Even people who don't believe in miracles are substantiating the extraordinary nature of the "miracle fruit." This small red berry has an astonishing influence on a person's taste buds. After eating one small berry, one can ingest sour foods such as vinegar and pickles and their taste buds will render them sweet for somewhere between a half an hour and two hours. Patrick Farrel and Kassie Bracken describe in their May 2008 NY Times article the cultish following that the miracle fruit is attaining. "Taste tripping parties" have become de rigueur among culinary aficionados wishing to rewire their gastronomic experience, even if only a temporary soiree.
This "Willy Wonka-ish" sweetener is actually a berry plant native to West Africa which has a string of carbohydrates chains called miraculin which bind to the tongue and sweeten everything acidic that comes after it. Anyone care for a cup of lemon juice? A shot of vodka? A tablespoon of mustard?
The miracle fruit is the panacea for bitterness. It's no wonder people are shelling out hefty entrance fees to access these berries, not to mention the two dollars or so paid for each tiny fruit.
But there's more to learn from the miracle fruit than how to enjoy your tequila. For every physical thing that has been created in this world has a spiritual counterpart, the miracle fruit proving no exception.
My friend Sarah has a severely disabled child who is often hospitalized in the pediatric intensive care unit. When I speak with her, she is perennially positive. While in the hospital, she focuses on how others are learning from her son.
Sarah takes a spiritual dose of miracle fruit before each of her son's hospitalizations.
"Someone learned to be more sensitive towards the needs of handicapped children today," she tells me. Or, "The top doctor finally understands that my child can communicate in his own way. He sees that my son's life has value." She looks for these small sweet flavors instead of allowing the insidiousness of bitterness to fan the flames of her life into an outright conflagration.
Sarah clearly takes a spiritual dose of miracle fruit before each of her son's hospitalizations. She takes the lemons that seem to be perpetually falling from her tree, and she makes them into lemonade.
It's not easy. The effects of the miracle fruit only last for a limited period of time. It's a fruit that needs to be constantly harvested.
But people are doing it.
Take Julie, whose husband had a stroke.
"I've learned to appreciate him even more," she tells me. "I'm so lucky to have had his love my entire life, and now I am given the opportunity to love him back unconditionally. It has helped me to become someone that I never knew I could be."
And what of the scores of people who have established charities and fundraisers for the very causes that have brought them loss? I am astounded by them.
Miracle fruit, blossoming all around us.
Interestingly, the Synsepalum dulcificum, otherwise known as the miracle fruit, is rather unimpressive in its own consumption. It is a tough and rather mild berry which only sweetens the palette when challenged with pungent foods.
So too its spiritual cohort.
The soldier who throws himself on the grenade to save his comrades is clearly someone who has fleshed out his internal values and built himself up for selflessness. But to a bystander before this heroic act, the soldier may appear quite ordinary. Only after its consumption does the miracle fruit achieve its desired potency. Only when faced with acrimonious circumstances can the spiritual miracle fruit assert its flavor. But the fruit is planted long before.
Tasters at "taste tripping parties" will ingest all sorts of foods that they would ordinarily keep a healthy distance from. Tabasco sauce and red hot chili peppers are all fair game for the tongue anaesthetized by the miracle fruit.
By reinforcing our belief that everything happens for a specific purpose, we might be better equipped to deal with adversity when it hits.
We can reach similar levels of bravado with the spiritual miracle fruit, altering our perceptions of even the thorniest circumstances.
By fortifying our emotional reserves before the bitterness hits, perhaps we can interpret an insult we receive from a relative as ‘someone was having a bad day' instead of it being the shot heard round the world and the beginning of an eternal family feud.
By reinforcing our belief that everything happens for a specific purpose, we might be better equipped to deal with adversity when it hits. Perhaps we might even be able to disguise the tanginess of tribulation with the saccharine of new things learned, love, and internal growth.
And by buttressing our faith in God perhaps we will really be able to lean on Him to sweeten the bitter moments of our lives.
The miracle fruit is more than just a berry in West Africa. It's waiting to be picked right in our own backyards.