A first step in developing a theology of onions is to recognize how beautiful they are. When I watched the video above from the Spiritual Literacy DVD series, using the words of Mary Hays Grieco to help me find God in an onion, I saw this clearly. I, too, believe that we can experience the beauty of God in the beauty of the world, onions much included.
At the same time as I saw this video, I received a meal from Blue Apron meal delivery service that included onions to be used in a salad. I watched the videos on dicing onions (shared at bottom of post) and thought to myself: "Well that's interesting, but it's not exactly mystical or spiritual, you can't chop God up with a knife."
My partner, Kathy McDaniel, quickly disabused me of this illusion. Familiar with the alphabet of spiritual literacy offered by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, she pointed out that slicing onions is a spiritual activity, too, otherwise called Hospitality. The very intention to share and the physical act of sharing are as mystical as anything else. In her words: "There's as much spirituality in hospitality as in quiet contemplation, and maybe a lot more."
She was right. No, we do not exactly divide God up with a knife. But, yes, we do share God with others, helping God become many as well as one. Just as our influence in the world, for good and ill, is diversified, such that we ourselves are found in many places; so God's influence in the world, and God's presence through that influence, is diversified. God wants to be many as well as one, and we can help God in this way. Our very intention to share love is one way that God is in the world. Dice away. God is not simply in the Beauty but also in the Hospitality.
And in the tears, too. When you chop up onions you cry. There are good scientific reasons for this. Apparently the gas from the onion enters the eye and mixes with the natural water in the eye to form sulfuric acid. The tears are meant to clean our eyes. Maybe there's some spirituality in the tears, too, or at least in the idea of being cleaned out of our illusions, so that we can see more clearly.
What do we see? Well, it all depends. We can see a world needful of our hospitality; we see the beauty of the onion; we can see our own beauty, too, not only in moments of happiness but in tearful moments as well. Dice and cry, dice and cry. Part of a theology of onions may well lie in a spirituality in what the Brussat's call You: the affirmation of yourself as a subject worthy of tears and laughter, along with everyone else, in a universe that is itself multi-layered, like an onion.
One last thing. I have said that God wants to be sliced, because God wants to be shared with the world. But I’d like to suggest that God may be sliced even apart from God’s wanting to be sliced. It is the world itself, hospitable or otherwise, that tears up God, because God is always affected by the world.
I know this is blasphemous. I know that, from the perspective of so many monotheists — Jewish, Christian and Muslim — it is important to say that, one way or another, God is self-sufficient and self-contained: a One who may become many, but who could also remain simply One.
Still, I wonder. For us process thinkers there is a sense in which God is involuntarily sliced by the whole world, and cannot help but be sliced by the world, because God is love and love is empathy. Whitehead speaks of this empathic side of God as God’s vulnerability, God’s suffering. When we slice each other up, when we harm each other and ourselves, God, too, is affected by our harm. There are tears, even in God.
I am speaking of tears more literally than you might imagine. After all, from a process perspective, God experiences the world through empathy, in such a way that the world itself affects God and helps bring God into existence. Let tears be a name for God's physical feelings of the universe and the emotions, the subjective forms, that clothe God’s feeling. So, no, maybe God cannot be sliced like an onion. But surely God knows what it is like to be torn apart, to tear up, in the face of worldly pain and the harm we do to one another. Only then can God become, in God's own way, a fellow sufferer who understands. Only then can God share in our humanity. Only then can God be God.