Interfaith Potato-Cleaning

“My Zen Master liked to say there are two ways to clean a pile of potatoes.”
It was Tuesday of this week, and I was sitting in a circle with some of the other members of the Boston University Interfaith Council at Marsh Chapel (a quick plug: we meet every Tuesday night from 6-7 pm in the Marsh Room, in the basement of Marsh Chapel!). The topic of discussion this week was the importance of individual vs. communal worship/practice/fellowship/insert-your-own-word-here. One of our members, a Buddhist, had just spoken.
“Potatoes?” I asked him, wondering what root vegetables (though, wait, are potatoes even a root vegetable?) had to do with interfaith dialogue.
Then he explained. The first way to clean a pile of potatoes is to take each one individually and scrub it in the sink. But this method is time-consuming, and, frankly, wastes a lot of water. The second method, however, is to get a giant pot and put water in it. Pour in the potatoes. Grab a stick. Stir.
And, as simply as that, the potatoes will get clean, rubbing against each other as they’re stirred until the dirt is cleared away. “It’s a metaphor for what my teacher called ‘together-action,'” he explained.
“From now on,” I replied, “that’s our metaphor for interfaith cooperation, too.”
It’s strange–you wouldn’t think of potatoes as a great comparison to make. They don’t exactly scream harmony and world peace. But this idea that by coming together–even if there’s a little uncomfortable collision and disagreement in the process of being stirred about–can get rid of the dirt and grime of ignorance and misunderstanding? That’s a beautiful concept, for root vegetables and for people too.
Originally posted on Marsh Chapel’s Vocation Blog

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