Miracle Fruit

The other day, a plant-whisperer friend, who’s always bringing me cuttings and other goodies, brought me a Miracle Fruit. It was a tiny (about pill-size) bright-red smooth ovoid fruit. Eat this, he told me, and for a little while afterward, anything you drink or eat that ordinarily tastes sour will taste super sweet.

So I gave it a try. The fruit itself (which is mostly taken up by a seed in the middle that you don’t eat) tasted pleasantly sweet.

After ingesting the fruit (felt like popping a mystery adventure pill!), I took a sip of my “morning tonic” (water with a bit of cider-vinegar). Sure enough, my drink, which of course is usually tart, had suddenly been transformed into a super-sweet apple elixir.

Miracle Fruit. It occurred to me that it could have useful application. For example, if a person had to take an extremely unpleasant-tasting medicine, eating a Miracle Fruit immediately beforehand could make the medicine easier to swallow.

But then it occurred to me that Miracle Fruit could have a dangerous side. Things taste sour for a reason. For example, if you drank an entire glass of straight vinegar or concentrated lemon juice because Miracle Fruit made it taste sweet, you could hurt your esophagus or stomach! My advice would be, if you eat a Miracle Fruit, don’t eat or drink anything out of the ordinary for awhile afterward; stick to only foods and drinks you know, in familiar concentrations.

Reflecting upon my Miracle Fruit experience, I was struck by the thought that we are surrounded, metaphorically speaking, by potential “Miracle Fruit” of various kinds in our everyday lives. And they keep us from noticing the aspects of our lives and our society that are deeply sour (or bitter). So we keep enduring those sour or bitter things instead of avoiding or changing them as we would be better off doing.

For example, economic security could be a “Miracle Fruit” obscuring the sour taste of a bad marriage. Or a soul-sucking job.

Our climate-controlled, noise-insulating houses, with their closed doors and windows, can be “Miracle Fruit” dulling our sensitivities to the brutishly noisy, hot environment we have created outdoors. The harsh noise and toxic fumes of the landscaping equipment that scalps the grass and trees; the hot air spewing out the back ends of people’s air-conditioners.

Our cars, traveling bubbles that they are, can be a “Miracle Fruit” that keeps us from experiencing the blistering heat of our excessively paved, deforested world, and realizing we really need to have a lot more trees and other vegetation all around us.

White privilege can be a “Miracle Fruit” rendering us oblivious to the fact that systemic racism harms us all, not only the Black people and other people of color who it harms most.

Blind patriotism, with its feel-good self-righteousness, is a “Miracle Fruit” that numbs us to the horrors we wreak by waging war.

Stock-market gains and a “booming economy” can be a “Miracle Fruit” that erases the sour taste of how those corporations are gaining their prosperity: at the expense of their employees; indigenous peoples’ lands; our rivers and oceans and forests.

Our abundant supply of cable TV, internet, and other entertainment on tap can be a “Miracle Fruit” that dulls our ability to perceive the sourness of living in an HOA neighborhood where any creative urges we might have are quashed by a fussbudget culture that curtails self-expression.

Food or alcohol, indulged in excess, can be a “Miracle Fruit” dulling our spiritual tastebuds to the sense of loss that comes of not challenging ourselves to go make something creative, or go out walking and meet a new person.

I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about indulging in comforts and pleasures; I certainly have my comforts and pleasures. (For example, I love watching a show called Dexter! I watch it with my neighbor, on his wide-screen TV. We get together for an evening of Dexter-binging once every couple of weeks.)

We just can’t allow those little indulgences to become “Miracle Fruit” that dull our ability to fully taste the flavor of our lives. Things that taste sour, taste sour (or bitter) for a reason. By choosing to experience their flavor as is, we are more likely to get motivated to change what needs to be changed, in our lives or in the world. And that, in the long run, is really sweet!

All this aside, eating the Miracle Fruit, and then having my vinegar-water taste sweet, was a wild fun experience! Try it sometime if you get the chance.

What other metaphorical examples of “Miracle Fruit” can you think of, in the world or in your life?

Further Reading:

“The Evolution of Bitter Taste,” by Robert Christopher Bruner on ScholarBlogs. Fun facts on how bitter taste works; how humans evolved bitter-taste receptors.

“Miracle Fruit” entry in Britannica.com