A few days ago my son Gabriel, who has advanced to age nine chronologically but at least forty-two spiritually, made a remark about my cooking.
I don’t mean to mislead you. My cooking (or attempts toward) merits daily commentary from my kids. This particular insight was memorable, however, in that it wasn’t really about “manmade” cuisine. Rather, Gabe’s observation related to a foodstuff that requires no tampering.
Gabe wasn’t satisfied with the Mac and Cheese or the over-steamed broccoli piled high and untouched. “Mom,” he said. “Can’t you give me something perfect to eat?”
I pondered the question, a little confused. Is there a “perfect food?” What state would it come in? Was Gabe inferring that he would be pleased with provisions better described as “kid approved” (McDonald’s); “God-approved” (church hot dish); or “gourmet emergent” (grocery take-out)?
“Perfect food, Gabe?” I asked, hedging. I’ve already raised one child to near-adulthood and know that the pre-teen years are dangerously close to the teenager years. Gabe had already demonstrated a proximity to the precipice, having made it a habit to regularly inform me, “mothers don’t know anything.” My question was carefully constructed to imply that I just MIGHT know what he was talking about. I didn’t fool Gabe.
“Mo—om,” he sighed. “You have NO idea what the perfect food is.”
“Hmm,” I replied.
He groaned. “It’s the APPLE mom. It’s nothing you can make. ”
Glimpses of Adam and Eve leaped into my mind, not the “rated X” variety involving the pre-fall stage but the “post-fall” variety. Who knew that palm leaf cover-ups would spawn an entire fashion industry? In my world, the apple wasn’t a perfect food. My White Wonder Bread Lutheran upbringing had led me to conclude that the apple represented the temptation that got us all kicked out of nirvana.
“Why?” I asked. A more complex question might have revealed my ignorance.
Gabe rolled his eyes. “Because the apple doesn’t need to be cooked, mom, so it can’t be ruined. And besides, it made people SEE.”
I ignored the jab and went for Gabe’s second point. “Could see–?” I queried.
“Could see that they were in heaven,” he sighed, obviously frustrated that I wasn’t tracking.
And then I knew what Gabe meant.
“You mean, Adam and Eve didn’t know they were in heaven until they ‘lost it?’” I asked.
“Exactly,” Gabe exclaimed, pushing his plate away. “Now can I have an apple?”
I got him an apple.
How many of us fail to perceive the perfection of our lives—the perfect food that is life—until it’s too late? How often do we ignore the good times—the small and sometimes silent moments of joy—until they are long past? June, interestingly enough, provides the perfect opportunity to see and embrace the heavenly in the everyday.
Every June, we celebrate the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day of the year, which means that the sun shines almost endlessly. What can we do in and because of this light? Why, we can SEE. If we so desire—if we open our eyes—we can perceive the details in front of us, but also the horizon stretching before us. We can take in the near and the far. We can vision.
What does visioning involve? Vision is defined as the capacity to create an image or concept in the imagination. In and of itself, visioning isn’t good or bad. We can receive an awesome vision and do nothing to make it come true. We can envision something bad and make it come true. By eating Gabe’s apple—by becoming willing to perceive the heaven inside and around us—we open to visions that make a real difference; that help us recognize, conceive, and create positive realities.
A constructive vision, one that enables beauty and appreciation, starts with being willing to perceive accurately. Most of us examine life through points-of-view that are either too close-up or too far away. Viewing life myopically is tantamount to dwelling in a painting by Seurat, a post-Impressionist artist who formed images with small, pixilated dots of color. I’m often guilty of duplicating Seurat, organizing my day with goals that are so anal retentive that I can’t even take a shower without checking to see if doing so will eliminate an item on the list. Unfortunately, I don’t end up with a Seurat masterpiece, for all my efforts. At the end of the day, I find that all I’ve created is a finger-painted mess.
On other days, I live totally in and for the future. These are the “Someday” days. You know how the thinking goes. Someday I’ll be rich and THEN I’ll take a day off work. Someday I’ll be skinny and THEN I’ll buy a new dress. Someday I’ll keep my temper or resist chocolate or eat a better breakfast or return all my E-mails and THEN—THEN WHAT?
What might happen if we could look at life the way it really is? We just might be able to see the heaven on earth—the perfection of each moment and the grace of a promised tomorrow—if we decided to see with our hearts instead of our minds. Perhaps the “perfect food” is the most natural, the state of being that embraces what’s already inside and outside of us. As the light shines, let’s make a pact. Let’s actually SEE that light and what it reveals to us. Gabe would say, we’ll like what we see.