King: Ordinary oatmeal

Mar 4, 2019 by

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When I was a child I liked cooked oatmeal. When I grew up, to echo the Apostle Paul, I put away childish things. Every now and then my spouse, Joan, an oatmeal fan, would urge me to consider the possibility that Paul wasn’t speaking in 1 Corinthians 13 of putting away oatmeal. I resisted.

Michael A. King


Then the cholesterol test. Not terrible, but high-ish. Still, the test unsettled me.

I watched Joan cook oatmeal. Hmm. Worth trying? Even as a grownup, should I take the advice we give children, try it you’ll like it? Yes.

Wow. Steel-cut oatmeal. With raisins. Some brown sugar. Milk. Wow. I had let glitz and glamor and shiny-object foods overwhelm a humble wonder. Now I find it hard to get through the night while awaiting another oatmeal breakfast.

Then next I was going to criticize the focus on beautiful in everything Instagram offers. Along with millions of us, I’ve been unsettled by ways social media appears to be distorting our lives. I’ve barely explored Instagram, but I do know you don’t post photos to Instagram without running into filter options that allow automatically making a picture look better than it is. This struck me as a metaphor for how our sensation-loving culture pursues image over reality.

And oatmeal seemed to me to symbolize the antidote. You can’t get much more basic than oatmeal. It is what it is: a beige-ish concoction whose texture vaguely reminds me of old paint going lumpy. We need to live more beige-ish, lumpy lives of not chasing the latest-latest shiny-shiny. This is the Jesus way.

But then I used what was once the latest shiny but now feels more like a water-supply company with more worldwide networked power for good or ill: Google.

To make sure Google agreed with my view of oatmeal’s humble role, I looked up “oatmeal on Instagram.” The first articles that came up had titles like these: “Oatmeal has so much Instagram clout right now” and  “Sorry, cereal! Oatmeal is the Instagram-worthy breakfast of choice right now.”

I was stunned. When I started this column, I thought I was a pioneer, whose idea of “oatmeal as a prism for exploring society” might have been a stroke of inspiration from above. I thought oatmeal would be of no interest to the way-cool people, like the ones I read about this morning, who can make tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars by being Instagram “influencers” paid to oh-so-authentically feature products we all ignore if pushed on us through oh-so-inauthentic ads.

Yet instead of being countercultural, instead of being faithful to Jesus against seductions of the day, I am just one more schlub who missed the tiny side trail of Jesus’ narrow way and, with the zillions of others, am on the broad path that leads to destruction.

Actually I’ve seen no evidence that oatmeal leads to destruction. Except if you eat too much and put on it precisely what I like to put it on it. Oatmeal really is good for you. It really does help lower cholesterol.

Now what? The only thing I know to do is let oatmeal lead the way. I am as ordinary as I thought oatmeal was. Sometimes even the broad way has its merits. And maybe it’s OK for the beige-ish, lumpy things to have their occasional day.

Michael A. King is publisher of Cascadia Publishing House and blogs at Kings­view & Co.,

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