01 February 2016

Ancient Wisdom

I love it when you see alignment in what Lewis called the Tao. So, in Confucian practice there is apparently the custom of whispering to one's self before eating: Hari hachi bu. It's a reminder to self to eat mindfully and stop when you are 80% full. It's rather the antithesis of the Hobbitlike "filling in the corners."

And then you pick up the Philokalia and check out the words of Blessed John Cassian summarizing the wisdom of the fathers when it comes to fasting:  "They (the holy fathers) have not given us one single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness, or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: avoid over-eating and filling of our bellies." (On the Eight Vices)

Science, of course, explains a bit of the physical wisdom in this: we simply don't register how full we are as we are eating. It takes time for the belly to send the message to the brain: Enough! And if you eat quickly and till you are full, the message will come along too late.

Fasting this Lent? How about that wisdom from the Fathers being the first and foremost goal as you train your body that you do not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God: slow down and take time as you eat (avoid eat standing or on the go) and don't eat till you're full. Stop before the sense of satiety kicks in.


Ryan said...

I do not see antithesis in a negative sense here. When you fast you fast, go with the desert fathers... when you feast you feast, go with the Hobbit fathers. Or to borrow a phrase from some other Wisdom writings, "to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" The church seasons reflect that nicely.

William Weedon said...

I suspect the key is to recognize that we have in life really three, not two, states. There is fast, there is feast, then there is the normal day. I think the father's advice works well for both the fast and the normal day; but certainly the Hobbit fathers nail the feast. But, contrary to their thinking, every day and every meal isn't feast! :)

Mark said...

Fast, feast, and ferial is very monastic and a very good way to live the three states. Add a serving of Robert Farrar Capon's writing on food and eating (to say nothing of grace) and we'd all enjoy the good gifts of the 1st article in the best possible way.