*Over the past weekend, peanut butter pies flooded the blogosphere. They were all for Mikey, the husband of blogger Jennifer Perillo. He passed away suddenly last Sunday evening, and she, with all the strength that could be mustered, asked bloggers to make a creamy peanut butter pie - Mikey's favorite - to honor and remember him. And bloggers did. Hundreds of them made peanut butter pie to in part, mourn a death, but mostly, to celebrate a life and a love.
*A peanut butter pie. It's nothing fancy or over-the-top, but it's not plain either. It's special, it's sweet, and it's comforting. Most of all, it's symbolic, and when objects defy their own physicality or their most basic, literal purpose by taking on something greater - an emotion, a memory, or an association - they become more powerful than ever. In fact, we all possess these objects - the trinkets that we keep because they seem to be the vessels for particular memories; we all possess these songs that are the vestiges of a person come and gone in our lives; we all know how the taste and smell of a certain food brings us back to the highest ecstasy or the lowest misery, a feeling that seems to exist outside of ourselves in a magical synthesis of ingredients. We know that objects and songs and books and clothes and food and sounds can be meaningless to everyone except ourselves, the possessors and builders of memories that stream out of moments and relationships and broken hearts. How can such trivial things shake us so? Because they are not so trivial at all.
*And when people see how a peanut butter pie can so encompassing as to hold both the grief and treasure of a family, they partake in it. Because they know how a little can mean so much. They have their own cookies that bring back a grandma's sweet scent, their own pasta dishes they've shared with loved ones, their own breakfasts that their fathers made every single Sunday morning without fail. Making peanut butter pie is an acknowledgment of all these things; even if they cannot ever fully grasp the interpersonal meaning of Jennie and Mikey's peanut butter pie, the recognition of peanut butter pie as so significant and loving and hurting is enough that they would make it, eat it, and share a slice of the same love and pain.
*That empathy, love, support, and community can exist virtually is beautiful and surprising. It makes me optimistic. It fights back against the tragedies of an increasingly technological and wired world - the exploitation, the disconnection, the impersonal nature of a machine and device-based network. Hundreds of people making peanut butter pie in remembrance of a man whom they had never met means that people care, that people are good, that perhaps, in the wake of globalization and this ubiquitous connectedness, that there will be more opportunities to care and more people to care about. Maybe so many virtual encounters means that we will open up ourselves to more love and more relationships. Maybe.
*I guess it makes sense though, that if part of our lives exist online, we would want that part of our life to be full of the same things that make our non-virtual lives fulfilling - the things that are essential to our happiness: relationships, conversations, and love. Those are the things that stick with us through the thick and the thin, through progress and the changing of civilization. I'm glad so many people this weekend made and ate peanut butter pie because they knew that these things matter - people matter.