See that jar on the left? That’s the first Love Jar, from January 1, 2017. I took the photo above today. I understand if you’re skeptical. I would be too. But this is indeed the same jar, same rice with which my granddaughter and I began our first water and rice experiment two years ago today. I can’t explain the rice looking so good. I can tell you, it doesn’t smell as good as it looks. Not as bad as the other two, which just about made me faint, but bad enough.
Here’s a photo of the first three jars on Day 30 of that January 2017 experiment. On the left, the Love Jar, the one we’d given gratitude to each day of that month. In the middle, the “You idiot” jar, and on the right, the jar we ignored.
Day 30 of Experiment #1, “Love Jar” on the left
Back in 2017, you may recall, my then-third-grade grandchild and I did three experiments together. Well, mostly I did them because she was in school five days a week, but whenever she could make it over here, she checked in on the experiments. Neither Experiment 2 nor Experiment 3 replicated the results we got in January.
Here’s Experiment #2, where we/I gave gratitude to each of the same three jars, unchanged from the January experiment, through the month of February. By the end of the month, they weren’t much worse for the wear, but weren’t much better either. The Love Jar still had fairly clear and clean water and no mold.
Experiment #2, February 27, 2017, the Love Jar on the left
For Experiment #3, we kept the Love Jar and gave gratitude to it and to each of the three new jars. The Love Jar remained much the same. The three other jars smelled bad; a scum formed on top, but nothing like the rot of the last two jars in January and February. We took hope and designed a fourth experiment.
Here’s what happened.
Experiment #4 Steps and Plan
On May first 2017, while my wee grandson napped, I sterilized three jars and carefully measured out an equal amount of uncooked rice grains and water into each jar. For accuracy, I used my Polder digital scale and measured in grams.
That nap I mentioned is important here because it explains why I didn’t get a photo of the four jars together on their shelf once I filled the three new jars. I managed to get a photo of the three together, but the babe woke up before I could get a photo of them all with the Love Jar on the shelf where they would live for the next thirty days.
In the following few days, I kept forgetting, and then, well, you’ll see what happened.
The plan: With one exception, we planned to follow the same protocol with these three jars as in the experiment begun on New Years Day, 2017. Each day for thirty days we, or more often I, would greet the first jar with gratitude in our hearts and the words “thank you,” hands folded in the Namaste gesture. Turning my attention to the second jar, I would snarl “You idiot!” With not so much as a sideways glance, I would ignore the third jar entirely.
The exception to the January experiment: I would place these three jars next to the still intact Love Jar from Experiment #1. Because it had survived all three previous experiments, showing little sign of rot or decay, I was curious to see how it would do this fourth time around.
Each day for about a week, as planned, I greeted the Love Jar and the first new jar to its right with the words “thank you” and a little Namaste bow. Turning to the second new jar, I growled “You idiot!” Careful not to look at the third new jar, I walked away, purposely thinking about the paint on the wall, the overflowing rag hamper, what’s next in the kitchen, anything but that last jar.
Within days the three new jars of rice and water showed signs of deteriorating—all three of them. By the end of the first week, the rice and water in those three jars fermented and bubbled with foul-smelling gases. Disappointed? You bet.
It was a busy month. For a while, I continued speaking to the Love Jar and the two of the three new jars as planned, but I failed to take any photographs. By mid-month, sure I had somehow contaminated the jars or their lids, I abandoned the experiment. I would write it up and try again in June.
But I didn’t.
Months passed. A full year. Each time I took out the garbage, I passed the jars on their shelf. Amazingly, the Love Jar remained much the same. The other three jars fermented and rotted. I took this photo in July 2018, the first I’d taken since setting the jars out on the shelf.
Why did all three jars rot this time, despite giving gratitude to the first one? What was different? Could it be my state of mind?
Fear, depression and utter disbelief
By late May 2017, watching Trump and the Republican Party attack and tear down nearly every good thing we had built in this country in the last 200 years, I was angry. He continued to hold campaign rallies as though still running for office, attacking Hillary Clinton and leading chants of “Lock her up,” as though he must still contend with her campaign ghost, which well he may, since the country had voted in favor of her by more than three million votes.
Similarly, he attacked his predecessor, Barack Obama, and numerous others, while seemingly encouraging his followers to violence. All of these he does to this day, while damning our country’s long-time allies and friends and groveling before a murderous tyrant, the head of our long-time enemy, Russia, which we now know helped him win the electoral votes needed to gain the presidency over the wishes of the majority of our people.
I was angry. I was angry every day. Each night I struggled to send prayers of love to this man and to other members of his party, all of whom seemed bent on destroying the very freedoms we as a nation, strove so long and so imperfectly to embody.
With every revelation of yet another executive order destroying our magnificent parks–wonders we will never see again once lost–my heart pounded with fear and, yes, loathing.
Every racist remark he made, every new attack on our Constitution and our liberties tore at my being. I feared for my family, for my children, for my own safety.
Emboldened, his followers, worked into a froth of jealousy, hatred and glee, egged on at his rallies to express their pent-up racism, so long unacceptable in “polite” company, mounted demonstrations of white power and privilege across the land. White people hurled harmful threats and vicious words at people of color, women wearing headscarves, men in turbans. Mosques and synagogues alike suffered violent attacks. White men with automatic guns killed reporters and black people and Jews because they were reporters, black people and Jews.
Armed with shields and weapons, planning violence against any who stood in protest against them, white nationalists rallied violently against peaceful demonstrators, injuring dozens, in multiple cities, killing one.
Congress, meanwhile, gleefully accepted every inchoate candidate the president slung at them to “head” the agencies designed to protect the American people. The purpose of these men, and the occasional woman, often stated outright: To destroy the agency they headed. They fired experts in their fields, threw out science–literally decreed that the word “science” could no longer be used in such scientific institutions as the Centers for Disease Control–and dismantled institutions charged with protecting our water, our food, the air we breathe.
The worst, the very worst: With only a tiny sliver of a window left to mitigate–not to halt, merely to mitigate–the multiple disasters awaiting our grandchildren in thirty or forty years as global warming makes human life on this planet ever more perilous, the president refused even to discuss climate change.
Daily, I struggled with a depression I did not know how to turn off, except to get up, get going, and take what tiny, seemingly insignificant actions I could.
Love saves me, if not the rice
Were it not for the love with which I am so richly blessed, and the joy of caring for my wee grandson during much of that time, my heart might have become as ugly and foul as the mess in these three jars.
Indeed, I see the failure of this fourth experiment as a metaphor for the failure of my ability to believe in the power of love and good to overcome the evil I see in the world every day.
Here you see the jars as they are today, January 1, 2019, twenty months after setting the three jars on the right out, and a full two years since setting out the Love Jar, on the left, in that first long ago experiment. They all stink. The three on the right gaggingly so.
Yet. That jar. The one on the left. The jar that survived relatively unspoiled and intact since January 1, 2017, that jar sparks hope. For there it sat, week after week, month after month, for two full years, its grains of rice intact while its sister jars reeked of putrefaction.
Hope in a jar
That jar, it beckons. Mute testimony to something, something different. And the only difference is that I spoke two words of gratitude to it with a loving heart for thirty days in January 2017, before I was so filled with hopelessness, bile and rage that words of gratitude were not enough. It seems a miracle. So yes, I will try again. I will continue to pray for love in my heart. I will pray that love conquer the rage. I will pray for wisdom to know how to use my anger to propel me to work for and believe in goodness in the world and in the hearts of men and women, all men and women, no matter how foul their deeds.
For we are all born of water, are we not?