Hunger and Satiety

It's working! It's working, it's working, it's working! You know how I know? Because I can fit into my fencing knickers without having to tug! Even better, I can fit into the heavy ones that I wear for epee that don't have any give. I can't wait to try on my stretchy ones for foil tomorrow.

But, first, I need to write. Something. Anything to clear my head for the competition today. I am sorry that my bear's brain seems to be running to nothing but diet; my human brain has been carrying around all sorts of other thoughts these past couple of months. But somehow when I sit down to write here, all I can think of is, "Carbs!"

It is a persistent demon. I can't say that I have been having cravings, but I have had regular nightmares the past week or so in which I find myself eating something that is not on my diet at the moment (if, perhaps, ever, now that I understand the effect that the sugars and starches have on me). It's odd, because the weight is literally just disappearing (at least, weight must be because inches are; no weighing myself!). But--get this--I worry that, because I feel so normal now, I will forget that I am actually doing something quite active in order to be in the metabolic state that I'm in and fall off the wagon accidently more so than on purpose.

By, I don't know, having juice at breakfast. Or rice with my chicken. Or a bun with my burger. Normal foods, right? But normal foods that I have had to recategorize as off-limits, at least for Lent, at least until I can fit into the jeans that I have from the last time the weight fell off. But are they normal foods if in the long run all they will do is make the weight come back, because juice is really just sugar, the rice and bun are really just starches, and none of them have any real nutritional value, not even the juice for all its vitamin C?

I am hungry, starving for God. But I have spent too much of my life eating foods that don't satisfy, that can never satisfy because they aren't food. What foods am I missing in my prayer life that maybe I have categorized as off-limits as I used to have categorized meat and fat? How am I malnourished and fat in my soul?

Some things spring obviously to mind as spiritual carbs: violent movies, trashy novels, television commercials (who ever wants to eat those?). These are the easy ones to identify. But what are the more subtle ones, like the juice that you have every morning because you think the vitamin C is good for you? Could it be yoga and its spiritual accoutrements? Or perhaps "spirituality" itself, so imbued (as I have learned in the past several weeks listening to Prof. Cary's lectures on philosophy and religion) as it is with a latent yet powerful Platonism?

Get this: Christianity is not in its scriptural foundations at all dualist. In fact, it is directly at odds with not only Gnostic (which I knew), but Platonic dualism (which I was less aware of, although it seems silly now not to have noticed). Think about it. When Socrates is about to die, he tells his friends not to worry because the body that they see is already a corpse, even before his soul has left it. But when Christ is about to die, he weeps, knowing that death is real. And then rises again with the promise that all who believe in him will rise again in their bodies--that is, their whole, true selves. Christianity, properly speaking (that is, the Christianity that I know from my studies of the medieval tradition--I guess that makes me a bad Protestant!), is more Aristotelian than Platonist: the soul is the form of the body, breathing in it, living in it, not separable from it in any meaningful sense.

David Bentley Hart says it better: "The 'living soul' of scripture is the whole corporeal and spiritual totality of a person whom the breath of God has wakened to life. Thomas Aquinas...defined the soul as 'the form of the body,' the vital power animating, pervading, shaping one from the moment of conception, drawing all the energies of life into a living unity." Whew. That is so much more energizing than thinking of the body as simply a husk or a shell or clothing that the soul wants to shuck off!

Hart goes on: "The soul, one might almost say, is the event--and mystery--of a life in its fullness. In it all the multiplicity of experience is knit into a single continuous and developing identity. It encompasses all the dimensions of human experience: animal functions and abstract intellect, sensation and reason, emotion and reflection, flesh and spirit, natural aptitude and supernatural longing. As such, it grants us an openness to the world of which no other creature is capable, allowing us to take in reality through feeling and thought, recognition and surprise, will and desire, memory and anticipation, imagination and curiosity, delight and sorrow, invention and art. The fourth-century theologian Gregory of Nyssa calls the soul a 'living mirror' in which all things shine, so immense in its capacity that it can, when turned toward the light of God, grow eternally in an ever-greater embrace of divine beauty."

So maybe it isn't so shallow after all to spend Lent attending to the needs of my body. Time for breakfast--and then to go fence!


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