In case you have never enjoyed the simple pleasure of eating an artichoke, let me explain how it is done. Rinse the artichoke and cut off the stem. Steam the artichoke for 45 minutes. In the meanwhile decide if you want to dip the artichoke leaves in melted butter, lemon juice, olive oil, or a combination of these. Have your dipping ingredients in a small container and provide yourself with an extra plate to hold the discarded leaves.
Eating an artichoke is a leisure activity. This is not a fast food! Each leaf is peeled off and dipped into the butter or oil. Scrape the meat from the leaf with your teeth and place the skin of the leaf on the plate. Repeat until every leaf has been scraped clean. Now you have found the heart – the artichoke’s hidden treasure – from which you must scrape out the hairy fibers that cover the heart. An artichoke heart is a delicacy that is well worth the time it takes to find it. Cut into pieces and savor.
Now for the analogy: I am an artichoke.
(A mystic or poet says “I am” instead of “we are” because each of us is I to ourselves.)
My leaves are removed, one by one. The first leaves bear the names of my ancestors’ countries. Then the leaf bearing the name of my own country is peeled off.
Next comes the leaf that identifies my race and cultural background. Gone.
Also gone are all the leaves reminding me of cities and states where I have lived.
Off comes the leaf that labels me as a Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, or a member of any other political persuasion.
Then peeled away are the leaves that name all the religious or spiritual beliefs I’ve ever held: not a single “ism” remains.
As more and more leaves are peeled away from the artichoke, I lose my identity with any course of education I have studied, all of my abilities: artistic, musical, athletic – whatever they may be; and all of the activities I enjoy.
The leaf that identifies my professional path is removed, as well as any leaves that name my volunteer work and community involvement.
If I identify as a wife or husband, mother or father, daughter or son, the leaves that bear these identities are peeled away, as well as the leaves bearing the title of sister or brother, aunt or uncle, cousin, friend.
Any leaf that reminds me of an ailments or health issue is now removed.
All of my pet peeves and the causes I stand for are symbolized by artichoke leaves that are also peeled away from my center.
One of the last leaves to be removed is the one that identifies me as male or female. Next, the leaf labeled heterosexual or homosexual. And then the leaf that bears my name.
Every single remaining leaf that makes up my ego and separates one part of who I am from another is peeled away from the artichoke.
Nothing remains but the heart.
I am the heart of God.
I am love.
And love is all there is.