Written on April 22, 2010.
That’s a mean plant, my Granny explained to me when I was ten, pointing out the car window as we drove through North Carolina. It’s mean to the folks who try to grow it and sell it. It’s mean to the folks who use it. And it’s mean to the earth.
She was talking about commercially grown tobacco, but it could have been sugar as well. I’ve read enough to know that many of the people growing cane sugar and corn are slaves to the corporations who are mass producing these foods. And I can tell you firsthand that sugar is no friend to me, one of its most devoted users.
But I only suspected that sugar was also not a friend of the earth when I decided to give it up for 40 days as part of the UUA’s 40/40/40 campaign. Preliminary research tells me I was right.
I’m thinking of 40/40/40 as a kind of UU lent. After all, while we honor many theologies and spiritual paths, all of us who are committed to deeds, not creeds, understand that life is lived on a home planet—that would be earth. And we honor that we are part of that planet’s life. As environmentalist John Seed once said, “If you don’t think you are part of the ecosystem, hold your breath right now and see how long you last.”
When the staff in the Washington DC office began to envision what it might mean to commit to a personal change in eating for 40/40/40, I blurted out, “I am going to stop eating processed sugars” before I could stop myself. The earth did not stop spinning on its axis. Even the meeting didn’t slow down. My commitment was simply noted along with others.
As I listened to someone else talk about only eating local and organic meats, which I mostly already do and could without suffering commit myself to doing more, I heard a scream inside my head responding to what I had just said out loud. The scream said, and I quote, “NOOOOOOOOO!” I blurted out, interrupting someone else’s commitment, “That does NOT include local maple syrup and unpasteurized honey, by the way!” People were kind when I said this, but I could tell they were a little bewildered and annoyed, too. Like, sure, whatever, Meg, but stop interrupting! They could not hear that scream, obviously—it was mine.
In the week between making that commitment and now, I have been preparing myself for this journey. No, not by deep reflection and learning about how sugar production impacts the earth. Not by looking up recipes for healthful alternatives, nor by purchasing them at the local co-op. Nope, I’ve been preparing by overeating processed sugar. I think you get my drift. I’m a junkie. I’m scared to admit how challenging this is going to be, and what a wimp I feel like having my soul co-sponsored by something as infantile as Good and Plenty.
I’ll keep you posted on this one. I’m grateful for the opportunity to match my behavior with my values, even though I’m afraid about it. I am grateful for the staff in the Washington Office for being a support system. And I’m grateful that I’ve got enough courage and life-force to be willing to tackle this sugar monster.
It’s interesting how much my fear re-affirms that I am part of the ecosystem. What is not good for me is also not good for the rest of the planet. Allowing myself to know this opens up the support of the earth as I face my fear. When I do that, I become excited to take these next steps towards affirmation of life!