Have you ever heard of the Cavendish banana? If not, it’s because they’re the only type sold so we just call them…bananas. The vast majority of internationally traded bananas are genetic clones. The yellow bananas you can buy at the Safeway on Pearl Street and the ones in the banana cream pie at the HEB in Abilene and the one Carol in Rhode Island bought for her lunch at an Aldi are genetically EXACTLY the same banana. You might spend a second comparing prices on honey crisps or pink ladies, but bananas are just bananas.
Because they’re essentially the only banana sold and grown, they’re also in danger of being completely wiped out. Up until the ‘50’s we used to all eat a different banana: the Gros Michel, a.k.a “Big Mike”. A fungus wiped out all the Big Mikes so we moved on to the Cavendish, but now that fungus is back and the Cavendishes are in danger.
Isn’t that wild? I’m deeply engrossed in the downfall of Big Mike, the current Cavendish reign, and the fungus supervillain that threatens all banana-kind.
When I shared this wondrous knowledge with my dad today his eyes glazed over and he wandered away. But I don’t care because it’s fun and I’m right! Hank Green told me all about it on TikTok and then I did a bunch of googling and now I know this weird thing I can share with people right about the time I’m noticing they’re starting to think I have a life.
I LOVE knowing things. I love learning. I’m itching to get back to my internet deep-dive because “Cavendish” is such a British aristocratic name for a tropical plant that I NEED to know how that happened. My money is on colonialism.
But if I went down that path here, we start to get away from goofy banana facts to the impacts of colonization on modern food supply, the environment, indigenous cultures, local economies, and political structures, etc., and so on, and suddenly this conversation has the potential to get dicey.
I can imagine an internet comment thread that devolves into, “So you want to cancel bananas now?” or, “Are you saying bananas are racist?”
And if that were to happen, the conversation is not really about bananas anymore.
Whenever we are presented with new information our brains work to fit that into our existing knowledge. Over our lives, we have built networks and foundations holding up everything we know. My understanding of bananas is built on all kinds of prior knowledge (correct or not). What are fruits? Where do they come from? How do we use them? And if a piece of information arises that challenges my current banana framework, I have to decide to accept it or reject it. For example, all fruit has internal seeds. Bananas don’t seem to have internal seeds. Are bananas still a fruit?
If I choose to believe that because I cannot see the seeds inside my Cavendish banana that they are not actually a fruit, that’s weird and incorrect but not harmful. Who has time (besides me and Hank Green) to look that deeply into bananas? And is anyone going to argue about this at Thanksgiving? Again, weird, but I don’t know your family.
But what about the removal of Confederate statues? Reparations? Transgender youth in sports? Voting rights in Georgia? Unaccompanied minors at the border?
I’m just thinking about hypothetical conversations and I’m ready to fight someone.
My beliefs, stances, opinions on all of those issues are built on the knowledge and experiences of my life up to this point. What’s already in my brain about the confederacy? The constitution? The bible? Gender? Human rights? Jesus? With that, I have to hold on to the fact that there are holes in my knowledge and many of the structures holding up what I think I know may be incorrect.
The world is complicated. People are complicated. The Bible is complicated. The more you lean into learning about any of those things, the more complex they become.
Brené Brown has said, “I’m not here to be right, I’m here to get it right.” She says, “When I find myself in tough conversations, when I am being held accountable, when I am called to unlearn, relearn, or just learn -- This is my mantra...It’s been a game-changer. Less armor. More learning.”
Ephesians 4:1-6 “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
You may be right in what you believe, but no one is without a blind spot. No one is without a prejudice. Is your “rightness” also your armor? Does your “rightness” seek to destroy ideas or to destroy people? Does your “rightness” shield you from entering tough conversations? Accepting accountability? Do you ride high on a “gotcha” moment?
When we enter contentious conversations, it is a difficult thing to hold getting it right above being right. How often is your intent to leave a conversation with someone who is at odds with your beliefs with a deeper understanding of the issue AND that person? How often is your intent that the other person has a deeper, “more correct,” understanding of you and your beliefs? Be honest.
But what if we entered conversations with all humility and gentleness? What if we sought to change the world through humility and gentleness?
I don’t know what scaffolding is holding up your knowledge and beliefs, but I know it is unpleasant when someone comes after mine with a sledgehammer. And, in the end, I’m the only person that can dismantle my own misunderstanding.
It often starts for me when someone invites me into their own wondering. Years ago I heard Lisa Sharon Harper talk through her own exploration of what the path to salvation taught to her in her 80’s evangelical megachurch youth group would have sounded like to her great, great, great grandmother enslaved on a plantation in the south. She wondered if the packaging of the gospel she received as life-giving hope would sound as hopeful? How does, “you are a slave to your sin,” ring to a person stolen, trafficked, bloodied, and treated like livestock?
So I also began to wonder. What does it mean to bring “hope to the hopeless”? I started to think about singing “Break Every Chain” beyond what that meant to me and the chains of my own sin, my own making, and how proclaiming the power in the name of Jesus to break every chain might be more nuanced for Harper and her ancestors.
And I invite you to wonder, too.
I have thoughts and opinions based on reading and scripture and conversations with people whose heritage more closely aligns with Harper’s than my own, but I’m going to keep them to myself. They’re still intermingled with my own experiences and prior learning. And this is your turn, your invitation, to take or leave as you will.
But if you choose to wonder and explore, I would LOVE to hear about that process. OR we can chat bananas. Literally nobody wants to chat bananas with me.