Friday, January 16, 2009

The greatest...

This post began life, with a sterile mouse click, as a sarcastic crack at an e-mail I received today. Said e-mail exhorts its male recipients to forward its minimally proven, scantily detailed health "warning" contents to their "wives, daughters, girlfriends". I took issue with the assumption that every guy reading the e-mail had all three of these. And it occurred to me to ask, don't the men in these guys' address books deserve to know, too, of the toxicity of dried mushroom water? And also, what do women who receive the e-mail do, since they are not given similar instructions to inform their nearest and dearest (presumably, only of the opposite sex) of what the press, the medical community, the aunties who gossip in loud whispers at every corner of Sea Park Market have failed to tell us.

> For those of you who cannot read Chinese, this message is to
> warn you against using the
> water you soak your mushrooms in. Most of the mushrooms on
> the market are from
> and are contaminated with chemicals (I think it is carbon
> bisulfide, correct me if I am wrong)
> which are soluble in water. You must discard the water in
> which you soak to soften the
> dried mushrooms.
> Guys, please forward this to your wives, daughters,
> girlfriends.

And, of course, I was riled by the implied sexism of the e-mail, because of course what it really boils down to is: men don't soak dried mushrooms; women do. So guys, your involvement in this only goes as far as forwarding the e-mail, because if anyone is going to end up stiff as a board on the kitchen floor with a puddle of toxic fungus water nearby, it's going to be one of the three women this e-mail assumes are in your life.

So, while we're occupied with boiling things down to their basic content, what's really bugging me about this e-mail is:
  1. the assumption that men don't cook/prepare food, or that only women do.
  2. the lack of detail. What about this chemical is so harmful?
  3. the lack of scientific substantiation. Has anyone been lab-testing mushrooms and finding this particular chemical, in amounts worthy of being mentioned?
  4. that it fails to answer this absolutely unimportant, but nonetheless nagging question. Have people not been discarding their mushroom-infused water?
Anyway... all this should prove that I do have my moments of ridiculous pettiness over the most trivial of matters. As if you needed proof. But my irritation was broken by the presence online of a good friend and hymn-harmonising buddy back home, who sent me a song and told me she misses me. That was all it took for the bubble of irritation to burst, and for me to be reminded of what really matters. More of this boiling down business. When the excess matter of my life has bubbled off into vapour, when the scum of my unresolved character flaws has been scooped aside, what remains?

A writer I know of also seemed to be in the habit of boiling things down to bare bones.

"And now these three remain," the apostle Paul wrote centuries ago. "Faith, hope and love."

"But the greatest of these," he concludes...

The greatest...

That which I hope will be all that remains when my life is distilled...

"The greatest of these is love."

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