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Consumption: Breaking the Rules -- Week 3 Without GMOs
Submitted by Patrick Groneman on Wed, 4/18/2012, 9:08am
by Patrick Groneman
(follow Patrick on Twitter)
“An idea...is a tendency to accept routes of thought and feeling that we may not recognize in ourselves, or even be able to articulate. Yet such dispositions rule the social and political world.” - Simon Blackburn from “Being Good”
This week, I “most-likely” ate some Genetically Modified Organisms (More info on why one might not want to eat GMOs in my first week’s post). This didn’t come from a lapse of mindfulness, or an impulsive craving, it came from an intentional decision to set down my rules for an evening.
It was my mother’s 56th birthday. I woke up early, packed my bag full of apples, energy bars, and chickpea curry for lunch, and hopped a train out to Long Island. The moralistic urge in me, which desires perfection in every way, told me that I could make it through the day without “giving in” to GMOs.
At dinner time, I sat down with my family at the Fifth Season restaurant in Port Jefferson, tired and hungry from a day of hiking around the Oyster Bay planting fields. I consulted with the waitress and learned that if I really only wanted to eat verifyably GMO free food, I’d be walking out of there with a stomach full of raw spinach. Would I break my non-GMO rule?
A wave of discomfort rolled through me and then crashed like a wave into the my shore of morality. This feeling is familiar to me now -- it shows up anytime I’m in a position to strategically lie, make demands on another person, or impose my presence in anyway that isn’t archetypally angelic.
So I took a deep breath and tried to expand my awareness into the environment around me. The afternoon sun was shooting through the wooden blinds, my dear family, who I see now only every few months, were together to celebrate the birth of my Mother. I looked down at the menu and noticed all of the amazing choices that this restaurant has made in supporting local, organic and seasonal agriculture (a very rare thing on Long Island) and felt a great sense of gratitude for my situation.
At this point, the feedback for my experiment was captured -- not even one of the most ecologically aware restaurants on Long Island could verify the GMO content of 99% of their food, making a compelling case for the labeling problem being systemic. To not engage in the celebration at hand would have seemed self-righteous, and dutifully missing the point of everything I’ve been practicing.
So I ordered a delicious spinach salad (with other vegetables and dressing on top) and a side of duck confit (locally raised!)...drank a glass of long island grown and harvested wine, and ended the night with a decaf espresso. It was all delicious, nutritionally satisfying, and downright celebratory.
(spinach salad -- not sure if those beets were non-GMO)
(Mom and her birthday dessert -- on the house)
I knew this moment would come as soon as I set out on the experiment. In having this moment of letting go of the black and white aspect of my guidelines, I would be confronted with the shape of my morality. There are centuries of rules and ideas about behavior written into my biological and sociological being, which more than anything I fear disobeying. In some ways this morality has been exquisitely helpful in providing me with direction and general guidance in life, in others it has kept me disconnected, depressed and confused about how to be joyful as a human.
The Buddha gave ethical guidelines, which, when practiced wholeheartedly, support mental flourishing and favorable re-births, the most fundamental of which are: not killing, not stealing, not lying, refraining from sexual misconduct, refraining from mental intoxicants.
In Buddhist philosophy, however, following or breaking ethical guidelines does not lead to an indelible moralistic imprint of “good” or “bad”, but rather renders a result based on the positive or negative karmic qualities of the action. There rules are not created for the sake of being followed, they all lead back to generating a specific result.
This basic definition of Karma is articulated nicely by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse in an essay What Makes You Buddhist?
“When causes and conditions come together and there are no obstacles, consequences arise. Consequence is karma. This karma is gathered by consciousness— the mind, or the self. If this self acts out of greed or aggression, negative karma is generated. If a thought or action is motivated by love, tolerance, and a wish for others to be happy, positive karma is generated.”
So when I break the rules of my GMO experiment, I must analyze my intention and reap the direct effects of that action. If there are health irregularities that stem from ingesting GMOs, I might experience them, if I felt a sense of joy and appreciation for the lovely meal I was offered, than that is the effect of my intentions, thoughts and actions. Conversely, if I remain in a clam-shell of fear in my life, unwilling to be motivated by love, tolerance and a wish to be happy, I might as well just be a clam.
(mom and I -- not clams -- with a lovely new tasting spoon for her kitchen)
This all feels incredibly groundless, toying with the edges of morality, questioning basic assumptions about my orientation in the world. This is why sitting practice is so crucial to my activist work -- at the end of the day all I’m left with is my mind and a sense of connection to others, and there are no guarantees.
So enough with the philosophizing, here’s my Non-GMO find of the week!
Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola Plus
(Works out to $4.00 a pound, which ain't bad for Granola)
We are on this journey as a community. Read all the Responsible Consumption posts and follow along as we examine our habits.
Pictures courtesy Jared Groneman
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