This year, I have noticed in myself an insatiable hunger. Not insatiable metaphorically, but literally unsatisfiable. Try as I might to placate my ravenous cravings with food, new clothes, parties or whatever other exciting but largely pointless activity or interest came my way, I could not pinpoint the origin or nature of this craving. Growing quite sick of gorging myself on sweets and other assorted junk in my spiritual quest to fulfillment, I decided that eating was not the way. When I started to see my addiction to food or shopping or whatever else was new that week as a craving, an effort to fill some deeper vacancy inside myself, my thoughts started trying this metaphor out for size. It's been reiterated by many a philosopher, psychologist, and aspiring crackpot, though - I didn't come up with this one myself.
An interesting book that has helped me to understand a lot about my feeling of insatiable hunger and compulsive attempts to ease it is called The Obsession: Reflections on the Tyranny of Slenderness, written by Kim Chernin. It is, to make a long book a short sentence, a book about women and their socialised rejection of their own femininity, leading to obsessive dieting or beauty regimens to try to fill the void left by their casting off of an intrinsic part of their selves. Chernin seemed a little fixated on the image of the primordial "Earth Mother" and the parallels drawn between being fertile and nurturing with being fat, bordering on dangerously obese. I have no problem with her assertion that voluptuousness and curves are as much a part of being female as fertility and the ability to nurture, but I find her argument subjective and quite one-dimensional. She did not, in all her reference to what is "natural" and "instinctual" and "right", take into account that most fat women today are that way because of a deeply unnatural lifestyle, complete with a junk diet and complete lack of physical activity.
Just a couple of thoughts on the constant battle being waged in the world between 'thin' and 'fat'.
The word upon which I stumbled in The Obsession is "discover", and I was quite shocked to see that this would be my word for the day. I selected the word at random after finishing the book, but while reading it I came across a quote that I found interesting and inspiring:
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.- Albert Szent-Györgyi
How's that for a coincidence? Now, I will tell you a little about discovery, discovering, and how I apply these terms to my own life.
If you pick the word apart, discovery simply means to uncover something that already exists, to remove the veil obscuring it from your view. Therefore, a discovery is not the same as an invention, but awesome in a whole different way.
My favourite daily discovery is that of the awe-inspiring beauty, self-sufficiency, and intrinsic weirdness of nature. I love having my breath taken away by glistening leaves, I love breathing their scent, I love marveling at the intricacies of every flower as equally as of every creeping, crawling bug and every soaring bird.
Yesterday, while taking a walk with me in the Botanical Gardens here in Grahamstown, Ben said something that I found quite amusing (and very interesting). He said: "The greatest thing about nature is that, thanks to natural selection, everything is pretty much the most awesome it could ever be at any point in time". Our walk was punctuated by other beautiful moments, as well. We saw a flower of the most breathtakingly beautiful colouring and patterns, the flower of an unassuming weed, a flower I had never laid eyes on before. We also saw a magnificent hawk, soaring above us as we sat on a rocky overhang overlooking the City of Saints.
When I don't take at least a five minute walk in nature - whether it be the botanical gardens, a Tsitsikamma forest, or right outside my res - I start to feel antsy, restless, and confused. My thoughts become a neurotic blur, and I feel heavy and depressed. One could say that I have learned to fill a large part of my soul-hunger by simply staring at nature and expressing my simple awe and gratitude at its existence and my ability to share in it.
And when we go for walks, we never step on flowers.