While we are on the subject of spiritual nourishment (see I Ching – nourishing the superior) and how food can bring us closer to God (see Nourishing our relationship with the Divine), I must tell you about the Universal Dinner Lady.
Who or what is a dinner lady? She is part of the culture of the British, but I’m not sure if she exists elsewhere or even if she still exists in Britain. When I was at school once upon a time, she was the lady in charge of order in the cafeteria. She was usually old, portly, grey-haired, and frowning. She made sure we unruly, snotty-nosed, rebellious little school kids stayed in our place in the line and she collected our ‘dinner tickets’. But most importantly, she had the life-giving power of decreeing which table could go for ‘seconds’ (second helpings).
So when I read the following passage from modern-day Taoist master Stephen Russel’s book ‘Manifesto’, it brought a smile to my lips.
Dancing with the Universal Dinner Lady
(or Universal Dinner Man, if you really want to be anal about it)
Manifesting the life you want is a dance you do with the Tao.That’s the point of it. It is, to be crude about it, a spiritual experience. You see it’s not the things, situations and events you manifest that bring you spiritual satisfaction, it’s watching the Tao in action as those things, situations and events spring into existence before your very eyes – that’s the blessing, that’s the point (if there is one).
But what is the Tao you dance with? (…) Traditionally, the Taoists of ancient times called it the mother of both existence and non-existence – note mother, not father. This alludes to its nurturing nature. But obviously the Tao is not really a woman, nor is it a man for that matter. This indicates that ancient Taoists were just as inclined to play silly games as post-modern ones, in which case come with me all the way into silliness here and picture this.
You’re standing in line in the school canteen, Oliver Twist-style, your empty plate in your hands, shuffling along as kids do, looking down at the floor or at the dodgy haircut of the person in front of you. All of a sudden you find yourself at the front of the queue, and looking up you’re startled and gratified to see that the dinner lady, far from the dowdy archetype, is actually a voluptuous, sensuous, full-lipped, sex-goddess of a woman wearing silk underwear, suspenders, stockings and heels beneath her apron (…) who smiles at you bountifully and says, ‘Yes? And what would you like, young woman (or man)?’ Her body language, facial expression and vocal tone suggest you can ask for anything – anything in the whole world – and she’ll heap it on your plate.
‘I want everything, ‘ you hear yourself say, ‘not just purity or peace of mind, Dinner Lady, but absolutely everything.’
And rather than calling you a greedy little git, she smiles even more munificently than before and says ‘You got it kid, but dance with me first!’ because she loves it when you ask for everything – it’s her nature to give, to generate – it’s what she’s here for. And she loves a good dance. And that’s why we love the Universal Dinner Lady so much.
Photo from norh 1997 at Flickr