All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Immeasurable Loaf

This bread was made without measuring anything.  GOK* the exact measurements.

  • Starter: I took a bunch of sourdough that I would have discarded, far more than I would normally use, made a hard dough of it by adding no more water, just more ww flour, and left it on the counter overnight.  There it expanded, softened, became sticky.  
  • Flour: The next morning, I added ww flour to it, 
  • Water: and then some water, and then some more ww flour, 
  • Seeds: and then some sunflower seeds, 
  • Salt: and finally a bit of salt, and I mixed up the dough.  I got it to a consistency I thought was okay, but I didn't knead it or stretch it much.  
  • 8 Grain: I sprinkled some 8-grain mixture in a buttered tin, placed the dough in there, and added some of the same 8-grain mix on top, and let it rise.  
About four hours later I woke up and baked it.

Lost skill
When I was eleven -- the same age as Harry Potter when he first learned of the world of Magic -- I was struggling to teach myself how to use a slide rule.  I waved it in the air like a wand, my mind trying to wrap itself around the concepts of multiplication, division, logarithms and the arcane mysteries of the simplest D and C scales.  The slide rule I had purchased had lots of moving parts, and I quickly became enamoured with the complexity and levels of precision of the instrument.  As I learned more, I remember one day in a relaxed state moving the inner slider one way and the clear acrylic slider the other way in slow motion, realizing that the numbers that the ruler was pointing to were even now calculating mathematical ideas that I could not comprehend, and the scales were as mysterious as a futhark.  My mind was merely on the edge of the very simplest mathematical concepts that were being continuously expressed in the number scales written on the wood.  An epiphanic moment occurred, when I intuited a Mind so vast it could comprehend infinite things I did not and could never know, to an infinite precision.  "That must be God," I assumed.

In the next few years, calculators were all the vogue, and became increasingly cheap to obtain.  Slide rules became obsolete.  Using them is a lost art.  I myself have forgotten everything I ever tried to teach myself about their use.  But I remember this moment when I thought I glimpsed the Mind of God.  The idea that God is not only Infinite Intelligence, but has already measured out everything in existence, had occurred to me when I handled a slipstick of calibrated wood.  But I had only glimpsed this because I had approached the infinite precision of All Things Unknown through that which can be known.

Despite the way the slide rule -- and the math that it embodied in various wooden scales -- had opened this window, though, it may well have been this moment when I determined that Mathematics would never allow me to arrive at God's infinite understanding.  Atheists might assume that it was at this moment that I set aside Truth in favour of Myth, set aside Fact for Conjecture, accepted the Easy Answer ("God") rather than pursue the Infinite Enquiry that is Science.  But what I was really looking for, after this moment, was a shortcut to God's Mind.  How could I get another glimpse into God's Knowing?  Was there a way to expand consciousness from the puny human to the Infinite?  What would it mean to not merely be conscious of God, but to have God's Consciousness?  How could one do this?  What would everything look like from that vantage point?  How would I recognize it?

This was a Faustian struggle for me, and no one seemed to be able to steer me in the correct direction.  I lost my ability to speak to people about what mattered to me.  I had no friends who were even remotely interested in my deepest pursuit.  School wasn't moving me toward this Infinite Understanding.  That way was plodding and ineffectual.  Religion wasn't really speaking to this at all. Everything in religion that I had encountered up to that moment was like looking at a piece of wood instead of the idea that the wood embodied: it offered up idols and slide rules instead of God and the Mathematical Concept that unleashes Infinite Understanding.  Even now I can barely put into words my needs at the time.

I suspect that this is a fairly common experience for youngsters, growing up, perhaps part of the process of individuation**.

The Cloud of Unknowing
I think I finally opted for Mystery.  I would try to teach myself everything I could about something, but then step beyond that, into the Unknown, where only God has understanding.  That would be my method.  I admit now that I spent far more time trying to learn about what is presumed known already than I did using my time  stepping off into the unknown.  And further glimpses of what God might be became increasingly more rare.

Had I but known it, I would have come to the understanding that Mystery is the method of all School and Religion and Science too.  Perhaps it is the way of the human, after all, to continually step into the personal unknown to approach the infinitely known.  

I think you have to have a sense of wonder to go beyond what you already know.  If humans have any part of the Infinite in them, I believe it is Curiosity***.  To step into the Unknown, aiming for the Infinite, using only Wonder as a guide: that is the Human Way.

And to take that first step, you merely have to set aside your measuring stick.

Although I haven't measured anything, I have not left what I know, at least not very far.  The bread is fine.  It is fairly bland, but has an interesting crunchy, roasted sesame seed crust.  Its a rustic bread with little flavour, perfect for my wife who has been complaining loudly about all the "flavours" and "spices" in the recent bread.
loaf in front of the sample of what the new kitchen cupboards will eventually look like

This bread staled quickly.  We didn't finish it, but left the heel of it for the chickens, who finish most of the bread that we don't eat.

Neither baking this bread nor eating this bread will lead one to experience God.  But neither will not eating it lead one away from experiencing God.

Notes to Myself
  • * GOK:
    My grandmother had a room full of stuff she could not part with, that she had gathered after a long lifetime of gathering, collecting, and dispersing, and she called it her "G.O.K. room" because "God Only Knows what is in there."  To enter into your own personal GOK room, I believe you have to set aside what you think you know.  You have to stop measuring, because what you are measuring is known.  You have to allow for serendipity, you have to keep a sense of playfulness, you have to express wonder, to get to the place you want to be.  And you do not yet know where that is or what it will look like.

    It is like moving into death itself.

    All bread ultimately contains GOK elements.  The species of lactobaccilli in a sourdough starter, the unmeasured pH at any given stage, the unplotted curve of the bulk fermentation volume to radius, the enzymes involved in the breakdown of dextrans, the type and number of flavinoids, the ordering of the lattice of gluten or other proteins, the pressure of gas molecules on each cell of bread dough, the many things we do not yet know and may not ever know, about what happens in our daily bread.  

    Bread retains mystery no matter how much we learn about it.  I intend no blasphemy as I say that bread is as deep as God's knowing.

  • ** (It might account partly for the popularity of the Harry Potter series of books, because it taps into the need to have something meaningful, secret, and powerful (wizardry) going on even while one is immersed in the meaningless everyday world (of muggles)). 
  • * * * (…but can God be curious?  Or is God's knowledge too vast to admit to curiosity?  Knowing All, God cannot leave off knowing to know yet more.  Is God Infinite Boredom, rather than Infinite Curiosity?)
  • Sometimes you just have to set aside your scales and measures, and let God do it all again.

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