kitchen philosophy


    In the deepest throes of my depression, one of the things for which I was most grateful was Ginger wasn’t depressed. The Power of Two became increasingly evident to me: we thrive because we take turns having a hard time. The viability of any group of people relies on an assumption that we won’t all be crashing and burning at once. From two people together in a household to whole populations of countries, we depend on one another to not all go down at the same time.

    Today I saw that assumption pushed to the limit.

    For some reasons I know and others I don’t, pretty much everyone at the Red Lion Inn was having a crappy day and they were responding with an extra helping of surliness. A couple of folks came to work in a decent mood, but once they got their heads chewed off by one of the Surly McSurl Pants, they turned as bitter as everyone else. My focus was trying to keep the Head Chef from coming unglued, so I didn’t have time for surly. We have been friends for a while and he was hurting today. I understood why he was acting the way he was and did my best to be a good friend, which helped both my mood and my intentionality. The bartender was also in a good mood, as he most always is. Together, the two of us held things together without realizing that’s what we were doing until quite late in the evening.

    I understand bad moods. I know them well. I even understand the skewed logic that makes us enjoy wallowing in our bitterness sometimes. What I don’t understand – even though I’m quite capable of participating – is why our reflex seems to be to lash out to make those around us hurt and angry. Randy Newman nailed it in his insightfully satiric song, “I Just Want You to Hurt Like I Do.”

    I ran out on my children
    And I ran out on my wife

    Gonna run out on you too, baby

    I’ve done it all my life

    Everybody cried the night I left

    Well, almost everybody did

    My little boy just hung his head

    And I put my arm, put my arm around his little shoulder

    And this is what I said:

    “Sonny I just want you to hurt like I do
    I just want you to hurt like I do

    I just want you to hurt like I do

    Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do”

    As soon as we ask ourselves how any parent could say that to a child, we become aware that we know the answer, even if not to that extreme. Newman spells it out in the last verse of his song.

    If I had one wish
    One dream I knew would come true

    I’d want to speak to all the people of the world

    I’d get up there, I’d get up there on that platform

    First I’d sing a song or two you know I would

    Then I’ll tell you what I’d do

    I’d talk to the people and I’d say

    “It’s a rough rough world, it’s a tough tough world

    Well, you know

    And things don’t always, things don’t always go the way we plan

    But there’s one thing, one thing we all have in common

    And it’s something everyone can understand

    All over the world sing along

    I just want you to hurt like I do

    I just want you to hurt like I do

    I just want you to hurt like I do

    Honest I do, honest I do, honest I do”

    Compassion, says Henri Nouwen, is “voluntarily entering the pain of another.” What is the word for voluntarily inflicting pain on another? Why does the first require such intentionality and the second come so easily? Thanks to Mark Heybo for steering my thoughts in a redemptive direction through the words of Walter Wink.

    The belief that violence “saves” is so successful because it doesn’t seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It’s what works. It seems inevitable, the last and, often, the first resort in conflicts. If a god is what you turn to when all else fails, violence certainly functions as a god. What people overlook, then, is the religious character of violence. It demands from its devotees an absolute obedience- unto-death . . .

    In short, the Myth of Redemptive Violence is the story of the victory of order over chaos by means of violence. It is the ideology of conquest, the original religion of the status quo . . .

    Redemptive violence gives way to violence as an end in itself. It is no longer a religion that uses violence in the pursuit of order and salvation, but one in which violence has become an aphrodisiac, sheer titillation, an addictive high, a substitute for relationships. Violence is no longer the means to a higher good, namely order; violence becomes the end.

    Wink says the lie that pervades our world’s view of violence as solution rather than problem is we think violence was there from the beginning. The Creation account in Genesis 1, however, says over and over God saw that it was good. Violence came later as a problem to be solved rather than as a given of our existence. Maybe it’s too big a leap to try and make a connection to make between the sniping of the surly people at the restaurant and the fallacy of violence as a means to solve our problems. But the difference between how folks shot at each other tonight and the car bombers in Baghdad seems to be one of degree more than substance. The similarities between us as human beings are more substantive than we know.

    As long as I’m being “quoteful” in this post, I offer REM’s words of hope in the midst of pain, “Everybody Hurts”:

    Sometimes everything is wrong.
    Now it’s time to sing along–

    When your day is night alone, hold on

    if you feel like letting go,

    if you think you’ve had too much

    of this life, well hang on.

    ‘cause everybody hurts.

    Take comfort in your friends.

    Everybody hurts.

    Let us both give and take comfort.



    1. Good, good stuff. I can put this to use. Now.


      (By the way, right before I read this, I told a friend that “surly” is one of my favorite words. It sounds like what it is. That makes this sort of a Twilight Zone moment. heh.)

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