Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Encountering the Pumpkin


Years ago I wrote a book, which I called simply “The Pumpkin Quest.” Although I have produced longer and more scholarly works before and since, it is in that very slim volume that I believe I was able to cut to the chase and touch the heart of the matter, as they say, and point to our deepest need at this our now time with ourselves and our democracy in our increasingly interconnected and global existence. I used the fabled image of the pumpkin to dramatize our ongoing, and now critical, need to encounter the world and each other more deeply and more lovingly.
In The Pumpkin Quest, as I wind my way through the vines and blossoms on my way to the philosopher’s banquet, I discuss the myth and mystical fancy of pumpkin lore as well as some culinary approaches in preparation for the physical feast, even giving some recipes and nutritional facts. (Do you know that pumpkins, and their seeds, are good sources of protein, zinc, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin A…and that eating the seeds is thought to contribute to the well-being of the prostate?)
But, on to the philosopher’s table…Let’s put this morning’s pumpkin in the center, as we might put a vase of flowers, and begin our contemplation.

Martin Buber did much to awaken me to an expanded perception of the world. He, along with Emerson and others, helped me understand that “all real living is meeting.” He asked for balance and increased awareness as we seek to encounter “thou” is whatever seems “other” to us. It appears to me that he is asking for a realness desperately needed in all relationships. He emphasizes three such relationships: life with nature; life with each other as human beings; and our life with spiritual beings. To miss any of these would be to live an incomplete existence. In a time of polarization, fragmentation and alienation, Buber’s thoughts give us a pathway to the creation of meaning and a more benevolent evolution. We cannot live a compartmentalized life if civilization is to flourish.

And now to the contemplation of the pumpkin in the middle of the table…As Buber had sought “no soul or dryad of the tree, but the tree itself,” we may seek no fable or cartoon of the pumpkin, but the pumpkin itself. If we can fully encounter the pumpkin, we can conceivably learn to read, and draw meaning from, all the symbols that we approach. Behind the mask of the symbol dwells…who knows? "Let us go then, you and I…"