“Joy rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity.” -Rollo May
The other day when I was out to dinner with my 17-year-old daughter, half a pizza and salad still on the table, she said “We didn’t really need the pizza.” She went on, “I don’t like to eat until I am full anymore…. Most people don’t think about food the right way- they think of it as comfort, not fuel. I feel better when I eat just enough.” I stopped eating then, too, considering her wisdom. Most of us don’t feel well when we stuff ourselves, and yet we continue to eat, gorging ourselves in an attempt to fill something in us that will never be satisfied with food. The truth is that hunger is at once the most basic of our human needs, but also profoundly defines our relationship to the whole of life. Culturally, there has never been a more obese and overfed people on this planet, while vast swaths of our population go hungry in the middle of our biggest cities.
Coming to grips with what is insatiable in us is more about embracing our relationship to relationships than it is about counting calories. And it might also be the only way for us to collectively find sustainable solutions to the pervasive and growing hunger problem that no truly humanized civilization would allow to persist. If we began with creating and working towards fulfilling relationships throughout our day, we would perceive our physical hunger differently- as a way of refueling to do more of what inspires and motivates us. Instead, we accept jobs that are rote or worse, demeaning, to our true capacity. We let go of our love when it gets a little challenging and we mistrust the small voice inside of us, trying to show us our own self-worth.
Dealing with hunger as an inside job not only helps us to identify and own the emptiness that we are trying to fill, but if we listen carefully, gives us the solution, as well. Do we need to forgive someone else or our self? Can we remember what we dreamed we would once do and go for it? Do we have the heart to let it get broken and come back stronger and more willing to be vulnerable earlier on… To not feed our true hunger from this inner space leaves us empty and continuously seeking fulfillment from something out there. It is something we can consume with our mouths, or with our money, but it never really fills us up.
When our hunger for connectedness and relationship to life goes unmet, we revert to the immediate gratification of food, spirits, fashion, sports,… their preferred medication of the moment and we ourselves become consumed. Instead of using the external to fuel us, we burn ourselves out being consumed by what cannot fill.
On some level, we are hunger. We long and desire. It makes us survive and it makes us human. But not understanding our deepest longings is killing us. Greed is a sorry state and little compensation for our hunger to be a part of life. Distractions only go so far, when we can’t find meaning in what we spend our days doing. No matter how much we consume, it cannot satiate the deepest cravings of our heart for relationships that are inclusive and intimate. No amount of fashion or beauty products can fill the space that is self- starved for our own affections and respect.
What would the world look like if food became fuel and our relationship to everything in life was what filled us up? We could fix everything.