I am a voracious non-fiction reader, a binge-reader, you could say. Most of the books I buy are random finds (from used book stores, thrift stores; or when following a chain of associations with the help of Amazon.com). Whenever I buy books in the physical (rather than virtual) world, I often start from the back. I browse the last three or so pages of the book – not because I want to know how something ends, but because a book is like a life and its last pages are like the last few breaths: there is something powerfully evanescent about that, a unique kind of intimacy, a moment where the author finally lets go of the pen and returns to the original blank space of the mind-page…
Knowing how we part ways is a good introduction to each other.
So, let me share the last few pages of “Reinventing the Meal,” in case we – reader and author – never meet on the first page.
You are an amazing transmutation machine. You can take in carrots, candy bars, baked beans, bread, plums, porridge, hamburgers, or herrings—and turn them into living energy and whatever body parts you need. A carrot takes light, air, water, and earth, converting them into a crunchy, pointy, orange vegetable, and you turn this carrot into a moving, intelligent, seeing, human being. What an amazing world!
Gregory Sams, Sun of gOd
The big meal-wheel has been spinning, mostly mindlessly, without much frontal-lobe supervision, for at least as long as there has been life on this planet. Our collective evolutionary history is a survival treadmill. Life has been in the business of inventing and reinventing ever-new metabolic cycles, with life-forms finding sustenance in each others’ waste, learning how to squeeze every morsel of energy out of their environment, climbing the pyramid of the solar economy through predatory competition, and also working out mutually beneficial symbiotic energy trusts.
We, the human animals, are the first species to talk about the ethics of eating our fellow life-forms. We are the first to write books about mindful eating. And we are the first to dream of energy independence (however relative it ultimately is). While we are certainly stuck in the heterotrophic cycle of zero-sum consumption, we are not stuck in a vicious cycle. Rather, as philosopher and psychologist John Dewey maintains, we can “traverse a spiral in which social customs generate consciousness of interdependencies [of cultural customs and individual habits], and this consciousness is embodied in acts which in improving the environment generate new perceptions of social ties, and so on forever” (as quoted in Sullivan 2001, 37). This book has been an attempt to do exactly that: to generate consciousness of our interdependence by way of mindful eating.
The new meal paradigm is really eating yoga in disguise. It is an attempt to reunite food, the eater, and the act of eating into a holistic whole. It is an attempt to broaden the definition of “food” to include both nourishment for the body and nurturance for the mind. It is an attempt to reduce the unnecessary overconsumption that is killing us and our fellow living beings by preloading on the fullness of breath and the fullness of the moment (that is, mind fullness). The new meal paradigm is an attempt to slow down the wheel of eating in our lives and begin to shift our existential priorities from mindless overconsumption to mindful coexperience. The new meal paradigm is a psychological reorientation that will hopefully culminate in a reinvention of the species that will free us up from our heterotrophic predicament and allow us to move beyond the corruption of money toward the autotrophic near-autonomy of Homo solaris.
In conclusion, consider the following image: There is a Buddhist tradition in which pilgrims travel the 2,500-mile Tea Road on foot. This pilgrimage over twenty mountain chains and across two deserts and four major rivers takes about six months. But the pilgrims don’t simply walk the route; they measure the path with the lengths of their bodies. They get down and prostrate themselves forward to touch—in reverence—the ground that they traverse. Then they get up and walk up only as far as their outstretched hands reached and stop to kneel down and prostrate themselves again. In effect, the pilgrims crawl their way along more so than they walk. Dressed in body-long aprons, they work their way down the path for weeks, covering as much ground as they can in a given day in this back-breaking meditation and then bivouacking for the night. They persist through rain and sunshine, through mud and dust, through bliss and fatigue, but at all times they are spiritually in touch with the ground they traverse.
Eating is just like that. Open your mind before you open your mouth. Each bite is a kiss of reality, and each mouthful a step down this path of living. Each taste is a taste of Earth. Recognize, pilgrim of existence, that you are eating Earth and becoming Earth in one and the same eating stride. Slow down to notice the ground you walk on and the one walking, the food you are eating and the one who is eating—and see no difference.
I want to leave you with a set of four points that describe a “radical vision of the future” as envisioned by philosopher Sam Keen in his book Fire in the Belly (1991, 119):
Sam Keen wasn’t writing about eating when he wrote this. At least I don’t think so. But he might as well have been. To eat is to know is to touch is to love is to heal this Earth that we ourselves are. Made of Earth, we are Earth. Eating, we are eating Earth and becoming Earth—hopefully, with love and self-knowledge and intimately in touch with the reality of our continuous co-creative self-transformation. That’s the sapience of mindful eating! Let conscious eating be your new vocation, you, who are Earth eating Earth.
In closing, a poetic sentiment:
What’s eating you, Omnivore of Consciousness?
You’ve tasted all but a sense of Self?
This reality you crave
is but a subjective idea of reference.
Enlighten to your transparency:
Full of everything, you’re no more than a state of hunger.
Excerpt from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2011)
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Last reviewed: 10 Dec 2012