Our theme for the month of March is “Part Two.” Writers were challenged to choose a piece they’ve previously contributed to the post calvin and revisit it, perhaps writing a sequel or reflecting on how things have changed.
Paula’s original post is “11 things you maybe didn’t know about vegetables.”
Thing # 7: In his book, The Supper of the Lamb, Robert F. Capon invites his reader to “spend an hour in the society of an onion”—the seemingly common vegetable that he asserts stands as a “paradigm for life.” Capon guides his reader through a glorious exercise on paying attention—to consider, touch, slice, dissect, and cook. We learn—amongst a smattering of metaphysical revelations—that an onion, once sliced in half, cannot fit back together: “The faces which began as two plane surfaces…are now mutually convex, and rock against each other.”
Last week, I spent an hour and nineteen minutes with an onion. Inspired by Robert Capon’s twenty-two-page chapter on the theological implications of mindful onion contemplation, I came prepared for a reflective and mystical experience. Capon, an Episcopal priest, approaches both food and faith with embodied and poetic sensibilities—and his certain brand of Christianity seems unfamiliar enough from my CRC tradition to merit a bit of holy magic. Join me for a few noteworthy passages:
“The onion is a thing, a being, just as you are. Savor that for a moment.”
“See it as the paradigm of life that it is—one member of the vast living, gravity-defying troop that, across the face of the earth, moves light-and airward as long as the world lasts.”
“When you have removed all the paper, turn the fragments inside-up on the board. They are elegant company.”
“For with their understated display of wealth, they bring you to one of the oldest and most secret things of the world: the sight of what no one but you has ever seen.”
“Only now are you ready for the first cut.”
“Thus the spectrum of the onion: green through white to green again, and ending all in the brown skin you have peeled away. Life inside death. The forces of being storming the walls of the void. Freshness in the face of the burning, oxidizing world which maderizes all life at last to the color of cut apples and old Sherry.”
“Then look. The myth of sphericity is finally dead. The onion, as now displayed, is plainly all vectors, rissers and thrusts. Tongues of fire.”
“Make proof of its membranes.”
“Next, take one of the slivers and press it…First, the onion is now part of you…but second, the onion itself is all but gone.”
“You have just now reduced it to its parts, shivered it into echoes, and pressed it to a memory, but you have also caught the hint that a thing is more than the sum of all the insubstantialities that comprise it…Perhaps now you have seen at least dimly that the uniquenesses of creation are the result of continuous creative support, or effective regard by no mean lover.”
Last week, I spent an hour and nineteen minutes with an onion, two cats, and you—or my perception of you, the reader—so it was quite the crowded table. Inspired by Robert Capon’s twenty-two-page chapter on the theological implications of mindful onion contemplation, I came prepared for a reflective and mystical experience. I also came prepared with my iPhone, my computer, a few props, and 6 p.m. sunlight—just right for photos to document the experience. Everyone is talking about the importance of mindfulness, so I figured this will make me seem pretty relevant and in touch.
Oh, also—Spotify is playing over the home speakers, and I’ve a PBR in hand, because frankly, an hour with an onion sounds boring, so perhaps music and beer will make this easier.
The onion is a thing, a being.
And this looks like an advertisement for Chicago Cutlery (they do make the best paring knives).
Ok, maybe this is better. Savor that for a moment.
…on second thought, this seems tacky and posed. I’m not cut out to be a food stylist.
Well, another member of the vast living, gravity-defying troop…
Hmm. Also not cut out to be a hand model.
More elegant company.
The forces of distraction storming the walls of the void.
(But don’t worry, I’m focused. This is almost mystical. Mindful.)
The onion, as now displayed (in the waning evening light), is plainly all vectors, rissers and thrusts. And gracious—tears of fire!
Last week, I spent an hour and nineteen minutes with an onion. Inspired by Robert Capon’s twenty-two-page chapter on the theological implications of mindful onion contemplation, I came prepared for a reflective and mystical experience. I quickly realized, however, that this exercise on paying attention—on noticing—had me paying attention to the things I wanted you to see, and therefore, also noticing what I didn’t want to show you.
We all do this on small and grand scales. We filter, crop, and edit the parts and pieces of our lives and present a chosen image to both ourselves and to others. Our Instagram feeds, inner dialogues, writings, and conversations reflect these careful selections, which in turn, inform our perceptions. Would my onion experience be been different, had I not come to this exercise with you in mind? Probably. More mystical, perhaps. But the reminder to recognize the layers that make up a life (onion and otherwise) offer grounds for a different kind of contemplation. It’s an essential, humbling, and beautiful part of being human—we make sense of our lives by the stories we choose to tell.
Paula Manni (‘13) works as Arts Programming Coordinator and is an arts advocate for the Calvin College community. She enjoys throwing parties on the side, and fills in the gaps with wine making, music listening, museum visiting, and Michigan exploring.