Thursday, July 29, 2010

Birthdays: A Self-Centered Ritual of Thanksgiving

In the Yummish tradition there are few strict mandates. However, celebrating the anniversary of one's birth as a holiday is one of those few hard and fast rules.

Many other religions encourage the celebration of birthdays as a way of giving thanks for the gift of life. Other religions discourage the practice, which they see as egocentric. The Yummish feel they both have a point.

At some point in their lives, many people come to question the practice of celebrating and receiving gifts on one's birthday. The practice of lionizing the accident of one's birth can, at times, feel more than a little self indulgent. To be given gifts, especially by ones' parents, as a way of commemorating the day on which you were given the privilege of existence, can, in a way, seem backward, selfish even. There is a level at which that is true, but, as you've no doubt come to expect with The Yummish, we feel there is more to it than that.     

It is fundamentally egocentric to commemorate the anniversary of the day when you, a single person among now 7 billion, were born. It was also, however, the day when your personal Yum, that unique set of tastes, values, and potential that defines you, came into being (and this is important) for the first time. Ever. There never has been and will never be a Yum exactly like yours. Your particular Yum is also an expression of the universal YUM and, as such, has the potential to enrich the Yum of the 7 billion others with whom you will spend your time on this planet.

As for your parents, there is no gadget, no gizmo, no thing – nothing that can fit in a box or be wrapped in even the prettiest paper – that could ever be worth a fraction of the gift they've given you, the gift of pursuing your own path to the YUM. The best way, indeed the only way, to adequately express your gratitude is to make the most of that journey. Develop your Yum. Strive to know the ultimate YUM and to bring Yum to those around you. Make the advent of your birth a date people will want to celebrate, because it marks the day we were all given a little more joy, a little more comfort, a little more happiness. 

You are the gift you give to the world.

So, on the next anniversary of your birthday, take a day to celebrate yourself – your accomplishments, your potential, your extraordinary place in history as a singular expression of the universal YUM. The exact form and content of that celebration is up to you and should cater to your personal Yum. Ice cream, however, is often a good place to start.

Today's Yummish Exercise:
Take a moment to reflect on why others might want to celebrate your birth. Not satisfied with the answer? Correct it before your next birthday, by giving others the daily gift of your Yum.

Back to School

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gone Fishin'

Last Friday the Yummish Council declared a spontaneous holiday, hung out the old “Gone Fishin'” sign and went fishing.

The weather was perfect and we caught our limit, but that was almost beside the point. While there is still some (reasonable) debate as to the Yummish nature of the activity (Though you should not yuck someone else's Yum, the Yummish Council does acknowledge that we have incurred a sizable karmic debt to anchovies.), in this case it was what we didn't do, rather than what we did, that made it a Yummish holiday. Whether we'd taken the day to hunt for fish or for the perfect pair of sandals mattered less than the decision to temporarily set aside responsibility in favor of pleasure.

Obviously this can't be done every day, or at least, not without some rather un-Yummish consequences. From time to time, it is imperative to the development of your Yum, to choose an activity you find particularly pleasurable, and, for one day (or even a handful of days, if you are so fortunate) put it ahead of all responsibility and care. Yummish holidays are especially important during the summer months, when the weather encourages Yummish displays of sun-kissed skin not seen during the cooler months.

If your situation is such that you can't devote a full day to pleasure, then...

... Then it's time to start beating your plowshares into swords. Eat the rich, power to the people and all of that.

Sorry... wait... no. That's not right...    

If your situation is such that you can't devote even one full day to pleasure, then...

Yeah.. I've got nothing. That's pretty much just un-Yummish all the way around. 

So... Then... Um...


Today's Yummish Exercise: 
Give yourself a Yummish holiday this summer, no matter how short. Find some task you can forgo in the pursuit of pleasure. Your Yum depends on it.

Celebrating Yummish birthdays

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Guide to Recognizing Your Yummish Saints

I should preface today's lesson by saying that the process of Yummish Canonization is a long and complicated one, mostly because we factor in the time taken to grow the grapes and ferment the cheap Chilean Cabernet the Yummish Council sits around swilling after dinner while tossing around names of potential candidates. Once selected, the candidate is then subject to a thorough canonical investigation, which has been known to take up to a quarter of an hour, followed by a rigorous examination by the Congregation of Yummish Theologians. Only after many minutes of increasingly tipsy debate, ultimately certifying the Yummish virtue of the candidate, can he or she be sanctified a true Yummish Saint.

What makes a Yummish Saint different from other Seekers of the YUM is the influence of their unique personal aesthetic (aka Yum) on a large number of people. This influence must be both widely observed and generally beneficial. (For example, Thomas Jefferson or The Beatles as opposed to Adolf Hitler or ABBA.*) Unlike other faiths, the Yummish will consider both the living as well as the deceased for sainthood, seeing no point in having to wait until after a person's unique Yum has passed to honor it.

As with Yummish Holidays, Seekers of the YUM are encouraged to celebrate their own Yummish saints, in addition to those who've been officially canonized. These are the people who have most strongly influenced your personal Yum, regardless of whether or not they have had a more universal influence. They might be the aunt who taught you to bake snicker-doodles and the grade school friend who first goaded you into trying the triple-loop backward roller-coaster. These are people who, in one way or another, shared with you a little bit of their Yum, which, in turn, found new expression through you, widening your options for Yummy experiences in the world. Recognize the importance of their gifts and celebrate the increase in your capacity for joy that they bring.    

There are many candidates for future official canonization,** each of them very deserving in his or her own right. This list will, without doubt, grow over time and wine. There can only be, however, one first Yummish Saint, which made the selection difficult. Finally, the answer came, as it often does, from the most senior member of the Yummish Council, as he enjoyed his evening cup of coffee.

St. Alfred of Peet's

For those of you who are not familiar with his story, the late Alfred Peet founded the eponymous and highly addictive chain of coffee and tea shops located primarily on the West Coast. These eclectically decorated temples to high quality caffeination were the inspiration for the now ubiquitous Starbucks stores. The influence of St. Alfred's dedication to the YUM, as revealed through “coffee culture,” has been and will continue to be felt worldwide. It is our privilege to recognize St. Alfred, the first Yummish Saint.
He also looks a little like Liam Neeson... sigh...

(For the story of Peets Coffee & Tea, please visit their website.  And, no, we haven't received a dime from Peets, Inc. We're just hopeless addicts.)

Today's Yummish exercise:
Begin your own list of Yummish Saints and celebrate all those who've influenced your Yum.

Next: Gone fishin' 

*Except for Spanish-language ABBA, which is inexplicably awesome. Soy la reina del baile, baby.

**Candidates for Future Canonization:
Alice Waters
John Lennon & Paul McCartney (Joint candidacy - 2 men, 1 Yum)
Buddy Holly
Ben & Jerry (Joint candidacy)
Thomas Jefferson
Jim Henson
Robert Mondavi
Johann Sebastian Bach
Anthony Bourdain (A blatant cry for retweets. Give us some love, people!)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Interdependence Day

As we have discussed in earlier lessons, the Yummish Faith celebrates many holidays throughout the year, both spontaneous (i.e., I got a good parking spot today and celebrated the moment with a large full-fat latte and bagel with lox and extra cream cheese) and officially scheduled (see earlier discussions about Bonding Day and Thanksgiving). Today's lesson centers on the most important of the holidays on the summer calendar – Interdependence Day.

This Sunday, all over the United States, people will come together for parades, picnics, fireworks displays and more, celebrating family, community and commonwealth.  They'll commemorate the founding of our country -- the unification of diverse, isolated pockets of settlers into a single nation, bound together by a collection of progressive, high-minded ideals, rather than language, religion or accident of birth. As a People, we will take a day to honor a Nation unique in its history and its potential.

It is important to remember, however, that our nation wasn't magically brought into being by the penstrokes of high-heeled boys one random summer day. Instead, on July 4, 1776, a small group of educated, land-owning European men declared to the world, in the name of a “People” that could hardly be said to exist outside of a grand, if vague, concept, the intention to build a Nation founded in freedom, equality and justice for all. When those same “People” awoke on July 5, 1776, they were still the same diverse, isolated pockets of settlers. They were “Dutch,” “Englishmen,” “Swedes” and “Germans,” etc., and still saw themselves as such. There was still not an “American” among them. Nevertheless, the concept of the American had been born.

Though done in the name of  the “People,” the Founding Fathers chose not to define, thus limit, who exactly those people might be. The American experiment was too revolutionary, too untried, for even those amazingly prescient men to try to predict the ultimate outcome. Instead, it was an open invitation to all those who embraced the same values.

Like the Founding Fathers, the Yummish believe this sense of mutual reliance and interconnectedness should extend beyond such narrow ties as bloodlines and birthplace. As Jefferson wrote, “all Men” not “All Americans” are created equal, with certain unalienable rights, not bestowed by an act of country or king, but innate to our being. Among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. (read: YUM)

While the visions outlined in the Declaration of Independence would take bloody centuries to materialize, a bold promise was made that day. The Founding Fathers declared their commitment to the radical, humanist experiment they called the united (sic) States of America. In doing so, they drafted a document that both declared our Independence from the English monarchy and our Interdependence as a Nation.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”    

On July 4, we as a People celebrate this commitment, to our Nation and to each other.

Today's Yummish Exercise:Celebrate Interdependence Day!

Next: Suggestions welcome.