I was reminded last night, at Georges Seafood and BBQ, that I become irrational when I’m too hungry. I order something that will bring immediate pleasure, and certain delayed pain. Last night is was the Seafood Threesome: scallops, haddock, and shrimp, all fried, and served up with a tiny green salad, and some beans and rice. I won’t mention that, in need of even more immediate gratification, I’d also ordered a fried calamari appetizer. It was all good while going down – satisfying, pleasurable, filling.
It was only later that I regretted it, when I started tasting the whole thing again and again around 11 PM. I lay awake, muttering something about “never again” until finally drifting off to sleep. I did a penance run this morning, but even as I sit here writing, I’m hungry again, and the thought of sitting down to a nice big salad is somehow not satisfying. When I’m traveling, there are times when I fill myself with stuff that I know isn’t going to be good for me. I enjoy it in the moment, but feel the poverty of it later.
This has me thinking about the other food in my life, the food for my mind/spirit/soul. This realm bears some analogy to my relationship with food:
1. What you feed your mind/spirit matters. The equivalent of Seafood Threesome is always waiting for us: stupid TV shows, celebrity gossip, violence, gratuitous sex – the particular ingredients vary slightly from person to person, but if you’ve a shred of discernment in your soul and you stop to ask the question you know: this is deep fried garbage. Contrast that with Psalm 1, which is the picture of someone drawing on the resources of life by exposing themselves to revelation that’s life giving. Instead of heartburn, and the feeling that your blood has turned to sludge, the life giving revelation creates a vibrancy.
2. Junk Food feels good in the moment. Our house at home is basically cleansed of the foods that don’t work well for my wife and I. Grains, Cereals, Breads, Margarin, Ice-Cream, highly processed meats, pasteurized this, and hydrogenated that – we’ve tossed all these things out the window. It’s part of the Paleo plan that works for us. But, in spite of the many good things on the Paleo shopping list, when I’m either tired or on the road, the path of least resistance is usually ‘fast food’ and that spells trouble.
It’s the same song with our mind/spirit. When we’re weary, discouraged, alone, disrupted, the comfort foods of the mind are those places we run to feel good, and what we feast on there is usually not the best. What’s tricky, though, is that we feel great in the moment. I’m not judging what constitutes fast food for the your mind or spirit.
The same thing, though, happens to our spirits. We feast on stuff that doesn’t really nourish, even though it feels good in the moment. As a result, we don’t know our Bibles, our attention span has shortened, we have a hard time with silence and solitude, and all of this contributes to a loss of discernment, which furthers the downward spiral as it becomes easier choose spirit junk food more and more consistently.
The way to break the cycle, in either case, is to choose wisely! Read your Bibles. Watch movies, but do so with an eye towards growing in discernment, (here’s a resource that can help). Listen to all kinds of music, but listen to what the songwriters are saying about the world. Pray. Journal. Sit under the stars. Cook a healthful meal and taste the food. Stay sober.
This is basic stuff, but it requires a recognition that our moment by moment choices have consequences. Here’s the liberating reality: We get to choose the revelation that feeds us. Even more than food for the body, which is limited by location, season, menu, food for the spirit is always available. What’s more, that which I eat today, become part of me, and available to feast upon tomorrow. Bonhoeffer comforted himself by singing great hymns in prison, hymns learned as a child, when the family wasn’t sitting around the TV watching American Idol, but around the piano.
What do you think? Am I a dreamer, as I dare to believe that people can learn to feast on good things? And what makes a good thing “good” rather than destructive? Maybe watching American idol can be a good thing?
I welcome your thoughts! – so please share them…