Skip to main content

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.

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

GRAY MATTERS

I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…

ON MIND-STUFF

I hereby proclaim that June is meditation month. And July and August and some of September too. For me at least. During the hundred days that comprise summer, give or take, I have taken it upon myself to "assume the position" for approximately one hour each day, usually divided into two 30-minute sessions. During this time I sit in front of a candle flame, let my breathing subside, and with it my mental activity, and literally count the seconds.

The reductive tendency that is emblematic of science has penetrated schools of meditation, and there are many, each of which advertises its particular breed as, if not being the best, at least boasting novel or specific benefits not found in other forms of meditation. 

For example, there is mindfulness, which is the monitoring of thoughts. There is concentration or focus, as on an object or the breath. There is transcendental meditation, which uses the inward repetition of a phrase, or mantra, to "allow your active mind to easily …

S.O.S

To be spontaneous or systematic, that's the question. Or SOS, as the Police sing. Within me these two opposing characteristics are ever at war. I suppose we're all born more of the former. What child is not up for a trip to the candy store on a whim? But our educational system drums in the systematic approach to problem solving. You must progress from number 1 to 10 on your test. Each class is 50 minutes long. Etc. And indeed having a schedule and being methodical can lead to greater material success. If you only do what you feel like you may never study math, or organize your closet. But enslaving yourself to a ritual can suck all the fun out of life. To reconcile the two approaches we've evolved the weekend, which is basically a short vacation from the rigid workday, a time to play in an unstructured way. The athlete has his rest days, a time away from play. The family has the trip to the Bahamas. There are semester breaks in school, though having an entire summer off is…