Government ad campaign after ad campaign doesn’t stop the tidal-wave of new health complaints issuing as the direct result of poor diet. We are forced to question the idea that the matter is to do with learning or information whatsoever.
If this is the only way in which to approach eating we are surely destined for failure, as to employ the mind in such a way as to be able to reflect on the future consequences of our current desires, often felt so strongly in the moment, is to envisage a task destined to involve a constant struggle; one that, as often as not, probably will end in our losing the battle.
We are engaged in a kind of David and Goliath situation; using rational-thought against the power of emotions representing our deepest feelings and longings towards life. Either, that, or we are appealing to the wrong office altogether; the incongruous idea that when desiring a burger or another drink, for example, we are really operating on a rational level is simply wishful thinking as to the imagined simplicity in which the task may be resolved.
We are infinitely more complicated than a computer program that may weigh and process options efficiently. Also, that, when we are relating with our eating we are doing so on a level that is quite other than the rational, somewhere then, we are not generally very familiar with. Unless, we have a stronger and deeper project of life than simply weighing up current pleasure against a hypothetical future pain as – we are currently advised to do in our modern definition of health as ‘prevention of disease’, we haven’t got a chance to really take responsibility for our own health in any active kind of way.
Why would we really take any care, whilst according to this idea, there is nothing to do apart from do what we think we’ll enjoy. The lines have been set for a kind of hopeless battle, and one, at best, where the motivation is guilt and fear, mixed with a little vanity. Surely, a more positive aim for health might be envisaged?
This involves coming up with a positive aim for health, where we currently have one. Something which is obviously very hard if health stands for nothing other than an absence of disease. Simply avoiding a lack of health, is hardly a call to action, where instead, for example, living better and more fully in life might be.
A new idea of health then, if it is to be at all helpful in our relationship to diet, must stand as something related to increasing a positive state, rather than limiting a negative one. Which means then, that a more optimistic, fuller, idea of what health is must be inquired after, otherwise, in the absence of obvious signs of disease, health means nothing at all.
This has certainly become the case nowadays, where health is more or less framed the unquestioning belief that life simply ought to be continued at all costs, forgetting to ask for a reason for our continuance; a reason for living.
It is hardly surprising that we are often found lacking in taking any active and particular direction in eating, as there is, indeed, no good reason to do so. The other option is to be wholly at the mercy of our most varied and insatiable desires from moment to moment without much of a thought, let alone a reasonable plan as to how our life might be in the future; which is to say, finding something to aim for in living other than living alone.
Having a good idea of the aim, we might expect a more natural sense of discipline to arise. In our relationship with food a game-plan is everything, being able to conjecture our sense of living over a period of time essential. Otherwise, each moment provides a different challenge as to the urges that may arise – most of which, are not in our long, or even medium-term benefit to indulge.
In a moment in time, food provides such an easy method of expression or escape, inherently exposed as we are to the frustrations and disappointments, the ups and downs in life, that its easy to turn to it in a different attitude to how it might be more helpfully taken – as a source of inspiration and connection, as opposed to a temporary escape route. We are then sorely in need of some sense of higher-perspective to keep us going, to keep us, most basically, trying to live well, aspire for me, not seek the easiest conclusion present in the moment as to our difficulties with living. The attempts to take cover, to try to forget ourselves and life is all too tempting unless we have some sense of higher ideal in order to steel ourselves over the longer-course that living, if we are lucky, entails.
In which case, we need to then investigate as to what might be a reasonable goal for this trying. We had one until recently and for a long period, in The Church and institutionalized religion. In contrast, now all we have is the kind of reductionalism Science leaves us with, where, having analysed everything, down to its component parts, we now are stuck for any ideas as to what to do with our discoveries.
In which case, we are left with the idea that the meaning-game as to finding a reason for living, may be played in any way we fancy with equal results as to a reason for eating and living. However, this is simply to get the wrong end of the stick; indeed, the mistake of The Church was to try and tell us what we mean, so now we will not take any suggested guidelines around what is seen as constricting our sense of freedom, Where the relationship to this sense of ourselves is uniquely personal, on the other hand, our meaning for life can only be a happy-one (which is indisputably what we want), when it is related towards a material life that is evidently there.
Otherwise, if life is simply imagined with no correlation or sense of foundation in our tangible experience, the imagined life of meaning only gives us more and more trouble with living, as our, quite baseless and random fancies consistently come crashing into conflict with the cornerstones of a material-reality. An example, of this is indeed, that we may eat happily solely for the sake of our body-image alone. This is an easy-idea and necessitates but little thought in its entertaining and execution. On the other hand, we do not exist alone, so, similarly neither does an actual and healthy aim for life if we are to be happy.
We must then envisage an aim for ourselves and our health that makes sense over the long-term, and in relation to all of our lives (indeed, much does the cosmetic really satisfy, before we can no longer maintain it anyway?).
A more satisfactory goal instead, must centre around a wish to relate as meaningfully and comfortably to the whole of our experience in the world as is at possible. In which case, an ideaof health to actually eat towards starts looking less about us; our worry about the relative health of particular ingredients, and more about the making of harmonious connections between our inner world and our outer experience. We may conclude then, that eating is about an honesty and awareness to our process of living, if we are, indeed, going to be inspired to eat within the kind of human-blueprint we live in – a generally social one that demands meaningful connections.
Currently, in the incredibly low-aiming definition of health we take ourselves to exist in, we are cut off from this real source of motivation as to a feeling, trapped, again, in the best case scenario in a rational battle. This is as to the constant trial of willpower over how we actually are, really experience ourselves in the present, on what we are simply instructed we ought to do in order to ‘eat responsibly’.
Furthermore, these feelings as to ourselves in the moment, are actually a more honest experience of us anyway. It is just a question of managing, of better understanding them, so they can brought into our surface, and embodied more efficiently. For, normally facing a whole deluge of varied and confusing desires, in not interpreting them correctly, we end up by doing what we don’t truly want to do. our feelings.
In such a situation, we have, it must be said, no great reason why not to eat the burger we mentioned in the example at the beginning of this chapter, unless we can start to seek a deeper expression of what we are by examining the root of our desires more closely. This is never really found satisfactory; whether we like it or not, our condition as a human-being dictates we need more of a depth to our meaning than simply the fleeting and inconsistent experience of pleasure.
This is where we are essentially going wrong in our modern ideas of health and eating accordingly, for, society has given us no reason to believe in more than this, whilst, on the other hand insisting that we behave in a certain way, follow very definite instructions, that we are judged for in social sense if we fail to keep within. We are encouraged to act increasingly to expand our avenues of pleasure in experiencing and consuming as much as possible yet, we are still encouraged to restrain our pleasure otherwise we are seen as lazy, indulgent, having failed in something when, in fact, we have only played the game that has been laid-out to the letter.
The first step away from this hopeless paradox and into some new, more efficient territory, is to acknowledge that simple pleasure of the body actually not enough, and step out to wishing to searching for our own source of meaning. We cannot win at trying to ‘balance’ pleasures or desires, these don’t lend to being worked at in this way – in other words, desire never suggests the adoption of balanced approach towards it. Instead, it always asks for more.
It is indeed, not enough that what we want for ourselves alone, to conclude our self so simply, in such a personal and limited sense, cannot be found enough, because we expand far beyond this boundary in our wish to find meaning in our experience of life outside our bodies. Where, it is quite generally accepted that our predominant wish is simply more experience of life, we need relationships. This is the opportunity that food provides us with, and why it is often felt so unhappy, in having intuited what an experience we have lost in our attempt to answer it whether through pleasure, fear, or vanity, so briefly and unreflectively as to our deeper potential.
This exclusive focus on us in diet, is a deeply limited aim as it seeks a conclusion to a life that, for as long as we last, doesn’t conclude itself. In which case, any aim for health must be quite contrary to an effort to answer, which is,to define and separate our own existence as apart from the whole. Instead, it must look towards a way to relate confortably to a continuous flow of meaning for our experience. Essentially, the effort to look out, towards life, in living in relation to it, as opposed to, basically, trying to seek an answer against it.
What we want is a more direct experience of life in this, which means we must be able to live in accordance to lifes’ flow and change; a task very different from our regular wish to know and hence resolve our health. Obviously, health cannot really be framed in these terms when we reflect; it’s rather an ongoing process of relation.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense that what we need to consider as the very method of our aim is to generate some kind of honesty as to our deeper felt experience, for it is at this level we may relate in a direct enough way that feels ‘enough’. Current ideas, on the other hand, aim to do just the opposite; to suppress our feelings rather than work with them through providing ‘information’ about objectively ‘right’ ways to eat,. The problem is, that a thought or idea as to what this knowledge contains, isn’t grounded in reality; it is therefore, at best a distraction or brief obscuration of our truer feelings.
Yet, like a puff of smoke, it hasn’t a steady nature based in anything more tangible or substantial in our nature. Therefore, it can never enter into us deeply enough to provide the kind of inner-guidance we are really looking for. Real awareness demands a firm structure in reality, albeit based on our feelings. These are themselves still, and quite literally, anchored in the real and definite experience of ourselves in reality.
But, sadly, these have now been denied any validity, for ,the raw-material is, without further recourse, indeed, a fairly chaotic and potentially volatile kind of a substance to play around with. So, instead, and perhaps, well meaningly, in the beginning, society has given us, instead of this, pure concepts to live by, devoid of any real connection to ourselves. But, we don’t, and, never have, lived by concepts.
If we appear to now, it is only because our deeper, non-rational life, is so little acknowledged in the activities of daily life, and, we manage so well at putting a cap on our misery at being treated in such a heavy-handed and non-human kind of a way. We are emotional beings; we think in colour and indefinable shapes. One that is not as precise and definable as our currents standards for meaning given by Science demand it be in order that it is ‘acceptable’ to us.
Even despite this, however, our need for a greater connection creeps in anyway, causing us to buck against the rational more and more. This is to a great extent expressed in our disordered eating, which is only, at its roots, a cry that our subjective, and rationally-opposed being, is actually heard and acknowledged as existent. For, this is only a protest really; our inner longing for meaning finding no reasonable outlet, no friendly accomplice in the harsh and rigid exterior of the modern world.
It is only this honesty of interrelation, inner to outer, that is really demanded of us in living. Which means, that food is both and private, but also a public affair; in fact, it ought to act, if skillfully used, as a bridge between these two spheres we all live upon. A life is called ‘happy’, indeed, ‘healthy’, to the degree that these two separate prospects can accommodate each other. Otherwise, we eat most privately, but live most publically, actually existing nowhere.
In this way, our aim is not so much finding a ‘reason’ to eat, for the reason isn’t so much in an ends, as answers usually suggest, but in a more reasonable, fuller, and less conflicted experience of the present. Once again, as everything generally is, we are likely to have our new sense of aim taken too literally; just as mindfulness has been turned into ‘a thing to do’, as opposed to rather just a truer wish to live in ourselves and outside of concepts.
Our mere interest in life is not such a small thing. Especially, when, to be interested, our interest must spread to beyond finding a conclusion of simply preserving ourselves, as this cannot be a continuous affair. Returning to consider the current perspective, one could say, the very modern ‘dark-cloud’ we eat under, is our very self-centred endeavour in looking at diet as our concern alone. The wish for anything further has been dimissed as mere fantasy, irrelevant. However, in actuality, the wish for something above the meaninglessness of simply being the body alone, is all we ever look for.
As already mentioned, at every turn, our wish for meaning bubbles through the rational-cracks all the time; only kept in check now by increasingly heavy-handed legislation, or equally rampant and prolific narcissism as to the social-pressure felt towards image felt, that has now become internalized. Indeed, in a way, rightly so too, where appearances now count for so much. Of course, this isn’t happy, as the fate of so many reality TV stars concludes, but, nevertheless, it has to be accepted that the vision they provide in a gleaming ‘healthy’ body, is more or less the sum-total of our current aspirations to health.
Along with the shame, as well as (I think, to a much smaller degree, fear), we now live isolation to any inherent experience of ourselves. Eating is a wholly separate task to us then, done in conformation, fear or aspiration to a set of rules that will always be alien to our wish for simply being, rather than getting or proving in the world.
Yet, it must also be taken into account that health as it is presented in the public-eye, in the underlying dynamism and vitality to life it is meant to represent is still our highest wish, and a very valid one. Indeed, this is quite adequately proven by the very fact of reality TV being so incredibly popular. The problem is, that we have forgotten that what they are presenting is meant to be the symbol of something deeper. Which, quite evidently, it isn’t now for them, nor, for us. This is once again the root of the problem with the rational mind; it encourages us to take reality too literally, way too much at face value. In contrast, we might better envision ourselves in a more symbolic way; something deeper lying behind an image, or idea, that demands our relating to in a very different way. Indeed, a much more thoughtful and reflective way, for here health is mere demonstration, a kind of achievement, with no real reason or goal. Instead, a healthy body, is a necessary by-product of health. But, what is actually a stepping-stone has become an obstacle, or sticking-point.
Our underlying problem now (and the irony of it, with all this information around, the general belief that we ‘know’ more about the world than ever before), is that we really have no ‘road map’ for living, other than to continue carrying-on. Indeed, and crucially in our discussion, where food and the aim of ‘health’ that underlies and guides it, may provide a much need structure and framework, we are currently left empty handed. We have so far bypassed the most widespread source of guidance that we have, whilst also re-asserting our own isolation as individual bodies all worrying about their isolated, and in this, ridiculously narrow idea of health as preservation or image.
In which case, we are then left wholly open to the unlegislated and quite disingenuous help offered by the advertising companies selling the products of those that have the revenues to pay the highest. So, as undeniably pessimistic view as it is, it is a matter of urgency that we must work towards taking the reins and responsibility back as to a reason to eat, for no one will help us here; not conventional medicine, with their definition of health only as something that may be lost, or society more generally, dominated by market-forces selling to us.
In which case, learning to eat in the real sense (not as information to learn) is to understand that our greater longings towards life are, indeed, correct. That no one else is a better authority than us as to our eating, and that what we ultimately want is a further relation to life that is not found through the world of the mind, in understanding, or the following of any ‘rules’ as to answering our dilemnas.
The very dilemma is the answer – our constant wish for expanding our boundaries, the longing for expression in the world being the wish really to reach out. Currently, when we reach out, no one else and nothing else is there. We turn within then, taking food in shelter against our apparent insignificance.