- illustration by Alexandra Bildsoe
Every spoon starts out completely flat. Couldn't hold so much as a peanut if they tried. This is the beginning of their dutiful lives, before they have been taught to hold things.
Teaching spoons isn't as easy as one might think. It takes years of schooling and hard training to get the young spoons to hold dry goods and room-temperature liquids, years more to hold hot liquids. The training develops physical as well as psychological attributes that will prepare them for a life of scooping, stirring, measuring, transporting, and generally containing (in an orderly manner) any substance they come in contact with. After 10, sometimes 11 years (for the resistant ones), the spoons leave training and go out into the world as our most beloved and universal tool.
Let's start at the beginning, though, when spoons are born. They are not sexually reproducing creatures such as ourselves, rather, they come into being spontaneously and are therefore part of a group called spontaneums (other things in the spontaneum group are shoe horns, bells, and certain types of hubcaps, for example). Instead of being born from another spoon, they are "released" into existence in a faraway place and travel here as flat beings. A mysterious god known as HOAT, or Holder Of All Things, cuts them out of a ball of metal that has a surface area larger than our sun. Imagine a gigantic planet that is made entirely of smooth metal and, instead of an interior made of rock and molten plasma like our Earth, it is hollow and home to the force that gives all spoons life; HOAT. While it is unclear exactly what HOAT is or how they got there, one thing is for sure; they must be extremely strong to be able to propel bits of metal across galaxies.
Among many of the theories surrounding HOAT's existence, there are a couple major and widely held beliefs. Some spoons believe that HOAT is a giant beast who was entrapped in the metal planet as punishment for attempting to hold the entire universe throughout all spacetime. HOAT thought that not only would this be a tremendous accomplishment for a god, but also that holding the universe might help living creatures out on all inhabited planets (who doesn't want to be held?). The other gods were threatened, thinking that HOAT wanted to control all of existence. HOAT tried to explain that they just wanted to be a container for all existence, but no one believed them, so the other gods plotted to catch and imprison them to stop HOAT's plans. HOAT was captured inside the metal planet and realized that they might be stuck in there forever. HOAT decided to send tiny messengers to any planet that would accept them as carriers of HOAT's devotion to holding. HOAT began ceaselessly cutting out spoon-shaped pieces of metal from the shell of the metal planet and propelled them out into space on soundwaves from their melodic voice. This all happened tens of thousands of years ago, when humans on earth were just beginning to include spoon-like tools in their daily lives. The first flat spoons fell to our planet and, as soon as they saw the need for handheld holding devices, they taught themselves how to hold all the things humans needed. These were the days before the rigorous spoon training, of course, so their forms were rougher. Humans took to them right away.
Spoons are not always called spoons. From the time they are released into existence until the moment they meet the spoon elders for the first time at the training center, they are known as nys (pronounced neese, like the city in France) which stands for "not yet spoons." The singular of nys is ny (pronounced nye, rhyming with eye). Nys are completely flat and rough with few distinguishing qualities among them except for their size, which varies slightly. As they approach the Earth's outer atmosphere, they are attracted to the location of the spoon institute via a giant magnet which has been placed there for this very reason. Nearly all nys make it to their special destination and the few that don't... well, we won't dwell on that too much. Needless to say, they never end up holding things.
The nys crash land onto a field the size of a small town. In the field, known as the pasture, the softest grass grows for them to land on (the magnet is under this) and the newly fallen nys are gathered by shepherd spoons whose only job is to find new nys and usher them into their lives. Shepherd spoons are always the largest of the spoon family (most often industrial-sized ladles) so that they are able to handle the nys that arrive. Each shepherd has a large pack filled with cloth napkins which are wrapped around each ny as they are found to offer comfort and to get them used to napkins. Once brought back to the training center the nys are greeted by the elder spoons who created the school over 10,000 years ago (metal spoons can last a very very long time if they are well taken care of). Upon this greeting, the nys become known as spoonlettes. Alas, their life begins.
The first year of training is devoted entirely to the familiarization with earth, humans, and the role that they have in it. The spoonlettes are taught what it means to be a vessel and why humans need them so deeply. One of the first images they see of humanity is a film of a mother human feeding her baby mashed bananas with a little spoon. They also hear baby food spoons talk about their experience nourishing baby humans. This is always a very exciting time for teachers and students alike because the spoonlettes are, for the first time, beginning to understand their role in society.
Many spoonlettes have a moment, like a spiritual revelation, when they all at once understand their role. They understand it in their bodies. It may be during class or while they are studying or even during free time. Whenever it may be, it can be exciting to witness. The spoonlette will become completely still for a few minutes and then POP...their first physical attribute will appear. Attributes such as tapered handles, a polished or brushed surface, detailing at the end of the handle, etc., usually develop slowly over time as the spoonlettes are schooled. The one exception is the initial attribute, which for some spoonlettes can appear in an instant. This is called being decorated. Getting decorated is very desirable and can be a point of envy among the young spoonlettes. However, they have no control over whether it happens to them or not, as their teachers remind them, and it has no reflection on their effectiveness as a future spoon.
One very important part of the institute and the spoonlettes' education is The Library of Concave Importance. This facility houses the Register of Holdables, an exhaustive list of all the things spoons have held since the beginning of recorded history. The Register is constantly growing as new substances are being held every day around the world. One month of studies per year takes place within The Library of Concave Importance. Each spoonlette is expected to yearly select a small portion of the Register to memorize and research; they must understand what each substance is and why it is important to humans. To give you an idea what this list might be like, here are a few possible entries: lukewarm porridge with whole milk/honey/almonds, boiling pasta water with generous salt and one bowtie pasta, granulated sugar, cold tap water from Ballard Creek subwatershed/Sugar Creek watershed/South Skunk subbasin/Upper Mississippi-Skunk-Wapsipinicom basin/Upper Mississippi-Iowa-Skunk-Wapsipinicom subregion/Upper Mississippi region, human urine, hot okra soup with locust beans/crawfish/prawns, birdseed mix with sorghum/cracked corn/millet/safflower seed, household bleach concentrate, hot undercooked jasmine rice, one chicken egg in its shell, hydrogen peroxide, hot black bean foam, cool hazelnut crème brulee, peat moss, warm Café Bustelo coffee with powdered milk and sugar, goat broth, teff flour, one salted black licorice hard candy, and nabak kimchi stock with a clump of mold. The spoonlette's list is about three times this length.
All parts of the spoonlette's training are of equal importance, but there is an order to how skills are introduced and cultivated. The first couple of years are primarily focused on learning their role in society and understanding humans. This creates a context for the subsequent training and fosters a passion to engage in their education. Then, in the third year, a physical regime is added in to help them gain flexibility in their body so they can go on to be permanently formed. The mental and spiritual elements of holding are introduced in the fourth year and gradually take up the entirety of their studies. By the time their 10th year rolls around, they are spending 12 hours every day holding. They have developed all their physical attributes and can—with ease and grace—hold anything they encounter at any time. They are ready to be spoons.
It is in the fifth year that some spoonlettes will leave their training at the institute, sometimes by choice and sometimes by request of the elder spoons. Not every spoonlette is fit to become a spoon and about 20 percent of the nys that land in the pasture will ultimately become forks. Those that leave go to a special building at the edge of the woods where elders cut out slits in their flat bowls so that they can refocus their energy from holding to stabbing. These sporklettes are then sent to their own institute somewhere else. They will incorporate some of the spoon training they have already had into the new fork training and ultimately become either a spork, dessert fork, or other tool that uses both holding and stabbing.
Where are these institutes? Where is the majestic pasture where nys fall to earth? Where is The Library of Concave Importance? No one really knows...or the people who do know are not coming forward. Like Hogwarts, Atlantis, and all those pirate ships with gold treasure, it is a great mystery. And probably best kept that way. Spoons are so important to us, if anything were to disturb their training—and thereby our supply of them—what would we possibly do? Many people even believe that the location should be kept secret for the simple fact that the spoon's training process is so powerful and so effective, God only knows what could happen if it fell into the wrong hands. It could lead to mind control, world domination, uncontrollable spooning, and the end of society as we know it. So, let's let sleeping dogs lie and we won't have to start eating hot soup with our hands.
Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about the lives of spoons. Remember: Spoons want to be used. That is their purpose for living. Whenever possible, try and use spoons in your daily lives. Ever tried eating a smoothie with a spoon? It's the best! And you get the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a spoon happy.
Be well and spoon often.
This is an excerpt from The New Manifesto, a zine of writing, illustration, interviews, and comic strips by Alexandra Bildsoe. Individual copies and subscriptions to The New Manifesto are available at alexandrabildsoe.com.