, cooking shows are more popular than ever. While there are many cooking shows that actually help you learn to cook, the most popular, like Iron Chef, result in scaring people out of the kitchen. They make it look like some sort of Olympian contest with often devastating or humiliating results, further re-inforcing the erroneous belief that it is better to go out and pick up something semi-palatable to eat from a fast food joint, or getting something in a cardboard box that barely resembles food your grandparents would recognize with negligibly more nutrition than the box itself.

In short, they try to convince you to spend more money getting something less nutritious while sacrificing the time you may have over the dinner table.

Of course, that's just my own take on it. You can see that I am a little against that sort of thinking, even though I understand the notion that many seem to have that it takes more time to prepare a healthy meal than it does to earn the money to buy a pre-made thingy and heat it up. (I disagree with that notion, too, especially after an old roomie and I had a race. He cooked pasta from a box while I made it from scratch. Not only was I done before he was, although I didn't allow the pasta to properly dry, the home-made pasta was both better tasting and cheaper.)

Anyways, given these two points, cooking down, cooking shows up, why is this? Why are we more interested in watching people cook when we don't do it as much ourselves? I think the simplest answer is that we are living vicariously.

"Vicara-what?" Vicariously. We are experiencing things indirectly, as though through a substitute. We seem to recall the wonder of a good home-cooked meal, but are living vicariously through the shows, instead of doing it ourselves.

And this is not the only instance of it. There are so many other instances of this, such as video games, movies, facebook and so forth. Heck. While we're at it, we might as well put pornography in there, too. Oh, and yes, I include facebook, which may be a bit of a stretch, but it often involves having "conversations" with an electronic device rather than the real people who are there with you. (And while I enjoy facebook, it is not a substitute for a real relationship with those who are around me.) (Sorry facebook friends, but I value my time with people around me more, even though I value your friendship, too.)

But seriously, think about it. How many kids today play Wii sports instead of getting out and exercising, or playing with their friends? How many people think that they are learning to play the guitar with Guitar Hero even though they have never felt the strings under their fingers? How many people want to fight the bad guys in Mario, but ignore the injustices going on around them?

Now, please don't think of me as a spoilsport. I enjoy these games, too. It's just that when Shoghi and play them, we do talk about them afterwards. We fence with each other on Wii Sport Resort, and then we go out back and fence with sticks with each other. I use the sticks to help him learn what is happening in the game, and we use the game to help practice our reflexes. He plays Mario (a lot), and we talk about the real injustices that are happening in the world, and what he can do about them.

One of my favorite stories with Shoghi is when we were looking at pictures of trees on-line. We found many amazing images, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over lots of them. But then I took him outside. We re-focused our eyes and looked at the looming cedars just down the way, at the majestic maple tree across the street, at the enormous pine trees with all the birds circling around. We smelled the air and listened to the sound of the breeze moving through the forest.

There was no comparison.

The internet paled in comparison to reality.

While there are many quotes in the Writings that talk about the importance of experiencing reality, one of my favorite, the one that comes to mind right now, is "see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others".

If you want to experience the magic of a home cooked meal, cook it yourself. You won't experience it by watching someone on tv cooking it.

If you want to experience the joy of a pet animal, adopt one yourself. They will show you all the charm and wonder of the animal kingdom far better than a few photos on-line.

And again, this is not to say that these other things are useless or a waste of time. I have learned a lot from watching professionals cook. I enjoy the art of photography, and derive much pleasure from seeing photos that are beautiful. I enjoy playing a game with my son. But all of this is in moderation, and relates back to reality.

It is rare that I accept a friend request on facebook from someone I don't know. And I would far rather spend time walking with any of those friends, but sometimes facebook is the only way I can keep in touch with those loved ones who are so far away.

All of this to say: Life needs to be lived. For that is where the true joy is to be found.

Now, excuse me. I need to get out and go for a walk.

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