I more or less decided on the spur of the moment to bake instead of buy biscuits. I decided it for a few reasons, mostly about the environment, but as I stood over the tray of biscuits I made last Sunday afternoon with Eleanor I was struck by something very pleasing.
The pleasures of this simple process are many. There is the pleasure of making something with your own hands, and the companionship of doing it with my oldest daughter (keeping the tension mostly out of my voice when she smooshes rather than rolls the dough into a ball). There is the pleasure of the smell of the baking from the oven, and the great delight of eating a warm biscuit from the cooling tray. But aside from those pleasures there is the great joy I found in the irregular shapes of the biscuits once they had been pressed down by a fork.
Look at them all. Some small, some bigger, some quite round, some lumpy, or split about the edges. It is something I think I noticed for the first time about biscuits. The uniform biscuits we can buy from the shops comes out of vats, and industrial ovens and conveyor belts, but what comes out of the hand reflects the maker’s hand.
It is exactly the same thing about live music. The notes come and go, and having gone will never return again in quite the same way. This is wonderful in a way that electronic music isn’t. I like electronic music, but there is quite a different quality between the drum machine and the drummer.
The story of the biscuits came to me again while I was with my History class this morning. We listened to the second half of I Have A Dream, and then I played them the end of King’s final speech. The girls clapped at the end, and one of them asked me if there was anyone else who could speak like Martin Luther King, and I said that there wasn’t really. She was trying to explain how his speeches moved her, but she didn’t have to because I knew what she meant. I said, “when you listen to him your heart swells and your skin prickles,” and she said, “exactly”. It meant a lot to me, mainly because that was how I felt when I heard his speeches for the first time, and it’s great to find another person who feels the same thing.
There will be other girls, most I suppose, who will not remember Dr. King particularly, or the year they spent doing History in 2012. That’s fine. We are all different. It’s lovely to find kindred spirits, and it’s good fun to bicker with people who you are different from. I feel like school shouldn’t be a place that too much teaches people to fit into a machine. The machinery of institutions is useful but must also be resisted. They are useful because they bind us together in all our differences. They are places where we find kindred spirits, and where we listen to those we disagree with, but who we all share the same experience with. The machine must also be resisted though, because it is the nature of machines to want to turn everyone into machines. Which we are not. We are are mess of different things, made out of the same stuff, but turned into a billion different variations.
The young people I teach are in good heart. They are moved by the passions of youth to do stupid stuff, and want to change the world for the better, and are – mostly – a lot less cynical than their elders. I used to wish that I was still young, but I think that it doesn’t matter so much anymore. I become more of an idealist as I grow older not less, and I increasingly find the machine distasteful, and the measurement of love and compassion with money wrong.
I don’t want to raise my children to enter a race in which the finishing line always moves ahead, out of reach, and is called the fever to accumulate material things. I would like them to find themselves. To find the bits that are split off their edges, the parts that are sweeter in their mix, and the bitter places, and be happy and loved. That’s hard enough. More than hard enough without feeling that you are pitched in a giant battle with others in your society for the best school, and the best job, and the best perk. I suspect that we are either doing this thing called living all together, or we are tearing each other apart.
Which is a lot to think of when you look at a tray of biscuits cooling on the kitchen bench. As for baking biscuits, I heartily recommend it.