The Bottom of the Peanut Butter Jar

The best and worst experiences of eating peanut butter usually happen at the same time. Using the tip of a butter knife to scrape the bottom of a jar is like using a paintbrush to sweep the floor, or a Q-Tip to wipe down the counter. Be that as it may, it often works out that you need to open the next jar of peanut butter to finish spreading your piece of bread/toast/waffle/apple etc.. Dunking that knife into the smooth creamy surface of a full jar is very satisfying. You could take a chunk as big as your fist if you wanted.

Full and Empty PB

Life  seems to happen like that too. The best of times and the worst of times often come on the heels of the other. Although I dislike being in the worst of times, I’ve developed an acquired taste for them because when you’re on edge like that, high on discontent, high on consciousness of your limitations and faults, high on awareness of the forthcoming expiry of the broken world, you’re better at not letting the world drag you into slothful stupor. You are purposeful with how you spend your physical, emotional, mental energy, the little you can muster. Bittersweet.

Have you noticed that when you ingest something bitter, it can leave a nice sweet aftertaste in your mouth, and if you eat a bunch of sweet things, it can leave a nasty bitter-sour aftertaste? This is similar to life situations. When things are hard, you go looking to God for help, because you need reliable help. You actually seek Him like He is the water of eternal life. The Word on which to live, because man does not live on bread alone. This makes a bitter situation sweet. When things are mediocre, same old same old, kinda nice, sweet, smooth sailing, or some combination thereof, we get by on our own. This too, is bittersweet. Sweetbitter. You do it but you know it’s nasty.

Did Charles Dickens not write, in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…?”

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Not that I agree with Dickens completely, but don’t you see in that quote a certain sense of awareness of eternity awakened in this state of superlative existence — in this state of living in the extremes? I hear many people tell me they wish life were boring and didn’t have all these ups and downs. I don’t think so: the middle ground is my least favourite time to be in. I am least proud of the state of my heart at these times. At these times I have, and I think it’s natural for most people to have, a take-it-or-leave-it approach to God.

Perspective

From Wallace Stevens’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, one sees just how much context, focus, and relativity to other existing ideas can change one’s perspective. All the stanzas involve blackbirds. But they are not about the blackbirds at all. They are about everything else; they take blackbirds as x and use x as the subject through which to understand the world.

Here are some of my perspectives, unpolished:

It’d be cool to come upon a blackbird’s nest of chicks.
I see some; they are scrawny.
I reminiscence fondly over my fortunate discovery, and tell my friends.

I do not much like blackbirds-
“Blackbirds are the most amazing birds ever!”
“Blackbirds are common, ugly and lame.”
Blackbirds: they can be interesting creatures.

A blackbird perched beside my head,
Its smell, feathers, blackness, clawed feet, jerky movements…
It has flown off into the pale blue sky, a small black speck.

See what you get from that.