The Thingness of Things

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Snicker’s Bar Cookies* have a standing place in my holiday cookie line-up because they are phenomenal and so much like an actual Snicker’s bar (best candy bar ever) it’s almost eerie. The cookie has all the components: a (magical) nougat-like layer on the bottom followed by a caramel and peanut middle topped off with a layer of chocolate. But there is a problem: the chocolate wants to lift off the caramel when I cut it.
I go through this every year. I fetch the bars from the unheated basement landing (makeshift third freezer). I get out my big chef’s knife and attempt to make a clean cut. The chocolate sheers off in glacial plates. I feel extreme hostility towards the bars as I balance little shards of chocolate on top of each piece, hoping they stay. They are the ugliest things in my cookie arrangement. It’s galling. I give these to people.
This year, however, something different happened in my head. I looked deeply into my bars to try to understand why they don’t want to keep their chocolate hats on. This is when it occurred to me that the frigid environment might be the trouble: perhaps if the bars weren’t so cold and the chocolate wasn’t so hard it might adhere better. With the dawning of new understanding, I did something truly unlike me: I used valuable minutes to go upstairs, get my blow dryer and begin the gentle process of re-adhering little scraps of chocolate on top of each individual piece. (This from a person who will keep ramming the dishwasher rack in instead of looking for the spatula that has hung it up.)
Eventually I wised up and put the whole pan in a warm oven just long enough to soften the chocolate -- and then decided to take understanding to an even deeper place by reconsidering the knife. What kind would the Snicker’s Bar Cookies want? Something inside me said small so I went for a compact but weighty paring knife and began cutting off individual pieces with sensitivity. They responded beautifully.
It took many years but now I understand a thing or two about my Snicker’s Bar cookies. They want to be cut at room temperature and with a small knife, piece-by-piece. That’s just who they are – that is their thinginess, the nature of them. And here’s another thing:
It is just a short step from the Snicker’s Bar to the self. (No kidding.)
What about our own thingness? What do we need to understand about ourselves to elicit the best response? Do we respond better to warm or cold, big or small, soft or loud?
For myself, I have slowly, slowly come to understand that I need to hear myself out when I’m in distress but then I need to deliberately bring in new thoughts to re-balance the sorrow-heavy viewpoint. I need to be careful about the thoughts I invite in. I need both a firm hand and a soft touch. Those are just a few things I’ve come to understand. Things just go better if I work with the grain instead of against it.
What about you? What do you keep trying to force that is just not going to work within the thinginess of you? Maybe 2022 is a year to bring better understanding to the thinginess of things, including us.
Happy New Year!!!
*There is nothing remotely healthy about these, save a few peanuts. I’m sending it anyway.