Common Sense

July 17, 2011

This is the first in a short series of posts by guest bloggers. Today’s author is Nancy Johnson, a United Methodist minister serving Christ Church in Roswell.  Her blog, A Feast for the Soul: Reflections of a Clergy Cook,  focuses on issues of food and spirituality, as well as cooking, family, travel, politics and being a mom.


It had just stopped raining when my family and I made it to the farmer’s market Saturday morning.  We go to the one in the parking lot of the Cumming fairgrounds.  It isn’t an exceptionally large market, but I enjoy the trip.  I love meeting the farmers who sell me produce fresh from the ground.  This food has not travelled many miles.  It has not passed through many hands or machines.  In modern times we often know very little about the things we put into our mouths, but it seems to be common sense that food is best when it comes most directly from the hands of God.

So I like buying carrots with their long greenery still attached.  I actually appreciate having to wash a layer of dirt off of potatoes and onions, knowing that the dirt and the tuber and the farmer have long been friends.  A relationship has developed over time – and with considerable exertion – that has resulted in a healthy vegetable on my children’s dinner plate.  The feeling I get from farmer’s market shopping isn’t easily put into words, but for me it has a sense of being true, being real.

I write a blog of my own.  It is about faith and spirituality, but also about food.  Two things I love desperately.  While I often write about food itself, the menu frequently becomes a jumping off point for other things that are on my mind.  What has been on my mind lately has been politics.  In light of our current fiscal crisis, food seems to be the least of our immediate worries.  And yet, I can’t help but draw parallels between our political life and the labor I do with my own hands in the dirt.

Most of us nowadays have listened to the news and know of the heated debates going on over the debt ceiling, taxes, entitlements and the endless political wrangling that has grown to fever pitch in recent times.  I have longed to feel in our political environment a hint of the sense I get from the farmer’s market, a pull toward what is real and wise in the governing of our country.

In the few decades I have been an adult, I have seen both of our major parties hold varying degrees of control over our law-making structures.  Power has moved back and forth at a fairly rapid pace and will likely do the same in the future.  There have, of course, been instances in the recent past when both parties have (at different times) controlled both houses of congress as well as the executive office.  Neither occurrence, in my recollection, brought about Utopia or Armageddon.  And neither lasted all that long before we, the people, decided to change things.

It would seem to me that what the American people want (if “the American people” can accurately be said to want any one thing) can only be brought about by the balance of many ideas and many people who are willing to compromise and work together.

This seems common sense to me, that no single party or ideology can act as savior to a nation, and that none of us have all the answers.  But the voices on the news don’t seem to agree with me.  Rather than seeking to act on “common sense,” the phrase has become one of a million overused idioms which imply that our problems are easy to solve and the answers are obvious.  Most of our politicians – and, if we’re honest, many of us – act as if they were; as if the intransigent problems we are facing exist only because those of the opposite opinion are so head-smackingly dumb that they just don’t get it.  Can things really be so simple?

It should be obvious that the answers aren’t.  Life does not lend itself to such simplicity.  Maybe growing vegetables ought to be as simple as putting seed in the ground and watering it.  That tomatoes should then grow ought to be obvious.  But it isn’t, at least not to the tomato.

In order to grow something healthy and living, we have to wrestle with any number of possible problems, actions and solutions.  We must grapple with soil and weather, figuring out if we need more of this or less of that. We’re forced to experiment, to try new things, all the while knowing that even our best efforts risk the possibility of failure.   Finally, we have to admit that we don’t hold all the answers.  At best, we have just a few good ideas

I would love for our nation to be as healthy as my garden.  A realistic expectation includes some successes and some failures.  God, for whatever reason, doesn’t mean for all plants to grow, or all answers to be easy.  Still, my garden is a healthy, living thing that bears fruit and offers much happiness.  Our nation can be too.  May we all contribute to its growth.

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