19 november 2015
St Augustine struggled with divine absence. In his wandering between the emotional hypochondria of the Manicheans, the Stoics, between Virgil and Cato, his heart yearned for an architecture he could not name, a system he could not describe. It was as if he stood within the timbers of a naked house and strained desperately for the furniture. Like a match which knows the latent power of its flame, he went form place to place, emotional landscape to emotional landscape. But he always found himself there. He could see the smoke, but never grasp the fire. And the flames of this torment scalded him so until he realized their source. The epiphany blazed when he understood that he was the subject as much as he was the object.
I believe in a secular humanism. Grown on the fiber of character, of values, of patience, honesty—we are endowed with our hubris, as Augustine always knew, but not with our salvation. Grace will not derive from the origin of its desired destination; no one will find redemption in the very pit of torment. The road is littered with the corpses of this false hope; the negative security of “free will.” Agency, as distinct from will, is the cognitive ability of motion, whereas will is of mind. In the dignified surrender to a larger purpose/process (God, dogma, community, Buddha) we can displace ourselves as the nadir of our lives. Whitman reminds, “Battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.” So if we approach the road in faith that we are the journey, not the destination, then it will be made by walking. But never can we deny, as Augustine terribly did, the outer system, the latent texture, the fact that the road is here before, during, and after us. The flame is in the match.
With that said, I like to hope that my desire for the web to be resurrected and restructured is not underestimated. The intensity of mission is present, yes: but I want it to be a zealous evangelizing absent of fear, of coercion. The gospel is good news, and if we can cast away the association of transactional spirituality then we can understand the core of the issue. Food is the most basic human need: the endeavor to eat is primary above love, shelter, clothing. We found food before we rationalized/religi-sized its origin—we made sure we had enough before we genuflected to its Provider. When the stomach was full, the mind understood its emptiness. And I don’t ever want the joists of Bellegarde to be interpreted by the frame or scaffold of a BRAND. Deep down, our goal of baking 100% whole grain bread is not far away. And of course the actual purchase of bread is made with money; sincerely, though, the currency is a passion to reestablish the integrity of quality, flavor, and nutrition. At times its cast light can be one of maniacal lust towards purity; but, as a young man in such a fragmented, disassociated world, the compulsion to reassemble the most basic crucible of our diet is a heaven-sent yoke. Just as I work the clumsy lapidary to put the loaf of bread together again, it too has put me together. One must be completely broken if one is to be healed; and those who hurt hurt, and those who are healed heal. Bread has saved me, so I am going everything I can to save bread. I was as emotionally itinerant as Augustine was intellectually before I bumped into an oven.
It has become clear to me, after years of contemplation, that the farmers market is, innocuously put, not a great place to be. To wake up at 2am, along with friend and baker Sean O’Hara, in order to prepare for the market is no longer viable. The banks may have been too big to fail, but the market is too small to succeed. There was no return on the investment, no harvest—despite the incredible relationships and pleasure we derive from serving our customers, I cannot—as a baker or as a man—continue to vindicate falling sales, lack of sleep, and relentless frustration. So, I’ve decided to give the market some time, but at a distance—I will no longer bring the gaggle of items I once had at the market, but are available six days a week everywhere else. I will now only bring the breads that I am most proud of and humbled by each time I bake them: our whole grain breads, naturally fermented with flour we mill ourselves. We will see how this goes for the next two months; but I will not continue to measure time against that empty parking lot.
As I dive deeper into the craft of baking, I want to throw out as much as possible; the extraneous, the superfluous; just as the Reformation was an attempt to return to the roots, so too is the Renaissance of craft embracing less in order to glean more. People enjoy most what you like to do best.