Saturday, August 02, 2014

Small is the new big--How Orange is the New Black tells the truth

After the first episode I watched of Orange is the New Black I dismissed it as soft core lesbian porn (if I had readers, several of them would have just made a note to watch it) and decided it was not for me.  Then I hit a hot day with no one home, no energy to do anything else (and my husband far ahead of me in the series) and I watched a couple of episodes and realized there was more to it (and really almost no porn) than I had initially thought.

I've read a lot of about this popular show and learned about the true story that spawned it, the transexual character, etc but the episode I watched last night--the chickening--awakened me to an important truth that the show illustrates in every moment:  the small is big for all of us.

When Piper (the incarcerated upper middle class Smith grad protagonist of the show) talks to her fiancee and her business partner on the outside, they are constantly trying to get her to pay attention to "the real world" instead of the petty dramas of the prison.  In the Chickening, Piper drops the hallway pay phone while on hold to talk a key buyer into stocking her artisanal soap to follow a chicken she glimpses outside in the prison yard.  For Piper it represents the ultimate in wandering away from the "real world" to the "fish bowl" of the prison.

Yet, the episode begs larger questions.  Who amongst us hasn't been more interested in a petty drama close at hand than our larger good?  And yet who is to say that the discovery of the chicken (and what it says about her "rep" inside) isn't on some level more or as important as whether a department store stocks soaps with jalapeño peppers in them?  Is the world outside really more "real" than the world inside?  And which outside is the most real:  The department store? the conflict in Ukraine or Gaza?  Climate change? the shrinking of the universe?  the idea of parallel universes?

And which inside is the real inside:  the chicken? or Piper's fears of being thought a lunatic for saying she saw one? or some part of Piper perhaps that knows she's okay whether she saw a chicken or sells artisanal soaps on a large scale?

The invitation is to pay attention to the small but look for what is most real and most true.  To stay grounded in spiritual practice to be connected to all things so that at some point the chicken is everything.

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