In opening a line of thought, this literary excursion includes two favorite subjects, words and food. Both are important staples, in any life, really. Both serve as markers of change and evolution, from academic and anthropological standpoints, as well as physical and spiritual ones. There are a few points of understanding that we may choose to acknowledge as we begin.

Number one, is that everything changes. How deeply this statement is understood by you, personally, is up to you to determine. One may casually acknowledge that time moves on, or all things grow, ripen with age, and eventually decay. Perhaps a person is more in tune with the changing of the seasons or the turning of the wheel, and maybe know more than a little about the alchemy involved in it. Maybe others have even seen how lives and experiences beyond ‘this one’ play a part in our growth and development. Many individuals may be just going with the flow and happy in the innocence of all that takes place around in the natural world. It is all good.

Number two, is that words--any kind of communication, really--are malleable. We see evidence of how literature not only changes, but also changes the world around us. On the large and small scale, the process of how we intuit and interpret language and communication may differ. Some may get down to the nitty-gritty of spelling accuracy, grammatical usage, sentence structure, vocabulary and extended etymology. Others of us may recognize that, no matter what word or pictorial system is being used, those ‘pieces’ help comprise our thoughts, ideas, actions, and even emotions--all of which are subject to change. We are complex, and communication--that straight-line broadcast of what we seek to convey, is just as involved as we are; thank goodness.

Number three, is our consumption. We have become really good at taking things in, in an increasingly unbalanced way. You may choose to take issue with that statement. However, if we were doing things right, there would not be as many things going wrong at this point in time; such as, morbid obesity, the rise of autism, and the destruction of our natural resources.

We can, without a doubt, point to a variety of reasons for this imbalance, and gorging greed is usually at the top of the list. Understanding extreme consumption deeply means that the cause may be irrelevant and beyond a point of discussion. What we ‘give back’ is equally off-kilter. We must do something about it.

Here is where this little bit of writing is going to take us. Consider this a recipe, of sorts.

Combining food and words can be a relatively easy thing. Look at any recipe, and there it is. Words comprise both ingredients and the process for which you achieve a result. One of the most basic recipes exhibited from around the world is bread.

Alone, or in combination with other foodstuffs, bread is the staple of what we consume--whether it is a simple, unleavened flatbread of some sort, or the more processed, yeast-infused, fluffy kind enjoyed by many today. We can use this meager basis of how we see food grow and change in our lifetime, both good and bad. How else might we find balance, if we do not look at both sides?

Our human struggle for survival is such that we may begin to wonder how we have managed to get this far. Sure, we can point to achievements in science and technology as the tangible means for our current level of sophistication. That is certainly true of our material side. When we think of how individuals, families, tribes, nations, and civilizations struggle for survival over time, the most basic ‘problem’ relates to finding consistent sources of food and water.

While we are not perfect beings, we are at a point now where we are not only producing enough food; we are discarding it as waste in large quantities. Bread has gone through its own sort of metamorphosis over time, from its rustic roots to the current plethora of name-brand offerings. Our joint yearning for our ‘daily bread’ has taken on a variety of meanings, all around the ‘modern’ world, especially.

It is seen as a point of satisfaction, in a way; the idea that we might not have to fight as much for the most basic form of sustenance. When faced with a storm of some sort, we flock to the store to make sure we have enough bread for the next few days. In times of extreme shortage, the empty shelves usually occupied by bread are a sure sign of the desperate situation.

No wonder our language has grown to include the understanding that something wonderfully convenient can be “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” It is a concept near and dear to our hearts--although maybe more interactive between our bellies and our brains--more on that in a moment.

In looking at how things change, the process is comprised of many interconnected, moving parts. Some move in a straight line, while others move around and through. Looking at our human digestive track is a good example, and you can do this study on your own time. For our look today, we may see how--with bread alone and particularly wheat-based varieties--the way it has become available to us is both a wonderful blessing and a growing curse, depending on its impact in our life.

For many, the ease and convenience of having bread to eat is a definite blessing. Those who do not have a means of heat or cooking are able to enjoy a simple amount of calories to sustain them, at the very least. We do not have to rely on performing the whole process of growing the wheat, grinding it down to flour, putting the recipe together by mixing the ingredients, baking it, cutting it into pieces, etc.

In fact, the sharing of bread with our family or neighbors also has an extended connotation going back in time. It is still seen as a most generous way to be, as it extends beyond our physical boundaries and into the “giving” and “spiritual” realm. Our humanity, our giving nature, is utilized in the most consecrated way of communion during religious ceremonies, as we may interpret.

So, to think of having this means of sustenance, with the ease with which we enjoy it today, is something near and dear to so many of us. Unless, we are on the ‘cursed’ end of the spectrum, where we see growing number of people becoming sensitive to the very ‘gluten’ or other assorted ingredients in the bread. How can sensitive people expect to hold something near and dear to them that can be intimately harmful?

There have always been people who, thanks to their genetic, physical composition, have intolerance for certain foods. It goes beyond a choice or ‘dislike’ of it. There are dangerous levels of allergy associated with how our bodies process--or fail to process--certain things. Of course, man's 'chemical' nature, in the form of genetic modification of substances, has its own extenuating influence. These sensitivities are very real disturbances in the energies within a person’s body. They can bring on various symptoms and discomforts; real suffering that can require a variety of interventions and alternate ways of living. To people who have these sensitivities, there is no ‘convenience’ associated with our most basic food.

Imagine the disruption to your own life that is caused by various germs from time to time. Cold germs and flu viruses can wreak havoc on our bodies, putting us out of commission for days or weeks. We are forced to change our schedules, alter what we consume, and slowly regain our healthy balance. People who have allergic sensitivities deal with this kind of disruption on a constant basis.

In order to achieve some sense of ‘normalcy,’ investigation is required. For those who want to stay safe, it may mean a scientific study exposing them to those ‘ingredients’ that may cause them harm. It may mean testing, internally and externally, to determine if there is a level of tolerance. Some people are told they cannot “ever” ingest an ingredient without a major shock to their system.

Yes, indeed--nothing convenient about that.

Added to the physical difficulties can be the extended differences to the person’s mental and other senses. It is around this aspect of consumption that things become a bit harder to measure and understand, although we could try by using empathy. Putting our healthier selves in the shoes of someone going through this kind of difficulty can shed some of our personal light on the matter.

How would you feel--how would you cope--with something ‘necessary’ that is constantly less than healthy and balanced in your daily life? Many of us live with a level of pain or some other ‘difference’ and come to know a tolerance level. We are able to adjust and find ways of relief. Imagine being a person with some sort of difference who is unable to find relief, or even express what it is that might be happening.

When a person is in distress, there are usually signs or changes we can see. If someone is choking, they may put their hands up around their throat, or they may pass out onto the floor--maybe even go into convulsions. Those are the behaviors we could notice. The balance of air in their bodies is threatened to a high degree and we see the drastic change that takes place.

If we are not aware of those signs, we may not know how to help. When someone is highly allergic, he or she may carry an ‘epi pen’ that has medication to relieve the immediate danger. If someone has a heart condition or something affecting their lungs, they may require the use of additional oxygen to help keep them going. How might we help the increasing number of people who find toxicity in our developing and evolving world?

Of course, what we see on the personal, small-scale is indicative of an even larger problem, dimensionally. We do not have to let the enormity of the situation affect the choices we “can” make here and now. If we manage to “take care” of finding healthy balance as best we can, “all will be well.” This truism, identified by Julian of Norwich back in the 1300s, is just as viable today.

We may acknowledge charity in the self-empowerment of people who are afflicted with these various differences. As we hear more from what works best for them on their path, we do need to pay attention and support them, since we are all in this together. We are in the midst of great change and awareness, so we need to include the better aspects of every one of us while the ‘chaff’ falls away.

It feels ironic to use a grain-related word to illustrate the analogy, but there we have it.

This brings us back around to our use of words and our joint evolution. We have come to rely on the phrase, “the greatest thing since sliced bread,” to mean ease and convenience. With our greater insight, we see the paradox in our changing world to be one of dis-ease and inconvenience. Just think of how many other aspects of our world are undergoing this very kind of change as you read this; such is The Conundrum.

This is one perspective to relate. Broaden your own horizons and consider ways we might be more attuned to how we might support the differences and the journeys that others are experiencing. We are all in this together. Oh, and consider making your own bread at home as a healthier alternative.

Just a thought, for our consideration.

Kathy Custren is a mother of four, who strives for balance and has a deep respect for All. Interests include advocacy, the arts, communication, education, health, humanity's cosmic origins, nature, philosophy, spirituality and wellness. Visit her page "Consciousness Live" on Facebook, and her site at kathyc-mindblogger.blogspot.com.

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Comment by Trevor Taylor on January 21, 2014 at 6:09am

Thanks Kathy. On a lighter note, since reading your article, I have been on a literary journey exploring who Julian of Norwich was - you had me intrigued. I now know she was an anchoress in Norman England, and am learning more today.....

Comment by Kathy Custren on January 20, 2014 at 1:57pm

Oops! Sure thing, Trevor--sorry I missed it yesterday! Thanks!!

Comment by Trevor Taylor on January 20, 2014 at 8:19am

Hi Kathy - recommended to the publishers for inclusion in one of the March 2014 multi-media editions of OM Times. Could you pop a brief BIO in at the end..

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