STRAWBERRIES  (3/2/14)

In "New Path" I criticized liberation theologian Dorothee Soelle for slighting the joy of strawberries.  This was not because she disdained the senses -- she loved the sea, clouds, candles -- but rather, I believe, because she was enraptured by the universal and its symbols. Strawberries, however, symbolize the particular in its amazing diversity.  Some of us prefer strawberries to grapes; others, like myself, usually prefer grapes.  Vive la difference!  

When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1998, Viktor Frankl inspired me to try to be “worthy of my suffering.” Frankl in addition wrote powerfully about the meaning of life when one is not suffering:

“Sometimes life demands of us the realization of creative values; at other times we feel it necessary to turn to the category of experiential values. At one time we are called upon, as it were, to enrich the world by our actions, another time to enrich ourselves by our experiences. Sometimes the demands of the hour may be fulfilled by an act, at another time by our surrendering to the glory of an experience. Man can be ‘obligated’ to experience joy. In this sense a person sitting in a streetcar who has the opportunity to watch a wonderful sunset, or to breathe in the rich scent of flowering acacias, and who instead goes on reading his newspaper, could at such a moment be accused of being negligent toward his obligations.”

Frankl has here excellently expressed the Jewish ethic of life-affirmation, consisting both of the performance of good deeds and the enjoyment of blessings. We would not want, on our deathbeds, to regret that we missed out on anything. (Bucketlist.org has lots of ideas.)

D. H. Lawrence wrote a beautiful poem on this subject:

When the ripe fruit falls
its sweetness distils and trickles away into
    the veins of the earth.

When fulfilled people die
the essential oil of their experience enters
the veins of living space, and adds a glisten
to the atom, to the body of immortal chaos.

For space is alive
and it stirs like a swan
whose feathers glisten
silky with oil of distilled experience.
 

(to be continued)