The mind is amazing in its ability to process information and also the speed at which it reaches conclusions. The problem is: such conclusions are often based on judgments or attributions that are inaccurate. We see things only from where we sit, filtered – often unconsciously – through all kinds of biases based on past experiences and adopted beliefs.
This phenomenon of the mind was reinforced during a recent visit to a grocery store in Mexico when I was introduced to a fruit known as Zapote Negro. When this fruit is “ready” to eat it looks like a misshapen, soft, dark green and black mass that has caved in on itself. It’s moist and very fragile to the touch. It looks like something my mind labels as “rotten fruit” – an association that causes repulsion – and the impulse to, well, gag and run away. So, the conversation with my partner, Rose, in the produce aisle goes something like this:
Rose: Have you ever tried zapote negro?
Me: No. What is it?
Rose (pointing): This is zapote negro.
Me (trying to hide my impulse to run): Um, no thanks.
Rose: But have you tried it?
Me (feeling self-satisfied with my level of cultural openness): Honestly, it looks disgusting but I’m willing to try it. Once.
I watch Rose carefully pick through the barrel, selecting the fruit that looks most “damaged” and least “desirable”. I’m thinking she’s helping out the storekeeper so he can throw away those rotten pieces. But she puts them in the bag to purchase!
When we get home, she skillfully removes the skin and mixes the soft fruit pulp with a little orange juice, so it takes on the consistency of a thick, moist brownie mix… or …mud! After she places the bowl and two spoons on the table, my mind wrestles with the contents for what seems like a very long time. Nowhere to run to. Just an enthusiastic, “Tell me how you like it” coming from the kitchen.
As I stare down at that bowl I wonder about other unfamiliar things, experiences, and even people in life I all too quickly label as unattractive, unapproachable, undesirable, or non-useful simply because they are unfamiliar. How many times have I actively rejected or simply walked past those things, experiences, and people never to know whether my judgment was actually correct – and more importantly, never to have received some unexpected gift?
As for zapote negro, it’s not going to dethrone my favorite fruit, but I’d certainly eat it again. The real gift of the “ugly fruit” is a reminder to notice and temporarily suspend my automatic judgments and observe my impulses for what they are – “stories” that may or may not be valid and could be limiting my ability to see and receive the beauty, merits, and talents that I encounter each day. It reminds me of an adage I once saw on a t-shirt: “Don’t believe everything your mind tells you.”
What have you avoided or dismissed, based on an inaccurate bias – only to realize later that you missed out on someone or something “delicious”?
Note: If you are lucky enough to find it in your local specialty grocer, give zapote negro a try by making a basic little “dulce” pudding.