My reflections today are about life… and death.
Life and death swirl around each other much of the time in our experiences, whether we notice it or not. Life would mean nothing without death, and death would mean nothing without life.
To help us understand how life and death come up to each other and touch one another, I’ve brought this with me [show mint plant]. This is a pot of mint which I dug up from my garden. I’m going to suggest to you that it’s alive. This mint is living. Could those of you up front share what you observe about signs of life in this mint? How can you tell it’s alive? [ Let them see it, touch it, smell it. Encourage all of this and take and repeat their observations.]
Thank you. And I’m also going to suggest that you and I and everyone here is alive. We are living too. What signs of life do you observe in yourself and in others? [ Take any repeat responses.]
We’ll learn a little about life and death together from this mint plant because what we’re going to do, is we’ll consume it. We’ll eat it.
First, I invite those who would like, to pull a leaf off. [Pass plant around, and as you do, continue.] What are some new signs of life and death that you observe, as you pull leaves off this plant? [We’re trying to get at the two sides of the life-death dynamic: we living humans are grasping and plucking life away from the plant; while the plant is being wounded by us; we are severing living tissue when we pick the leaves. The plant is less leafy afterwards; it’s less able to absorb sunlight; its liveliness is diminished.]
Now look at your leaf and feel it and smell it. What signs of life does it still contain? [Take any responses.] Do you think it’s alive? In what ways is it alive? Do you think it’s dying, or perhaps dead? There are no right or wrong answers here! This is the mystery of life and death right here in your hand!
Now, put it in your mouth and begin to chew. Are there new signs of life and death you observe? [We’re looking for: now they can taste it, coupled with the fact it’s getting mashed up.] Now, since I’m not concerned about manners at this moment, why don’t you open your mouth and show your neighbor what your leaf looks like now. Do you observe anything new about death? [Responses.] That leaf is not at all like what it was when it was part of the plant.
And now, swallow. That leaf is definitely a gonner now. And yet, it is beginning to become part of you; part of your life. By its death, you are receiving its energy and the nutrients it contains. And this plant of mint, I’ll take it home and return it to my garden, and give it care and a chance to recover, and hopefully it will live.
There you have it: a little life, death, and life again. All part of the mystery of our existence!
Prop required: a potted mint plant. Alternately, you could use any other edible plant. It’s important to have it growing in soil so it’s clearly fully alive when you begin. I did this in June in Vermont; your climate and season are factors in determining when this would work!