Martin Luther and the Apple Tree

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This Food for Thought Commentary ties in the series on Martin Luther and the Apple to look at one important aspect in society today, which is people and proof of power versus praxis.

I would like to start my commentary with a story about the German word, Mogelpackung. Known in English as the sham packaging, in the literal sense of the word, it implies a product that is half-full and whose contents have the worst quality imaginable, but is fully packaged in bright shiny bags, thus making a person buy it because of its appearance.

It happened at a time when I was 13 and living with my parents at a university town in Minnesota, known as Marshall. My father was professor for technology at the university there, and every time he was teaching, I would hang out with my aunt and her (now ex) husband in the art department, where the latter was producing world-class paintings and offering classes, such as modeling, painting, sculpting and the like. And for the record, I was his “guinea pig” for one session of modelling, having to earn money to pay for film after using my mother’s camera for taking pictures. 😉

 

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But given the size of the campus, I would usually roam around every department and come across vending machines that were in each building. One day, I happened to find a vending machine and with 50 cents in my pocket, I bought a small bag of Ruffles potato chips, only to find that upon opening the bag, the contents were not even half full. Worse was when eating them, it tasted like it had been in the machine for YEARS!!! They were stale, dressed in salt!!!

When I mentioned this to my aunt upon returning to the art studio, she explained the concept of sham packaging and how companies try successfully to take that extra quarter out of the pockets of the innocent  just to earn that little money for their machine- a half-full package that is vacuum-packed but dressed in aluminum covering to make it look glamorous.

Companies can be really sneaky, can’t they?

But when looking at our society today, we not only see sham packaging everywhere but going beyond vending machines and shopping malls and mega-retailers. People can be shams too. One in three people on average are considered narcissists- people who take advantage of others for the purpose of personal gain.  It is unknown how a person can become a narcissist except to say that environmental factors, such as personal experience and trauma, external influence from others, the strive for new trends, craving attention and sometimes personal revenge are factors that can contribute to having a narccist personality, aside from a childhood upbringing where abuse, neglect and being controlled by parents and other family members. Sometimes the use of technology, like social networks, or a strict religious upbringing can play a role.  In either case, when a person promises the world and gives you a gagging grin are the people whom you want to avoid at any cost, for narcissists are capable of getting their way at the expense of others and enjoy watching others suffer from their defeat. These people can be best compared to sham packaging as I mentioned at the beginning- glamoring and god-like on the outside, but evil and incompetent on the inside- both in terms of hard skills as well as soft skills.

 

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The serpeant was a complete sham when it offered Adam and Eve an apple from the Apple of Wisdom, according to the readings of Genesis. End result- God expels them from the Garden of Eden. But can an apple be a sham package?  Absolutely not; they have their own natural color, each one representing its own flavor- and to a certain degree, one’s reaction upon tasting it.  😉  Yet the apple can be a symbol of strength and wisdom, learning about life and the people who live in it, contributing for the better or worse. If we were to eliminate the apple from our own diets in both these aspects, we would become barbarians battling for the best using all forms of measures to submit our prey before going in for the kill.

 

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This is where Martin Luther comes in. When he created the 95 Theses 500 years ago, he was planting the seeds for the apple tree that would later become the Lutheran Church. The purpose behind the separation from the Catholic Church was simple: The Church was also greedy and not paying attention to the needs of the people, but to the privileged, whose lives were spent in a glass ball, whose wall was thick enough to block out all the pleas and blind out the plight of poor. Yet one very perplexing comment that was extracted from Luther is making us think about how sharing or shamful the prophet was:

 

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree!

 

One has to look at the circumstances that led to his comment. After the theses were posted a rebellion  broke out among the peasants who felt cheated by the church. The Peasants War broke out in 1524-25 resulting in the casualties of more than 100,000 people. The revolt failed as the peasants were put down by armies supported by the aristocrats in the kingdoms of Saxony, Bavaria, Thuringia and Alsace.  Churches were looted and burned. Priests were murdered. And already many of Luther’s followers were interpreting the 500 theses in their own way, setting the stage for fragments of the Lutheran Churc. This included the conflict between Luther himself (who favored a middle approach between the aristocrats and the peasants) and Thomas Müntzer, who favored justice for the peasants. The conflict resulted in a fallout between the two and an everlasting feud which lasted until Luther’s death.  Luther’s establishment of the church was meant to bring the people together, just as the apple trees were planted to bring people together. Yet it seemed that what he actually did, by supporting both sides,  was instigate violence, thus making him look like a sham, as well as the others. While the uprisings did stop in 1525,  the theses brought out those who believed in change and it was badly needed, yet it brought out those who used the changes for the purpose of the gain of power. The theses criticized the Church for its practices but never made suggestions of how to change it, resulting in Luther being ostracized by many in his circle of friends of family. Yet these critical points allowed for other followers to establish their branches of the church.

 

If Luther was considered a sham, then most likely because of the ideas that were as thoughtful as the package of potato chips, yet when looking down at them, they were unappealing to the Church, resulting in its bitter taste, and salty because of the people who used his thesis for their own set of religions, some of which that still exist today are too strict and the themes too controversial.  But Luther was not a sham in reality. He saw the suffering of the people and ignoring the pleas of the shams wishing to undermine his work for their gain, he planted the apple trees for them, by opening the doors of the church to them so they can learn the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. His comment would best be interpreted as the modern terms of “If I had turned back the clock, I would still do it,” yet his comments, although considered sham by critics, indicate that he would still continue to plant the apple trees for the people to ensure that they had their share of wisdom and strength, instead of the sham packaging that the Catholic Church had offered at that time.

 

To sum up this lengthy discussion on sham packaging and the apple tree by Martin Luther, one has to connect the half-full package of potato chips from the vending machines with the apples, planted and harvested by Luther and compare it to the events of 500 years ago with that of today.  While it is easy to turn down the potato chips in favor of the apple because of its nutrients and all the other advantages it has, looking at it from the standpoint of Christ, it is much easier to decide how to believe as long as the religion is open to all and loving to all. Looking back 500 years, the people didn’t have the luxury of potato chips but saw the packaging of the Church and decided for the alternative. And therefore, it was much easier for them to choose the apple that opened the door to Jesus.

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Genre of the Week: Mr. Peabody’s Apples, by Madonna

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This book is the first in a long series dealing with the Power of the Apple and how it plays a role in uniting a community and offering love, openness and ideas for a better world. A overture on the series you can find by clicking here

The first aspect of the apple we have looks at the truth. Lately, we’ve been confronted with several new terminologies that circumvent the real definition of the word we’ve chosen to neglect in favor of looking at news according to one person. No matter if it is fake news, alternative facts or the like, lies are lies, and rumors are just as big of a lie as the lie itself. And as one can read in this literary piece, written by a rockstar but inspired by the teachings of the Kabbalah and a founder of a rare religion, Baal Shem Tov, the power of a lie can be as damaging to a relationship as the power of the truth, which reveals pure facts and creates (or even mends) relationships.

The story takes place in a fictitious town called Happyville, and it deals with three key characters in the story: Mr. Peabody, Billy and Tommy. Every Saturday, the town would have a baseball game, where Mr. Peabody was the coach of the Happyville Baseball team, a profession which he holds just as dearly as that of a history teacher in elementary school, his other (but primary) job. One of the players, Billy, would help Peabody with the clean-up after the baseball game, and is considered one of the coach’s favorites because of his support for the team and his moral values.

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However, the character of Mr. Peabody is put to the test, when another student, Tommy, watches him take an apple from Mr. Funkadeli’s Produce Shop after the game, on his way home. Curious, Tommy decides to take his skateboard home but not before explaining Mr. Peabody’s actions to his friends. They observe this again the next Saturday after the baseball team played another game- and lost again, like in the first one. Thanks to the rumors that started spreading like wildfire, the whole town knew about it and the following Saturday after that……

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There was no baseball game, and the town was silent with only a handful of people on the streets- most of them staring at Mr. Peabody with mistrust. Arriving at the field that day, he saw Billy, who explained to him that many people thought he was a thief for stealing an apple.

Mr. Peabody’s response: Yes he takes an apple without paying, but because he pays for it when he grabs his shipment of milk from the store before the game, but picks up the apple after the game. Even the produce-seller confirmed his advanced payment for the apple. 🙂

Tommy received word from Billy about this and went over to Mr. Peabody to apologize for the rumors and asked what can be done to make up for it. Apology accepted but in return, Mr. Peabody asks Tommy to bring a feather pillow to the baseball field an hour later. As windy as it is, he is to do the most unthinkable with the pillow……

And this is where we stop here.

 

You can take a guess at what Tommy does with the pillow at the baseball field, but the action is something that shows us a valuable lesson: Sometimes even a simple way of making up for the tiniest mistake is impossible to do.

Sometimes facing up to the crime and taking the punishment for it is the best way to teach a person a lesson. If you lie in court, you face prison time for perjury and obstructing justice. If you lie to your partner, you face the biggest possibility of a break-up. If you lie to your parents or elders, you lose priviledges or even get spanked. And if you are the leader of a country, even alternative facts can lead you to lose the respect and support of your people, no matter how many wars you lead your country into. In either case, Mr. Peabody’s Apple shows the readers that even a single apple represents the truth involving the character and those around him.

As Madonna wrote, Tommy represented the truth from his point of view and his rumors are along the same lines as the alternative facts presented by President Trump and his White House staff, which the majority of Americans and the rest of the world have long since figured out. His friends making rumors represent the followers of Trump who either have embraced his policies or even accepted him as President without a fight. Harsh and hurtful as it is, I cannot say anything else more but the truth there. Billy represents the person who seeks the truth for himself and accepts the situation as it is, while looking for action that is appropriate. In this case, he understands Mr. Peabody’s logic and does nothing except tell Tommy about it, which led to the pillow episode. Had Mr. Peabody actually stolen the apple, his reactions would have ranged from asking “Why?” to not forgiving him for it. Who knows?

And the person with the apple, Mr. Peabody, he represents the main person in the story who takes action and is ready to explain why. He symbolizes the truth which is an open book, and if opened and read properly, people would understand why. One could implement Mr. Peabody’s actions to the actions taking place right now, whether it is refugees coming to Europe and North America for a better life because of their home regions being torn up by war and no solution to even rebuilding, or even thel logic of trying to nationalize a country to protect the workers from globalization, the phenomenon which is dominating the landscape and bringing countries together to fight problems that are destroying our world, including poverty, scarce resources and most importantly, the environment.

Mr. Peabody’s Apple represents the truth which we seek when we want to understand the actions of others and the lies (be it pure, rumors or even alternative facts) that we try to wrap around, yet it is as sinful as eating the “Apple of Wisdom” prescribed by the Serpeant, which led to Adam and Eve being expelled, according to the Book of Genesis. If we see something that we may see wrong from our end, instead of spreading rumors and lying about it, we should confront the matter and find out why. After all, as I’ve written an earlier piece about confronting the truth, we do have the ideas and tools to make things better for us. We just need to use it properly so that we don’t offend others who might turn around and take action against us in return.

This is where I’m reminded by a quote I posted recently on my old facebook page, which I’m currently dividing up between Trump fans and anti-Trump fans (will have to explain this in a later post):

Never judge others by their behavior before judging your own first. It’s very likely that your actions can influence their opinions about you.

Like in the story, when judging others by their actions, it leaves an impression on them and helps them judge you by your own behavior. If you choose to be ignorant, you can expect the most rotten apple (or one that is tainted with harmful chemicals). If you choose to be open and find out the truth, you can have the best harvest of apples you can imagine. And perhaps one courtesy of Mr. Peabody if you find out more behind his actions and story. 😉

 

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Author’s Anti-alternative fact:  The same rockstar, pop singer and actress, who wrote Material Girl, Crazy for You, Vogue, Take a Bow, Jump and This Used to be My Playground also wrote over two dozen books, mostly during the first decade of the third millenium, including the English Roses collection, Yakov and the Seven Thieves, and The Girlie Show. Mr. Peabody’s Apples, released in 2003, was the second of five children’s books and dozens of short stories and has even made it to Schloastic Magazine in the USA. This includes lesson plans for elementary school.  Madonna splits her time between London and New York and continues to sing and act to this day. You can find more about her via website.

 

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