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Hart and Soul

Tuesday, 4 October 2022  | Bruce Wearne

I got distracted. While compiling my latest blog, I had a break for lunch with a hearty soup from a ‘Hart and Soul’ packet of Curried Sweet Potato Soup with ‘No nasties’. Now this same packet tells me that the ‘Proudly Australian Owned’ company has brought me this soup that has been ‘Made in Thailand’ in a packet that should be disposed in the regular rubbish, since it is not recyclable ... And then I looked up Thailand, with its Government still under the military thumb to some degree, and wondered if this soup might be available to those who put the packet together in some soup-making factory in Thailand; it is certainly a tasty recipe.

So then, my lunch became a moment of ‘ethical reflection’, and I went exploring and noted reports of Thailand's poverty as well as its ongoing reputation for notoriety in other respects. Could my concern for ‘no nasties’ in my lunch serve as a cover for other matters that are staying below the radar? This is a worry.

Certainly, if my willingness to buy a hearty lunch actually helps to give people honest work in the region, shouldn't I be glad to imbibe? Of course. ‘Hart and Soul’ is obviously a ‘dot com’ enterprise - but its website doesn't tell me anything about its history nor even give any clear indication of its true ‘home’, although the packet tells me it has an office in Chadstone, Victoria. Its anonymity therefore is cause for a slight digestive twinge: what have I enjoyed so sweet to my taste and at what expense? I guess it is a transnational company with many local national offices. Its site doesn't tell me much about its ‘story’, which is reduced to its account of whatever tasty dishes the world-wide travelling purveyors of ’Hart and Soul’ may discover in their travels to experience the ‘real flavours’ of the world. For ‘Hart and Soul’, the world is a marketplace of recipes for healthy meals.

Thailand has a population of almost 70 million and I should be paying more attention to this region, which is also my region. (Another neighbour, Cambodia has 17 million people.) So my lunch, originating in Thailand, gives me evidence of how my life and livelihood is already bound up with the region in which I live. Indeed, the entire globe is related in all kinds of ways to the food we eat and enjoy. We live within the presupposition of a livelihood given to us within which we can even experience the globalisation of our tastes and, hopefully, the enhanced livelihoods of our neighbours.

But we are also globalised in our fears, even our phobias. And to think in these as-wide-as-creation terms can get complex and we can get ourselves into troubles, into emotional fixes, like the one I am in now. Yet it is that complexity that we should face in our praying and not presume we can escape the world and its historical complexities in which we live by retreating into our prayers and meditations. We pray about our world because it is in this world that we are called to live and face what goes on. And there is the looming potential of world-wide catastrophe, as threats of the use of nuclear weapons distract us from the evident environmental impact of a saturated materialist wealth, while so many vulnerable people are fleeing oppression, on the brink of starvation, part of the human trafficking trade, subject to crooks or terrorist kidnappers.

And so, just as Curried Sweet Potato Soup, with its ‘no nasties’ brought to us by ‘Hart and Soul’, can help us, as we are bodily nourished, to sense our inextricably intertwined lives on this planet, so also we are tasked in our prayers to reckon with who we are, the livelihood we share with our neighbours and how it is we get our food, even our ‘no nasties’ food, in relation to their livelihoods. When the Lord answers our daily prayer for 'this day's bread', are we going to pray this prayer for those who do not have enough to eat and those who have to eat from rewards gained under oppression?


Bruce Wearne is a former university sociology lecturer who lives in Point Lonsdale, Victoria. He now spends his time exploring the inextricable interweaving of life, whether in Christian Aid and Development projects, walking the coast, continuing research in the foundations of 20th century sociological theory or supporting a local aged care community.


Image credit

Cook in Bangkok, Thailand. Photo by Gareth Harrison on Unsplash.

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