November 2, 2021

Pineapples Should Not Be On Sale

Pineapples were on sale at the supermarket this weekend in Memphis.

Let’s pause for a moment to consider how ridiculous that is: A springtime fruit from the tropics was on sale in the fall… in October… in Tennessee. (If we are looking for evidence that we live in a globalized world, I think we have found it!)

These cut-rate pineapples were brought to us by technology that says we can have almost anything almost anywhere at almost any time. Similar technology says we never need to experience anything but comfortable temperatures and low humidity all year ‘round – another unnatural feat for Memphis!

While I receive (most of) modern technology as a gift and a blessing, it does have a shadow side: When everything is always available, and when the earth’s seasons become nothing more than intrigues or inconveniences, we separate ourselves from the natural rhythms of life. When everything is available all the time, we start to think that we also need to be available all the time – always engaged, always productive.

God wove rhythms deep in the fabric of creation: Daily rhythms metered by light and annual rhythms measured by the seasons. Plants observe seasons of growth, seasons of harvest, and seasons of dormancy. Animals have times to breed, times to grow, and times to rest. Human beings seem to be the only ones looking for a way to opt out.

In fairness, not every human being follows such a path. You don’t have to go far in any direction before Memphis’ urban sprawl gives way to some of the richest farmland in the world, an inheritance left to us by the dynamic movement of the Mississippi River over millions of years. In farm country, it’s harvest season: Corn and cotton, soybeans and sorghum are all waiting for their turn in the combine or the gin – the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are busy.

There is no sense of burden among our farmer friends, only joy. They have been looking forward to this season for a long time, and they have worked hard for it: In the spring they planted, in the summer they tended, and now in the fall they harvest. In a few weeks, they will let the land take its long winter’s nap until the whole cycle starts over again in the spring.

I wonder if we could learn something from this way of life. I wonder if “city folk” like me could find a way to reconnect with the rhythms of life that have been vibrating deep within us since the first days of creation. I wonder if we could design modern lives that follow St. Benedict’s guidance –times for work, prayer, and rest in equal measure.

Walter Brueggemann suggests in Sabbath as Resistance that it is our refusal to obey the Fourth Commandment that leads us to violate all the rest. When we fail to observe the sabbath – that is, when we fail to take breaks at regular intervals – we are much more likely to say and do things that we will later regret. In moments of weariness and exhaustion, we are much more likely to say and do things that we would never have said or done under any other circumstances.

Perhaps Qohelet had it right after all: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…”

You get my drift: The days are getting short and the weather is turning cold. Everything in creation is slowing down, and we need to do the same.

(Oh, one last thing… If you decide to take a break anytime soon, you might consider a trip to the grocery store: I understand that pineapples are on sale.)