Good Tomatoes

Tomato BucketUntil three weeks ago, I’m not sure I’d ever seen a good tomato. I used to think a tomato was perfectly symmetrical, unblemished and about three to four inches in diameter. In actuality, good tomatoes tend to have cracks, strange bumps, inconsistent color and dirt. Good tomatoes actually look dirty.

The other day a friend of mine stopped by to catch up. He’s been dating a girl pretty seriously for a while now, and he’s wondering how he’s supposed to know whether to marry her or not. “I’m committed to her,” he said, “and I’m more selfless than I ever have been in any other relationship. I can’t say, though, that I’m distracted all day thinking about her, and I’m not writing love sonnets for her all the time. I love her, but am I in love with her?” I’m not sure I even know what that distinction means. Perhaps, because I’m not sure it means anything at all. I think sentences like that sound like they make sense to us because we’ve heard them spoken for so long we assume there must be some truth in them.

Basically, we had a great conversation that involved me reciting some version of “Do You Love Me?“,  the conversation between Tevya and Golde from “Fiddler on the Roof.” In the end, however, I kept thinking about tomatoes and wondering how many things we don’t see well because we have lost a connection to land and people. That is, how well do we recognize real love if it is mediated through a television screen more than actual people? Moreover, f it’s taken me this long to see a tomato for the first time, who’s to say I know anything about love?

Seeing, like any art, takes practice. Of course, like art I tend to think the ability to see is innate. It’s hard not to think so given that many of our eyes function. Right now, in fact, you are reading this blog. Whether you see what is in front of you is a different question.

I want to learn how to see well. It took someone teaching me how to grow tomatoes before I saw them for the first time. I suspect I will need to continue to find good teachers.


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