As a kid one of the good memories I had with my father was popcorn. He would make it with loads of butter right on the stove top. I would eventually go through the microwave popcorn bag stage when that was the coolest thing around. I loved that stuff! And who can forget about the magic of Jiffy pop. It said clearly to be careful because it was hot. Yet there we were testing fate and burning our hands on the hot steam coming out of the foil bulge. That was like a right of passage.
But the old stove top was something special. There is an intimacy in food when you put things together yourself even something as simple as popcorn. Popcorn gave us a shared moment. It was a sort of sacred moment of bonding. That stuck with me.
Every Friday and Saturday I get a movie with my boys and we make popcorn together. They watch me put the oil in the pot and then after it gets hot put the first few seeds in. These few little seeds tell us when it’s ready for the rest. I pour the rest on the bottom of the pot. They stand and watch for the popping to begin. The pot lid starts to rise. “Back up now, I don’t want it to spit out on you!” My 5yo hops down from the chair so I can start dumping it into the bowl. I’ve gotten really good at this. Very few unpopped kernels, just the right amount of oil so I don’t need to add any, and with sea salt.
Then we sit on the floor with pillows, blankets and sleeping bags to watch the movie of the night. Hopefully it’s something good like The Adventures of Tin Tin. Sometimes it’s something as awful as Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that with a bowl full of a warm snack and a stupid movie, we lay side by side sharing a moment that never seems to get old.
The world is full of these little sacraments or mysteries that bond us together in love. We make meaning with these things – this stuff of the earth. Popcorn, a walk through nature, a reading group, live music in a coffee shop, the intimate union of two bodies, even a work meeting or a song sung during hard labor – all of these bond us together in a kind of union with nature and each other. It’s a union that’s mysterious and unchanging. Each of these moments is somehow pregnant with eternity giving us a small glimpse of what we can become, and what we are.
Love is in the mystery of communion seated on the altar.
We are bound by love through the stuff of the earth. Simone Weil called these things metaxu. The stuff of the earth and each other reveals our distance. That distance also reveals our closeness. As distance seems to hide us from that mysterious contact with love we crave, it is also the means by which we can experience it. When we feel distant from love maybe that distance is what connects us to it but we simply cannot see it.
Through our distance we are connected, through our togetherness we can be distant. In both love is at work to change us.
Even through a simple bowl of popcorn.