This is possibly my favorite quote of all time. It comes from Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. The characters and story gripped me and lit my mind on fire when I first read them as an adolescent, and I come back to them now as I am studying the principles of developing enlightened mind. I sometimes think of the books as my introduction to Buddhist philosophy, though I couldn’t have named it that at the time and who can say where Pullman’s own inspiration came from. Nevertheless, the seamless mingling in that universe of science and religion, desire and altruism, cause and effect, formed a literary introduction to the philosophical tenets of interdependence and karma.
Pullman’s words remind me of the necessity to work with ourselves, our lives, and our situation here and now. Enlightened mind develops beginning with our mind as it is in this moment, each moment. We build our own heaven around us as we improve our understanding and our habits. The angels, the citizens of our divine republic, are those around us, who become seraphic as we see them clearly. Pullman’s heaven is without a god, as is the heaven of wisdom in this world, for we are still subject to one another.
As the last week of retreat brings this intense period of study to a close, I anticipate applying philosophy to active life, and wondering how I’ll integrate these new ideas over the months and years to come. Having a philosophic basis creates a context in which to frame situations, but living out the day-to-day business of being a person in the world is what fills in the picture and allows us to understand the truth or error of philosophy.
In short, back to business and we’ll see what comes up. In the meantime, cake as ever to keep us chipper as we toil our days away. This time it’s a moist chocolate olive cake with a tangy swirl of cranberry preserves. Easy, classy, quick to please. It’s that kind of Sunday.
Chocolate Olive Cake with Cranberry Preserves
For the cake:
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (120 grams) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
½ teaspoon (3 mL) salt
½ cup (120 mL) olive oil
½ cup (120 mL) milk
1 cup (240 mL) plain yogurt
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 mL) honey
For the cranberry preserves:
¾ cup sweetened dried cranberries
¾ cup water
1 tsp orange zest
Preheat oven to 325˚ F (170˚ C). Grease a full-sized loaf pan.
In a small saucepan, bring cranberries, water and orange zest to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to infuse fifteen minutes. Blend until liquid and cranberries are fully combined. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, oil, milk, yogurt, sugar, and honey. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour into loaf pan. Dollop cranberry preserves on top and swirl gently into batter in one or two strokes with a spoon.
Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (no chocolate batter, maybe a little cranberry preserves). Allow to cool 20 to 30 minutes before serving.