So I walk into my local cooperative grocery store (because I’m a snowflake like that), and I see that organic, free-range mangos are on sale. Hallelujah! I love me some mango!
But I’m only hungry enough for one right now, so I look them over very carefully. There are 20 of them on the shelf, all more or less at the same stage and ready to be eaten. Eventually, I pick one —maybe I’m drawn to the particular multichromatic lushness of its skin; maybe intuition tells me that this one had reached the absolute peak of its ripeness just two minutes ago; maybe it’s dumb luck. But when I sit down with my mango in the dining area and carve off a piece…OMFG, this is sooo good. Each bite of the juicy yellow-orange flesh is a burst of concentrated sunshine that makes all my cells rejoice. A truly divine mango-eating experience, it is.
After I’m done and enjoying the afterglow, a young man wearing a fedora comes up to me and says, “You’re a non-mango-eater!”
“Actually, I just ate a mango,” I reply. “Here’s the skin. You should try one, they’re awesome.”
“But you’re a non-mango-eater to the other 19 mangos.”
“Um, noooo. I am a mango-eater. I have Mango in my belly, and the taste of Mango in my mouth, and it is divine. I only needed one mango to get the experience of Mango, so I chose one. I don’t need to eat all 20 of them to know that they taste of Mango, and I’m sure they’re all delicious because they come from the same source. So really, I could have chosen any of them. I have but one mouth and one tummy, however, so I focused my eating pleasure on this one.
“Perhaps I will come back tomorrow and have a different one. Or not. It won’t diminish my singular experience of Mango today if I don’t. I trust that other folks will come and eat the other mangos and have divine Mango experiences of their own. Maybe a bunch of them will converge at this very table and share stories of their eating experiences and their love of Mango. Or not. It won’t diminish my unitive experience of Mango today if they don’t. I’ll just sit here and watch them enjoy their mangos and know that we are sharing the experience of divine Mango, even as we have different tongues and taste buds.
“So, good sir, why are you so invested in the non-eating of mangos that you would focus your attention on the 19 that I didn’t eat instead of the one that I did?”
This is what it sounds like to me as a pantheist and perennialist when someone plays the “but you’re an atheist to all the (other) personal gods” card.