Posted by: Gabriel | March 13, 2009

The Phenomenology of Blueberry Cobbler

Let me preface this post by saying that this is a joke I wrote to post on facebook. I don’t know that it actually has any relevance for theology or anything, but it’s slightly funny, nonetheless.  ***************************************************************

People often ask me, ‘Gabe, how is it that you’re so awesome?’ Well, hypothetically, people often ask me, ‘Gabe, how is it that you’re so awesome?’ And I hypothetically reply, ‘It’s the de-nominational phenomenology that really pushes me to be my awesomeest. And also the tea.’ Then people ask me, ‘What kind of tea?’ And I answer, ‘Earl Grey, ma chère.’ Then we generally get into a hypothetically long discussion in broken French about English teas and Russian biscuits. Eventually they’d probably ask ‘How do de-nomination and phenomenology go together? And, Gabe, if you could, would you use as delicious a metaphor as possible.’ Well; I’m happy to oblige with an experience of blueberry cobbler that I had.

But, first, a couple of definitions so that people can follow the thought since I don’t use the words ‘phenomenology’ or ‘de-nomination’ in the story (just in case there is anyone who doesn’t know off hand what they mean, or there’s someone who actually cares). Phenomenology is the study of subjective experiences; the theory is that we can only know things as we experience them, not as they really are objectively (e.g. when you see a chocolate, you are actually only experiencing the visibility of the outside chocolate, not the raspberry crème-filled chocolate that it actually is). De-nomination is the rejection of speech as inadequate to express something – ‘de-naming’ something (e.g. going beyond affirmations like ‘your eyes are [like] two gems’ and beyond negations like ‘your eyes are not two gems’ to a silence, understanding that gems cannot be adequately used to properly describe someone’s eyes).

So, when Sabrina made a cobbler for dessert one night; I was more than a little sceptical. I had heard people talk about how great of an experience they had had from this cobbler, but I was never a fan of cobbler. I was sure that it was fine for some people, but I never had any special experience with cobbler. Yeah, Sabrina said this was the greatest cobbler ever; but people exaggerate and even deceive themselves into thinking that they have a special cobbler, when in reality, all cobbler is just mundane. I couldn’t possibly judge whether this cobbler really was objectively great or if Sabrina had just (honestly) mistakenly reported her own past experience.

When the Amaco dinner (don’t ask) was finished and the cobbler was brought out, I was still incredibly doubtful and wasn’t expecting much from this ‘dessert’. OH. MY. WORD! This was no dessert! This cobbler was Heaven, ambrosia! It was pure ecstasy! I had no idea that something could be so delicious! This was not a taste… this was taste. This cobbler shouldn’t be described as taste. This was a taste beyond taste! It was as far beyond taste as taste is beyond blandness. This cobbler made all other tastes fade away by comparison. This was untaste!

In the passage of a moment I understood what Sabrina had been trying to tell me when she raved about this cobbler! All of a sudden, the world was a different place. The colours were brighter. The people at dinner were happier, nicer, prettier, and more interesting. There were no problems in life, the world became a utopia once I had tasted this cobbler. Sure, I know that there were still problems in the world and that my eating a piece of cobbler couldn’t solve everything – but it did! The world came into perspective for the first time for me. I saw things from the cobbler’s perspective! Everything was warm and delicious and stuffed with blueberries and peaches! How could such a world be anything but complete peace – total hope, total love, and total taste?!

I think I also understand better how frustrating it must have been for those people who tried to tell me about the cobbler before, but couldn’t make me understand how good life is with cobbler in your stomach. Now that I know cobbler, I want to tell everyone about it, but I can’t seem to find the words. Even as I typed the last two paragraphs, I found myself struggling to describe what this experience was like. I think this is mainly due to the fact that I still can’t truly comprehend what this cobbler was like. It transcended my own experience with it. I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly why I liked this cobbler. I can’t say that the goodness of the taste came 20% from the blueberries, 8% from the sugar, and 70% from the nutmeg, for example. I could conceivably rate how much I like the individual ingredients, but when they are combined they form something which is more than the sum of its ingredients. This is one of the things I misunderstood before I had experienced this cobbler. The goodness of the cobbler came not from the individual ingredients or even from the love which Sabrina put into mixing the cobbler.

Rather, the goodness came from the Presence which descended and arose from the cobbler. The taste of this cobbler cannot be understood purely through scientific terms; because every around the table must have had their own, special experience with this cobbler. We all knew the cobbler as it came to us, and it came to each of us uniquely (I can’t be sure that the cobbler came to everyone’s taste like it came to mine – everyone has different tastes, of course). But it also bound us together with its tastiness. No doubt, someone sitting at the table not having some cobbler would hardly understand our whimperings, and shrieks of joy, and the numerous proposals to Sabrina, but we could understand each other because of the cobbler. It was an understanding without words because, even amongst ourselves, a mumble better communicated how we felt than any words. In fact, incomprehensible speaking in tongues would probably have been better understood at the table than an attempt at words.

So, if I can’t even express to my co-cobblerians how great this cobbler was for me, how can I hope but express it to anyone who hasn’t tasted this cobbler? I admit, sometimes I just want to force some cobbler into my friends’ mouths so that they can experience it for themselves and understand what I’m trying to tell them. But that can’t possibly work – many people would just reject out of indignation the cobbler which is forced upon them like that. I think the best way must be to show people how joyful this cobbler has made me; but also to let them know that the cobbler is the reason why I’m so happy, it’s not some natural disposition I have.

I admit, though, it is hard. Even though I haven’t forgotten about the cobbler (as though such a thing were possible!), I can’t keep it on my mind all day. Sometimes I get sad or busy and even though to have some cobbler would cheer me up, I don’t go get some cobbler, I just give in to the goings-on of my cobblerless day. So that is the main point of this letter: try the cobbler! And try to remember the cobbler!



  1. I would by lying if I said I’ve never known a dessert to cause such ecstasy, but Gabe, this cobbler sounds too good to be true.

    I would like to reply to this thought-provoking (or is it rather hunger-provoking?) post by saying that your struggle to explain the effects of blueberry cobbler seems to be a nice metaphor for the struggle to explain personal experiences with God. Unless one has had an experience of God first-hand, it is nearly impossible to explain it and do it justice. It can be beyond words, it can provoke huge life changes (like your proposal to the cobbler-maker), and it can be easily forgotten, pushed to the back of one’s mind. But none of that negates the fact that the experience has happened and that you have become a changed man because of your cobbler encounter. The main problem I see is that Sabrina can make more cobbler, and you can bring some into class (hint, hint), and all of us will understand the deliciousness of the cobbler. How are we going to do the same thing, sharing our experiences of God?

    …All this theological inquiry is making me hungry. Gabe, try mixing Earl Grey with English Breakfast and it, too, will change your life.

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