a four hundred dollar bowl of soup

by kye on May 5, 2010

At this very moment I’m full of arugula, and tomato basil soup, and the awesome feeling of being an aliveness sitting here breathing.

My death is present here too.  It invites me to give what I can give at the moment.  Tonight what I could give was a note to the chef who made that beautiful soup and salad.  (The waiter came back later and said that things like that meant a lot, and the note was now posted on the back wall.)

Earlier today in Parabola I read this:

There is a story about a teacher who asked his students, “If I have five hundred dollars, and in the course of my life I give away four hundred dollars, how much do I have at the end of my life?”

The students eagerly answered, “One hundred dollars.”

“That’s what you might think,” the teacher said.  “But the deeper truth is that if I have five hundred dollars here on Earth, and I give away four hundred dollars, then at my death what I will have is four hundred dollars.  Because in the end, all you have is what you have given.” *

Because of those words, it came to me as I was eating that if I let the chef know how much his cooking mattered to me tonight, he would have, what he had given.  So I wrote the note with care, on thick paper I happened to have with me, to try to give him back the sense of specialness.

I don’t know what to call what I have right now, because of having written a note which shared exactly what that meal’s wonderfulness had meant to me. Whatever it is I’ve got, it’s worth a great deal more than four hundred dollars.

And the more I try to give it away, the more it grows.  It seems this kind of interest is compounded every moment!

* excerpted from John Robbins’ forthcoming book, The New Good Life

  • http://artofgreatthings.com Jeffrey Tang

    Two lovely stories, Kye. I think I'll send a note to the chef next time I enjoy a particularly nice meal. A simple, yet out-of-the-ordinary kindness.

    Two sides of the same coin: When you encounter evil in the world, fight it. But when you see good in the world, nurture it!

  • kye

    Yes! …hadn't thought of those two as belonging together and also connected to this story, but that's a lovely insight.

    And one thing I've noticed–when you nurture good, sometimes it very gently fights evil. For instance, in the case of that note to the chef: I know from friends who are in the restaurant business that it can really wear people down. A word of encouragement can do wonders to buoy a person up, and then the rugged part of the day slides off more easily.


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