Eating is too important to be taken apart from our whole belief-system in general; as a thing we ‘do’, as opposed to a thing we ‘are’. It stands for our deepest expression and feeling of ourselves as we relate to the world.
The choices we make and the style in which we eat can more or less sum up the kind of perspective and attitude we have towards our life and the world. Indeed, in our shared need to eat to sustain the very life we have, food is the common endeavor underlying our relating of the inner-world we all experience, to the outer one we must also engage with. In which case, the success, or, happiness, of our eating, is really the direct relation of the degree in which it serves to fulfill this synthesis of the material world with our inner-one, the spiritual need with the practical task of living so as we feel a sense of our own relevance in life in our very relation to life.
This may seem an exaggeration, but in order to truly resolve our struggles as to our eating, we must take eating on this level – so it is viewed as an expression of all of us, rather than simply a physical task, one nominally related to ideas of nutrition as to bodily health.
For, within all our material efforts to life, I would suggest that all we are really and truly looking for is meaning. We want to know our place in the world, and be provided with motivation to keep up with it. In this, we attempt to use food as a prominent tool for this search as it is what is consistently engaged with, necessarily unifying us with the foundations, quite literally, of our experience, whether we like it or not.
Modern-eating must be aware of the deeper context in which it is set, one which is found quite at loggerheads to the sterile and scientific current parameters as to ‘stats’ and nutrition, that we have now been constrained to eat within. We must, in order to begin, recognize the preeminent importance of food to us, indeed, that food stands for a lot more than simply eating. In this light, it must be recognized, at the start of this task, that the conventional kind of knowledge; the one that lies in the rational and provable – some kind of objective information that another, more justified authority than us, will deliver to us, is not what we are discussing here.
We are, instead, discussing none other than our meaning of life, our very reason to live when we talk of diets, and, obviously this is always personal, and hence outside the regular approach at providing more information regarding ‘the facts’ about diet.
Quite radically, in the light of modern-thinking then, I would suggest that eating is about making connections, the wish to inquire after life and ask more questions as opposed to the kind of conclusions we are now expecting as to discovering the ‘right’ information. In fact, it is the very wish to conclude ourselves so easily and definitely against the natural and, more indefinable, flow of life, that is the root cause of our troubles with eating. For, in these, the spotlight is either too much on us in a very narrow kind of a way, or, too little – as to not caring. Instead, eating well is always about the wish to relate.
This is, first and foremost, with ourselves, and then to the world outside us in a way that feels meaningful, positive, and affirmative. For so often, even if it may be unbeknown to us, our experience of eating, which spreads out into life most generally, does not provide this. Instead, it offers a most barren and often conflictive view, where our own personal benefit is pursued on a most physical level, with a complete lack of consideration of the backdrop within which we eat and live. Which is to say, the endemic feeling that now haunts our food, whether it makes us eat to much or too little, is the feeling of separation, aloneness, in our reality. It is to this, overwhelming task that this work is, in the humblest part, addressed.
At this point, it hardly has to be stated that, only a few years ago, eating had a significance outside of the literal product and its nutritional value. At least, in part, it was the symbol and ritual of our very living at the heart of all festivities, even the sacrament of The Chruch. Of course, it cannot be said to feel this way now; we no longer have, in the procuring, cooking and eating, the backbone of our day. Neither, it must be said, can it (perhaps, even should it) be again. On the other hand, it needs to be put firmly towards the front of our mind again, for it is the one area where we so obviously bridge our individuality in the world more generally.
It seems as if we are ignoring the significance of this at our peril. Now, it often receives little more interest than an exchange at a till for a lunchtime sandwich or a dash around the supermarket on the way home from work. This is not only unsatisfying, it also gives an unrealistic view on the real significance lurking at the heart of this exchange we are repeatedly called to make with the world.
The process of taking our food has now been relegated to the sidelines. At best, it is now of biological importance to us, otherwise, it is taken in the spirit of fun; or, something concerning image, identity and ‘lifestyle’ in its most superficial pretense. Yet, eating will never feel good, or right if this is all it remains, if a higher-endeavor and project for our eating is not hit-upon and it loiters unattended to, but still demanded of.
Despite, what sometimes appear our attempts to the contrary, we have been landed with the demand for meaning that goes much deeper than simply feeling or looking good; or, even, avoiding sickness – our current and incredibly short-sighted idea as to what modern health ‘means’. No wonder then, that even the so-called ‘healthiest’ of diets, isn’t really hitting the spot; that now, the so-called ‘clean eating’ has evolved its own eating-disorder around its attempts.
For, where are always really looking for a meaning greater than the physical, a fusion of our inner to the outer world in order to make sense of it, we are so used to pretending otherwise, that we have most generally fooled ourselves.
For this reason, eating must spread out into our lives to inform all aspects so it becomes reflective of our ‘lifestyle’ in a much deeper way than we are now used to thinking – as literally a reflection of our way of living, deepest-held attitude to life, and not, a sphere for us to try to prove ourselves to the world, or, in almost equal measures use food to avoid it.
Our eating is making us miserable as we are missing its over-arching significance to our lives that its not just about us. Just like we must, eating must be spread-outwards from our finite point of existence to include more and more of the world in our locus of interest. To say then, that our current ideas of health fall short; is somewhat of an understatement in terms of providing any source of help or guidance in our modern search for meaning.
Looking at diet by treating us as a simply a machine and our food as ‘fuel’, considering us solely on a material basis, as the body and that alone, we cannot be satisfied in it. It overlooks, as modern-science has a tendency to, that we are, as the French philosopher Descartes famously said, not only a thinking thing, but also a feeling one. Instead, our modern views are based on his famous idiom ‘I think therefore I am’, quite forgetting what he went on to say from there was unprovable, yet existed all the same.
What has been fundamentally lost in modern-eating, is the truth of our feelings. Or, more to the point, they have been overruled, for the sanctity of the measurable and externally verifiable. Yet, our real sustenance is really less to do with ingredients or special diets, and rather about emotions and the more vague and ambiguous question of how our life appears to be going most widely speaking. In this, as we have already briefly alluded to, lies the question as to how we have assimilated ourselves with the world, so as to feel our lives significant through a sense of place, meaning, and personal relation.
As might be imagined, there is nothing better than eating to convey and work this thread of meaning through ourselves, and life. In contrast, seasons and climates have been ignored for the seeming benefits of a most varied diet, the ‘balanced diet’ involving the fun or freedom of having pretty much all things all the time, and in equal measure. However, we cannot help concluding that this is not what we are, deep-down, looking for, as simply-put, our physical, as well as our mental, health around food is seemingly faring worse and worse with what is essentially a lack of meaning behind our eating.
Evidently, we are looking in the wrong place as to what we really demand out of our interaction with our food, but, moreover, also not aiming high enough as to a meaning for our living. Where, we have considered with our food and body, the need for comfort, and taking care of the material needs of us, and those immediately surrounding us; we are actually being offered the opportunity for something much greater.
The procuring of information, and an obsession with the literal and material as to the ingredients, or ‘information’ regarding diet, suggests we eat simply to exist in the world. Whereas, we are, instead, as humans, saddled with the challenge of finding our reason to exist. In which sense, our dissatisfaction with our current diet may also be seen in the light of an incredible possibility that we really are something more than the incessant demands of the human body simply to carry on carrying on. In fact, that we must discover a sense of purpose outside of this.