The Price of Free

A “Naked Lunch,” said William S. Burroughs is that “frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork.”     Since I saw Robert Kenner’s  Food, Inc. last weekend (at the excellent Jacob Burns Film Center  last weekend), I’ve been reflecting on the way even well-intentioned people can look away from hard realities.  I always loved beginning each meal the way I learned to in various Buddhist retreats–by thanking the animals, plants, and people who sacrificed themselves for each meal.   I always loved Martin Luther King Jr.’s evocation of the way the whole globe participates in our morning (coffee from Brazil, etc.)  But Kenner opened my eyes to the way much of our food supply has come to be controlled by a handful of huge corporations who prize profit above any scrap of concern for the health and wellbeing of animals, plants, farmers, workers, consumers, or the planet as a whole.   I’ve come to see that it’s not enough to thank a fantasy Farmer Brown.  I’ve gone back to Gurdjieff’s advice to people new to his Work, that one should look into things so to speak (clearly, I am paraphrasing), to have a questing, searching attitude about the origins of things and how they have come to us.  Gurdjieff urged people to bring this attitude to all things, not just food.  And it is a tool for awakening.   Try it!  It wakes up the mind and the heart and the senses.

A parabola is bowl-shaped, like a lens or an antenna dish.  The magazine Parabola was designed to pick up radio signal from the deepest recesses of space (I can’t help picturing the Voyager space crafts).  It seeks to pick up evidence of the eternal truths that are central to all authentic traditions and ways, serving them to readers in a non-reductive way that might lead them to the center of themselves.   It isn’t meant to be academic.  It isn’t meant to be practical, a kind of handbook.  It was meant to be handled, carried, left on the night stand.    “Information wants to be free,” wrote Stewart Brand, creator of The Whole Earth Catalogue (which cost $5 in 1968), anticipating the free information on the internet.  You can’t put a price on truth, especially sacred truth, especially truth at the center of your Self.    Yet the form of Parabola–the tradition of search it represents–needs your support.

Comments

  1. By separating the consumer from the process of production, consciousness is lost and it becomes increasingly difficult to know the origin of things.

    However, not knowing the origin of things, allows all kinds of harm to come into existence. And it is not only an ignorance about production but an ignorance about traditions that brings harm.

    As food does not magically appear on a plate, the lens through which a person sees the world did not magically evolve in one lifetime. The lens of a culture is formed over many lifetimes.

    So, how brilliantly you wove it all together. Yes, when I am ignorant about how the food came to my fork, I inevitably allow my dollars to support practices which may violate my ethics. And when I am ignorant about the world’s traditions, I lose a deep knowing of myself and my humanity.

    Increasingly, I am encouraged to live in a world of surfaces. But a surface is only one aspect of a form. To know the entirety of a form, I must delve beneath its surface.

    Parabola magazine is like one of those diving bells. It carries me into the depths of knowledge. And it is in the depths of knowledge that a transformation can occur.

    So, yes, thank you for reminding me of the importance of knowing, not the kind of quick knowing but of deep knowing. It is like the parabola of an arrow longing to the center.

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  2. “…to have a questing, searching attitude about the origins of things and how they have come to us.”

    This questing which Tracy refers to is in my experience one of the greatest of all experiences we can have. To open to life around us and then find that immediately a new question is felt because new possibilities, new worlds come into view changes our Being. Our shell is shed and a new creature begins to emerge; not so different from what occurs to the butterfly, to the locust. Yet exactly how this feeling Question comes is by no means clear to me even after experiencing it many times. I do believe that humans are born with this orentation but unfortunately before adult hood it has been covered over.

    I remember giving my grand daughter a necklance when she was very young. She didn’t know how to fasten the clasp. I held it for her and showed her how it was done. Her face lit up. I will never forget the experience because I showed her something she had never known before. A Question is like that. It opens the door to hidden posibilities and to wonder.

    This is bound to bring the wish for everyone to know the joy of Questing; especially young people who so desperately need that. Perhaps they have the Questing but somehow with most it is a ‘bit off’. The questing is not of the sort that leads to understanding on a bigger scale, makes me humble in the face of the Whole which I cannot see.

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    • Thanks for this thoughtful comment. It expands in a rich and precise way on what I meant by a “questing, searching attitude about the origin of things and how they have come to us.” In my experience young people do have this attitude, this deep questioning–and I think there is a rush to solve it or resolve it or to attach that feeling to an object or a cause. In older adults, too.

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