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Thursday, December 4, 2014

NIETZSCHE ON DIGESTION


When you think of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, notions such as "God is dead" and the superman and atheism probably come to mind. But Nietzsche did not spend all his time twisting his rather prodigious mustache and living in the rarified air of abstract speculation. He also had much to say about the importance to overall health, both physical and mental (as if the two weren't connected!) of digestion. He was known to have experimented with vegetarianism, to have found deplorable the European tendency to overcook vegetables and overemphasize meat products. He had much in keeping with the Buddha, who as a matter of coping with mental illness prescribed "a life in the open, a life of travel; moderation in eating and a careful selection of foods." As well as "caution in the use of intoxicants."

Nietzsche was not the only intellectual to accord primary position to the role of diet in one's overall wellbeing. Aldous Huxley, the English genius and man of letters best known for his novel Brave New World but who also was an accomplished poet and essayist as well as a seeker of the truth, addressed in his excellent book Eyeless in Gaza (1936) the proper method of approaching food when he had his Dr. Miller instruct the main character, Anthony Beavis, who suffered from "chronic intestinal poisoning" (a very modern ailment) thus:

 

"Eat a proper diet," the doctor said. "No butcher's meat; it's poison . . . and no milk; it'll only blow you up with wind. And a minimum of eggs. And of course, only one heavy meal a day. You don't need half the stuff you're eating.

"Look at the correlation between religion and diet," the doctor goes on to say. "Christians eat meat, drink alchohol, smoke tobacco; and Christianity exalts personality and teaches that God feels anger and approves the persecution of heretics. It's the same with the Jews and the Moslems. Now look at the Buddhists. Vegetables and water. And what's their philosophy? They don't imagine that God can be angry; when they're unenlightened, they think he's compassionate, and when they're enlightened, they think he doesn't exist, except as an impersonal mind of the universe. They don't pray, they meditate - that is, they try to merge their own minds in the universal mind.

"Eat like a Buddhist, because it will keep you well and happy."

Take the doctor's good advice.

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