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Today, it’s easy not to notice—not to notice the lives of cattle, the chickens’ crowded cages, the small farmer’s struggle. It can seem so complicated and sad, knowing how the meal comes to us. Still, there are the sheer places. Years ago, padding a canoe down Long Pond in the Catskills, I came to where an old apple tree held its fruit out over the water. I plucked an apple seemingly offered—from a tree planted who knows how long ago—by someone long gone…

This is spiritual obesity: consuming the whole earth in each meager grain, manifesting a body so vast there is no place to put it because there is no place it does not reach. Instead of beating ourselves up for our overconsumption, indulging ourselves with perpetual guilt, here’s the alternative: receive the offering and support life with it…

Supporting life is also just practical, and good for everybody. A recent report in the “American Journal of Public Health” found, for instance, that higher income inequality is associated with increased mortality at all per capita income levels. In other words, the less we share the meal, the more folks die, regardless of their place at the table…Ultimately, there’s no advantage to starving the left side of the body while feeding the right: the whole body tumbles together into the heap. We might as well feed one another. That’s news to pass around…

The body hasn’t tumbled yet. There is still the occasional apple, and maybe—just maybe—you or I have an undeniably important role in whether a child born a hundred years from now will know its sweet taste, and how the clean, cool air opens the senses. What is it to sit, an apple on an outstretched branch, perfect in its imperfect roundness, offering this…Perhaps all religious life will keep coming back to the issue of an apple. Wouldn’t that be something?

Bonnie Myotai Treace
Winter Moon. A Season of Zen Teachings