I am thinking about onions. In fact, this morning I spent quite some time reading about them, too. Robert Farrar Capon’s “The Supper of the Lamb” spends fully 8 or 9 pages just talking a reader through sitting down with, observing, cutting and squashing the juice out of an onion. Strange, but true. True, also, is that if you do it, you are likely to come away changed.
You see, friends, an onion is a truly amazing creation. Its outside skin is paper-dry, brittle, and disintegrates in your fingers. But underneath it’s alive, oozing with juice and life bursting up from the centre, finger upon finger of green pushing up and out towards the sky. Look closely, and nothing about this little chap is quite what you first thought.
I can’t do the humble onion the justice done to it by the book, but you should read it. Really you should. And probably you should try the exercise he suggests, too: taking an onion, sitting down with it – just you, the onion, a good sharp knife, a chopping board and some quality time, and noticing what it is really, really, like as you break it down into its component parts.
The description of the onion reminded me that God is rather clever. There is an unimaginable level of creativity in even the things we disregard as mundane. It’s a bit odd, but I found myself having a genuine “woweee!” moment. Over an onion.
So why does it matter whether I care about the onion? Maybe it doesn’t. But I think maybe it does. In Quotidian Mysteries, Kathleen Norris suggests that care of and for the little things of life is important. She is talking about the daily grind of chores, and how we don’t much like them. It’s a slightly different argument to the one Farrar Capon makes, but they hang together since they are both about how we attend to the here and now, what care and what significance we allow them to have. She says “the comfortable lies we tell ourselves regarding these “little things” – that they don’t matter, and that daily personal and household chores are of no significance to us spiritually – are exposed as falsehoods when we consider that reluctance to care for the body is one of the first signs of melancholia”.
The converse, then, would seem to suggest that if we can engage the everyday, the mundane and the ordinary really well, then that will somehow help. I think there is truth in that.