Economics and Ethics on Eating

When I was in college, my pastor (Ben) introduced me to the slow food movement. At the time, I was struggling with questions about the practice of eating intentionally, of what it would mean to engage in the food cycle and to eat well.  I was immediately taken in by the movement, loving the philosophy and ethics behind participating fully in the process from the fields to the table. 

Since then, in fact, I have found myself focusing more and more on what it means to be a ‘locavore’, exploring the ethics behind food production seriously as I try to sort out where I stand.  The arguments for and against different positions on how and why we eat what we do are as interesting, to be sure, as they are numerous.  And after much consideration and deliberation, I have found myself coming out of the process with an understanding of sustainable eating that I find to be not only healthy but spiritual as well.  I dream of a day when I might have the space to produce more of my own food rather than buying it from others, but because I cannot do that now I have made the decision to participate in buying local vegetables and local meat (I belong to a meat CSA located 65 miles from my house). 

 Lately, however, people have been introducing me to arguments against local eating such as this one.

Being that this argument is from the Economist, it of course focusing on the economics and efficiency argument against eating locally, claiming that the environmental cost can be just as bad if not worse when eating locally because non-renewable resources (aka gas/oil) that are used less efficiently by distributers but also by those who drive out of their way to get to local foods. 

Now maybe it is just me, but that argument doesn’t seem to fully address the issues relating to local eating.  First of all, the argument supposes that local food can’t get to you– personally, I have discovered that even in BOSTON, if you look for it you can find it.  Most grocery stores stock foods that are grown in local farms these days and label it, which means that you don’t always have to go far to find what you need.  Places like my Meat CSA have distribution drop-offs, meaning that there are fewer trips being made by individuals, not to mention that the CSA drops once a month, not every other day as in the case of people driving constantly to their super-market. Sure,  food might be transported more efficiently over long distances in the global economy, but that is also a function of genetic engineering that alters a vegetable so as to make it transport more efficiently.  Take, for example, the genetic manipulation of tomatoes which leaves them in uniform, almost boxy shapes and alters their composition to make them less prone to crushing (consequently also making them taste less like tomatoes).  Sure, it’s efficient, but if you put a tomato like that next to your average heirloom tomato, you can taste the difference as well as see it.  The conventional, heck even the organic varieties sold in the store, begin to have less appeal.

Barbara Kingsolver, author of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ ultimately makes the argument that some things are worth waiting for.  As the Economist article indicates, it DOES indeed take more energy to grow tomatoes in greenhouses locally–but that is because they aren’t meant to be growing there in the first place.  Eating locally ultimately doesn’t translate into just growing whatever you would eat from the store in your back yard.  It means educating yourself about what is supposed to be growing in your local landscape in the first place.  It means committing to a lifestyle that engages the place you find yourself in already rather than trying to transform it into a microcosm of the global food economy.  Its about inner transformation, transformation that includes giving up that which is not meant to be where you are (in my case, no bananas and avocados in Boston). 

 There are a million arguments on both sides beyond  the Economist, but until these arguments take up more than the economics, seriously considering the ethics behind the choice and the full implications of the transition, I think I will stick to my Kale and Collards and save the tomatoes for a warm June afternoon.

I hate it when Harry and Sally are right.

I am gonna let the movie speak for itself on this one, because it really does matter who or how, the point is just that it is….

Harry Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright: Why not?
Harry Burns: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally Albright: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: No you don’t.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Albright: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry Burns: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: How do you know?
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Sally Albright: What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?
Harry Burns: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally Albright: Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.
Harry Burns: I guess not.
Sally Albright: That’s too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.

Happy Birthday to You….

…..its my birthday.  I’m 24.  Whoop.

I will write more later, I just felt the need to acknowledge the moment before going back to the insanity that is currently my life.

(PS– Did you know that lately the extent of my ‘being at home’ has consisted of dropping things off and picking more stuff up to go out again, and sleeping?  Lame!)

Sunday, holy Sunday

Another Sunday, another Clarendon Hill service.  This morning I had my voice back, so I was given the privilege of running the service (with the exception of the sermon itself), being as I was out of commission last week with Laryngitis.

The Topic:  Names for God.

My Job: to Pray on behalf of the community and to make it sound nice.

So I have basically figured out during the course of my internship that I have issues with extemporaneous anything… I just sorta need to have something in front of me in order to feel confident– perhaps its a panacea or placebo effect or whatever, but even have a bunch of nonsensical scribbles on a sheet of paper  is better than nothing.  Without it, I feel lost, nervous, and unprepared.

So I went with my instincts and wrote some notes today based upon the sermon… which worked out great.  Karl preached a bit on the names we call God and why the act of naming is important.  Basically it came down to this: the act of naming God is a dynamically and essential practice in which we recognize the divine in our lives and then honor it.  You can’t name God, says Karl, until you have the experience of God.  I liked that.  And I think that the reason that I liked it so much was because so many times I hear people railing against ‘inclusive language’ and what they fail to see often is that it isn’t so much a rejection of old language but rather an acknowledgment that God is more expansive than the language we used to use, that the only way to express what God is to us is to find a new name, a new way of defining what we have already experienced.  Of course, I also think that it is possible to redefine the terms, and that the old names still have value.  But i think that this perspective was important to me because  it provided a new way of thinking about the value and importance of keeping language and our worship in conversation with our lives.

So anyways, I think today at church went well.  I was able to give some pretty cool prayers, especially the prayer of assurance, which went something like this:

“There is good news, my friends, and it is this– the story doesn’t end here.  For when we are feeling our most low, our most sad and alone in the world, a loving God, our God, the one of many names–God of the high places, our Rock, our protector, the Sustainer and eternal parent–that God comes to us and whispers in our ear, saying “I love you.  You are MINE.  When you are feeling your most alone, I am by your side, holding your burdens as though they were my own and loving you through it all.   Your sins I have taken from you in the radical redeeming act of Jesus Christ.  Your sins are forgiven, child.”  Hallelujah, Amen.”

And then the Prayer of Christ, which began something like this:

“Gracious and merciful God, we come to you today, praying to you with many names from many places.  Redeemer, Sustainer, Provider, Awesome One, The Great I AM, Creator, Abba, God.  You have so many names, O God, that we cannot begin to know their limit.  We therefore call to you in old names and new, seeking to find you as we pray together in this community.  Whatever the name, O God, we pray to you from the deepest parts of ourselves.  For today are hearts are full–with blessings and thankfulness for the ways in which you have touched our lives, but also with the wounded aching of a heart brought low with loss, of deep grief and sadness over the places in our lives that need your providing and sustaining presence most….. Your names reveal our thankfulness as well as our sadness, and we cry out to you with one voice–God of the Mountain!  You are so high and wonderful, but sometimes seem so far from us! …. Help us to find a vocabulary of belonging in you, O God, that we might find a home that is rooted in you, our hope and our loving Friend.”

In other news– the congregation provided me with a “Entemann’s Devil’s Food Cake Donut Cake” courtesy of Katherine and Sarah.  It was most excellent 😉

Adult Ed also went well, we finished up our discussion of the Pullman Trilogy and then decided to talk about the historical Jesus next time around.  I think that shall be interesting!

And finally…. Alex walked me home 🙂  He’s sweet.

Here is a picture of  Clarendon Hill Pres…..:
Clarendon Hill

Bare Ruined Choirs….

My name is Sarah and I am a seminary student in Cambridge, MA. I am currently under care with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Maybe someday I will be ordained as a Pastor; maybe I won’t. I think that what it all comes down to is figuring out what it means in my life to have that title and how that vocation reflects my life and my faith. Of course, I have to figure out what I think I mean by ‘my life and my faith’; hence this blog. Hopefully I can begin to sort out some of those questions here in this place.

Aside from all that, a bit more about me: I love to play music. I grew up playing piano and french horn, both of which I loved but have not had much time to play more recently. When I was in middle school I picked up the scottish bagpipes and I have been competing ever since. Currently I play with the Kevin R. Blandford Memorial Pipe Band, a group based out of Redlands, CA (Which is far away from me!) but I love the people; they are like a family. I also have recently picked up the guitar, and I am addicted! One thing about my musical past is that I have always managed to learn to play very limited (with the exception of piano) instruments. Guitar, however, is great because you can take it anywhere (unlike a piano) and you can play most anything. It has been a great source of relaxation and meditation for me.

Aside from music, I love to watch independent and foreign films, mostly because the subject matter has a tendency in my experience to be more experimental, more out there and oftentimes more honest than much of what is selling in Hollywood. I find that the films often push me in a way that I rarely find myself pushed otherwise, and being that I love a film that makes you think, they have become a staple in my life. When I am not watching movies and playing music, I am often found reading a book on environmental ethics or running around Cambridge with friends…

Just in Case you ever wondered, what I would look like if I were a southpark Character:


First post

Well, hello there. So this is my first post on what will potentially be an amazing journey, an attempt to begin to scratch the surface of the many thoughts, questions, and ponderings that have filled my mind over the past year or so. It may or may not be an easy journey, but I would prefer the difficulty over anything easy, for I think to reduce everything to an easy fight would be doing a disservice to the process of asking the questions in the first place.

So where am I? These days, I am a middler at Harvard Divinity School, in the process of becoming, I hope/think, a Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament (Wow thats a mouthful). When I started here, I was convinced, no convicted, that this was indeed exactly where I was meant to be. I was certain of God, certain of my call, and certain that Harvard was where I was meant to be.

These days I am not so certain of anything. I find myself revolving around questions of inerrancy, of faith and of truth, questioning the things that I held most sacrosanct (or at least didn’t have the nerve to question) when I first got here. Harvard has really F’d with my mind, to say the least. I think part of the reason that I came here was because I was afraid of ‘seminary’; I wanted to be in a place that was safe, an intellectual haven where students didn’t just turn off their thinking caps when they talked about God. What I found out, though, is that here people rarely let their faithful side out of the box when it comes to classes. I found out quickly that bringing faith into the conversation here was dangerous, or if not dangerous then at the least it was not recommended. People were not interested in what you believed or what you felt about God; they valued instead what was intellectually of interest.

So I guess I got what I thought I wanted; only I am not sure that it is indeed what I set out to find. These days I find myself craving spiritual community more than ever, and it is all complicated by the fact that MA is anything BUT the land of Presbyterians. I have found community in two places, luckily. Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church has been a small but loving family for me, and I am indebted to them sincerely. The Boston Emergent Cohort has also filled a gap in my life, for it is a place that engages in the process of questioning and doubting and discerning what it means to believe in God while still holding the belief as valid. I don’t think that I would be as happy or content as I am without them.

But I still find myself seeking desperately for answers. I want to feel, as Augustine said, that “God is deeper in me than I am in myself,” and that God knows me intimately and is with me always. But I also can’t help but ask if I am not just conditioned to believe that. How do I know that I have a true faith? What is a true faith at all, anyways? To what extent are these questions beneficent? I end up going in circles, asking questions just because I can, and discovering that the conclusions that logically follow are not conclusions I anticipated, or that they sit well with my understanding of the world but don’t sit well with my heart.

Hopefully I can begin to sort some of this out here in this blog. Or maybe not. But if nothing else, I hope that I can remain convicted that the journey is worth it, even if the end is no where in sight.