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6. Ask the Expert

Being a novice meditator,
I'm sometimes slow to recognize my teachers.

Yesterday I finished reading a book on Buddhism written by a well-respected professor of religious studies at an Ivy League University. Although it provided me with a great deal of useful information, it did not give me what I needed. This morning I sit down on my meditation cushion, close my eyes and focus on my breathing.

Breathing in, I calm myself,

Breathing out, I smile...

.... Inhabitants of the planet Sans-Citrus felt that something was missing from their lives. They had heard space travelers tell of the planet Earth where trees produced in abundance what was nowhere to be found on Sans-Citrus -- oranges.

So, the Sans-Citrus government decided to send an emissary to the planet Earth to discover what if anything their planet was really missing by not having oranges.

After a long and arduous journey, the Sans-Citrusite emissary arrived on Earth and, looking for a particularly flat landing place for his spaceship, put down in Florida in the United States of America. He left his ship and boldly walked up to a group of human beings that had gathered nearby, and without even bothering to introduce himself, implored:

"Please, can someone tell me about the orange?"

Well, as luck would have it, right there in the group was a world-renowned citrus scholar, who, without hesitation, replied:

"No problem. No problem at all. I can tell you absolutely everything that is known about the orange."

The Sans-Citrusite was of course elated. So hungry was he to hear about the orange, that he could barely keep his eye focused on setting up the equipment that would relay this knowledge back to his home planet, but he knew how important it was, so he calmed himself down, adjusted all the necessary knobs and dials, and then carefully tuned in his own antennae to the sound of the expert's voice.

The expert began:

"The orange is a fruit from the genus Citrus that has been around for about 20 billion years and were originally bitter and inedible. Originating in Southeast Asia, it was brought to the New World by Christopher Columbus, and to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Oranges grow best in warm, wet climates. Brazil is the largest producer, followed by the United States, specifically our own State of Florida, China, Spain, and Mexico. The most popular varieties are navel and Valencia, although it is a matter of some controversy as to which is superior. A medium size orange has approximately 70 calories, and is an excellent source of Vitamin C. The fruit is technically a hesperidium, a kind of berry. A leathery skin, or esocarp, covers an orb of easily separated sections, called carpels, each of which contain seeds and many juice cells. They grow on trees that are evergreen, the leaves are glossy, and the flowers are white and fragrant. Fungal diseases that plague the citrus grower include blue mold, green mold, brown rot, and sour rot. Unless properly stored and handled, oranges are subject to rapid decay. They should therefore be refrigerated to maintain freshness.

What else do you want to know? I can tell you about tree yield or about citrus-based pesticides or household cleaners. How about the latest orange peeling technology under development in the citrus industry? That's really is quite interesting."

The Sans-Citrusite didn't know what to say. He scratched his now rapidly vibrating antennae, looking very puzzled. In the crowd he saw a small child who, while the expert was talking, had eaten one of the oranges from her mother's shopping bag.

"Can you tell me about the orange?" the Sans-Citrusite said to the child.

"Here have one," said the child holding out an orange, "It'll make your tummy smile."