The Wrong Blackberry

Searching through tall stalks of thorn-less blackberries, I am looking for the not-quite-black ones.  Tart purple or reddish berries make the taste buds on the sides of my tongue tingle with delight and my soul smile at the bounty of summertime.  Every time I come to the pick-your-own farm, I hear parents coaching their little ones to pick only the black ones, the dark and juicy ones that slip right off the stalk without tugging.  These are also the version of the blackberry you can find, highly priced, at the supermarket.  For me, the beauty of the pick-your-own farm is more than being outside and remembering that food grows from the ground, it is that I can find my version of a blackberry, although it lies in the reject pile of my fellow pickers.

Biologically speaking, humans are hard-wired to like sweetness because it is an indicator of the amount of fuel in our food: calories.  Back in the day, calories were harder to come by than walking through the aisles at  the grocery store.  However, today, we tend to burn less calories and take in more, licking our fingers with delight taken from our biological cues.  Obesity and diabetes are problems arising from too much of a good thing.

I love to bake, and I have been told I am pretty good at it.  My secret is that, as a rule, I halve the amount of sugar in any recipe.  I make sweets to make other people smile; personally,  I would rather eat fresh fruit than pie any day of the week. However, I can appreciate the addictive quality of sugar.  Even though I appreciate sweets less than most people, when I eat them, I generally want to eat more, even if I don’t particularly like what I am eating.  I try to stay away from sugar, like most people try to stay away from heroin, but heroin is not legal, hugely socially acceptable, or an ingredient you would be hard pressed not to find in something you pick up from the grocery store.

I have been teased for my aversion to maple syrup, whipped cream, and putting sugar in coffee.  However, I am inclined to decide my food preferences according to my taste buds and not mainstream popularity.  My lack of affinity for sugar  may cause weird looks and inquiries, but differing food preferences don’t generally cause people to categorically hate each other.  Other differing truths do.  Although the truth itself may not differ, our perceptions of the truth do.

During the fruiting season a blackberry has one taste at any given time. That taste may differ over time but it is always the truth of the blackberry.  On the other hand,  people have their own perceptions about what a blackberry should taste like, based on what stage in its life they find the most desirable to consume it. To me, a blackberry is reddish or purple, tart and tangy.  However, to the other pickers, the truth of a blackberry is the sweet and ripe taste.  Neither perception is necessarily wrong.  Both are parts of the same truth processed in the subjectivity of our human minds and taste buds.

In search of truth, there is also the confounding factor of communication.   Presumably the reddish, purple, and black blackberries appear the same to myself and the other pickers.  We have all learned to call purple by its name.  However, without being able to see through each other’s eyes, how can we know that what we are all calling purple looks the same to each of us?  Maybe what we call purple looks to me like what we call yellow looks to you.  Who knows? I can only see through my own two eyeballs, so I will never see what you see. And vice versa.

There are other truths about blackberries, like what part of the world they originated in.  How they are so effective at growing and shading out other plants in more moderate climates.  Whether their thorny deliciousness is a product of evolution or God’s design, neither, or both.  One truth may exist to explain where blackberries came from, but neither you nor I was around when they started existing.  So how will we know for sure how that these yummy (or pesky–depending on who you ask) plants came about?  If you are like most people, right now you are probably  going over the supporting evidence for whatever your belief is, and thinking how silly I am to even be posing such questions.

To be quite frank, I am not entirely concerned with how the blackberry plant started.  I am just glad it exists in the world at large, and the pick-your-own farm specifically, because I love the way it makes my taste buds tingle.  However, it also serves as an example of the different lenses we each use to look at the world.  We tend to accept the way we see the world as the truth, without seeing the lenses we use to make sense of the world and our place in it.  Often our parents teach us their stories and traditions, the lenses they learned through culture and life experience, the way they see the truth.  We use stories from the Torah, the Koran, and the Bible. We use stories from generations past, and from many other books and religions. Each culture has had their own stories, and usually everyone thinks they are right, and that they have the truth.

Kathryn Schulz asked the audience at her TED talk what it feels like to be wrong, and people responded by putting their thumbs down, it is “dreadful” and “embarrassing.”  Then she aptly pointed out to her audience that their responses were what it felt like to realize you are wrong, but before you realize you are wrong, being wrong feels exactly like being right.

Now, with the contemporary flow of information, it is possible to explore other cultural and religious views of the truth and  pick and choose what we would like to believe in.  I would agree that only one truth exists, but in my opinion, it often lies outside of our grasp because we are subjective creatures, even in our objectivity. Our “truths” are our stories and our lenses that help us make sense of the world.  For example,  I am not wrong for liking tart blackberries, it is simply that blackberries make sense to me in a different way than they do to most people.

The giggling children, picking sweet berries may never question their parents’ definition of a blackberry and may teach their own children to pick the dark, sweet berries.  If I was one of those children, I might share their definition of what a blackberry tastes like.  Maybe the world would make sense to me in a different way if I were part of the majority.

— Marbleless

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