Gratification’s Shadow

We experience the paradox of compulsive behavior, the crushing anti-climax of gratification every time we “succeed” in acting out lifeless pleasure.

We may feel we lack control over the rest of life and only in food can we express our true wants. That is setbacks in our other desires leads to a compensating and rather joyless indulgence in eating.

We each willingly undergo a daily case of food poisoning, just as much of the spirit than the body, a numbing morbidity that exhausts as it sustains.

Our mental conflicts play out by using the body as a battlefield.

We may be so alienated from our body that we literally force feed it food – or what passes for food – far in excess of what it requires. We are poorly related, aware or at peace with our surroundings and eat to escape from them. We can’t eat or get away from the here and now fast enough.

Our bodies are often external markers of internal states, disordered minds made evident, tangible. They are mental chaos congealed.

Conversely there is a virtuous circle between moderation in eating and mental well-being and alertness; one naturally leading to the other, compounding the benefits in a happy synergy.

The practice has become so widespread that we no longer think it strange to use food as a mood changer, the drug of choice easy to hand in the fridge, no prescription required. In the modern world food engineered to tickle our tastes has replaced sex as the central source of sensuality.

The convulsions of pleasurizing food are later balanced out by less satisfaction in more wholesome fare in a trade-off likely no better in net enjoyment and destructive into the bargain.

The contradiction of the frantic search for pleasure is its overload coarsens and degrades the very senses it worships. Degraded sensibility leads to a shallow less complete experience that in compensation triggers even more compulsion; more becomes less. We have traded quality for quantity, a dubious exchange indeed.

Another contradiction of our eating culture is we prefer to be distracted from it at the moment of consumption through reading, TV, talking or whatever else is at hand. It’s another sign that eating is more about diversion from the here and now than real hunger and indeed studies have shown distracted eaters will consume more. It’s as if we bought tickets for an expensive concert and then when we got there turned the seats around looking away from the stage.

The entertainment “industry” which includes the industrial processing of food stands for a larger culture of dissipation, an entire philosophy of distraction from reality. At best it’s harmless diversion, at worst it distorts and infantilizes, regressing the individual to an oblivious engulfer of stimulation, a “consumer” indeed but who is actually being consumed?

A multiplex theater provides the sensation of your choice; stimulations such as fear, desire, sentimentality, group identity and many others. The humongous food portions – almost literally in buckets as if the customers were captive animals – go together with the gross indulgence up on the screen for a full immersion experience.

However in honesty we can only place part of the blame on food corporations, governments or our genes – as if genes are different in the less obese societies around the globe or even of the recent past; these people are superhuman apparently. There might be a thin slice of truth to it but blaming in this way is useless; it’s a form of resignation to our state, a way of making us feel better about the choices and tradeoffs we’ve freely entered into but feel uneasy about. Rather than waste energy like this we’ll need all of it to meet the daily challenge that reality provides us.

Insight as art and science