Contemplative kneading

Today I made bread. I have a love/hate relationship with this process. I love the smell of freshly-baked bread, the joy it brings my family and guests. I hate kneading and planning out a chunk of 3-4 hours from start to finish.

Today, however, I was in the mood to knead. (I may have been motivated by a dinner party tomorrow evening as well.) It was relaxing, contemplative even. As I felt the dough begin to take shape in my hands as I pressed and turned it, I began thinking, “How in the world did our ancestors figure out how to make bread? How to plant a certain seed, thresh it, mill it, add other ingredients and bake it?” When I start on these paths of thought, I am overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge it takes just to make a simple food. Who first thought it was a good idea to let milk sour, vigorously shake it until clumps of tasty fat congealed and rose to the surface? And then eat that soured, congealed fat? (A stroke of genius, I tell you!)

I get overwhelmed by the questions, the origins, the “how it came to be” of it all, turn to God and say, “Author of all Knowledge, thank you! Thank you for wisdom, for teaching our ancestors how to survive, how to thrive. Thank you for curiosity, ingenuity. Without You, God, I would not have today this loaf of bread, this simple gesture of love and nourishment for my family. Thank you, too, for the repetitive tasks, the small duties you give me every day to draw me to You, to reflection, meditation and contemplation of Your Goodness.”

Then I began thinking of the stark contrast of these thoughts with a movie I saw recently, InterstellarThere were some amazing messages in this movie, including my favorite (having read The Giver and seeing the way our current culture is running): the refutation that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Each person is precious, each life is precious. And we need those specific persons to fight and sacrifice for–a general love of humanity is not going to cut it.

What does this have to do with the first part of the post? I’m getting there!

The one major problem I had with this movie is the idea that human kind does not need outside help (i.e. God, other supernatural being) but can “pick itself up by its bootstraps” and save itself. Baking a loaf of bread is enough of a mystery (out of all the plants, how did they know which ones? and to get the kernels, grind them, mix them, apply heat, etc. etc.), and we think human kind has all the answers? Can save itself from destruction?

I found this concept of humanity as humanity’s savior a very sad one indeed. Pitiable. Slightly depressing and hopeless.

We humans are not all-powerful. We have been given many gifts and have been blessed with intelligence and reason, the capacity to love and suffer, to feel joy, exaltation and sorrow. But everyone needs a savior, and we are not it. Only a being outside time and space, a perfect being, could be humankind’s savior. We need Him. We cannot save ourselves or others, no matter how “enlightened” we become, how many new gadgets and gizmos are invented, how much we give to charities. There is one Savior. He holds us in His hands.