9781608821013According to Dorion Sagan, Russian-Soviet scientist Vladimir Vernadsky “pictured life on Earth as a global chemical reaction, a ‘green burning.'” He saw life—in all its mineral nudity—as nothing more than just “rock rearranging itself under the sun.”  Yes, you, I, your neighbor’s cat, the tree outside, and all of life on Earth, according to Vernadsky, are nothing more and nothing less than a dynamic mineral stability, a living polymorphous chemico-physical process that is rearranging itself (“under the sun”) with each act of metabolism, with each mouthful.

What a big picture!  What a view!  Vernadsky saw the entire Earth as one living system and introduced the concept of “living matter,” bridging the seventeenth-century Cartesian body-mind divide with one eloquent phrase of integration. He saw life in matter and matter in life.

Pondering (according to Sagan), “What is a swarm of locusts from the biogeo-chemical point of view?,” Vernadsky proffered that it is “a disperse of rock, extremely active chemically, and found in motion”, or, as Sagan paraphrased, “an airborne stream of rock”. Along with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Vernadsky popularized the terms “biosphere” (the sphere of bios, or sphere of life) and “noosphere” (the sphere of human intelligence, the sphere of consciousness), which Vernadsky saw as planetary layers (along with the geosphere, atmosphere, and stratosphere).

Keeping all of this in mind, there are two things to highlight.

1. If you are a reader of mine, you’ve already seen me express the first point: You are Earth eating Earth. Vernadsky probably would have agreed with this geo- chemical view of eating. Indeed, in Sagan’s words, what is food but “bits of matter that have come detached from the Earth and are moving around”? And what are you, the eater, but “bits of matter that have come detached from the Earth and are moving around”?

2. My second point is also Vernadskian in nature: When you eat mindlessly, you are nothing but biosphere, just a “rock rearranging itself under the sun.” When you eat mindfully, you are part of the global noosphere, part of the sphere of conscious awareness—in essence, part of Earth’s mind. So as your mouth moves around these “bits of matter that have come detached from the Earth,” let your mind join the planetary noosphere of conscious consumption. In sum, mindful eating is noospheric eating.

Adapted from Reinventing the Meal (Somov, 2012)

Pavel Somov, Ph.D., is the author of Eating the Moment and Reinventing the Meal.