Think Before You Chew

If ever in the American year the typical family pauses for a few moments to consider the blessings of food in family, it will be this week as we celebrate the national day of eating.

Theologian Norman Wirzba, of Duke Divinity School suggests that we eat in an immense cloud of ignorance — celebrating a meal in the same fog of unknowing in which we vote, consume technologies, and structure our lives as citizens of an oppressed planet. Link

For most of us, economic choices, ranging from the food we eat to the cars we drive and the products we buy, take place in an immense cloud of ignorance.

We do not know where these “goods” come from, under what conditions they were produced, what their real or total costs were, or if the social and biological contexts of their production were compromised or not. Our connection with reality is mostly indirect and attenuated, reduced to the ease of pushing buttons, turning dials, or laying down a credit card.

Besides being an economy of “the one night stand” in which we have a good time but do not show any commitment to know or understand, our decision-making reflects a profound failure of imagination.

“Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the [social and geo-biological] history beyond the farm… Most people appear to assume that when they have paid their money for these things they have entirely met their obligations.” [Wendell] Berry says we have in fact become superstitious in our thinking, for what could be more superstitious than to believe that “money brings forth food?”

Follow thoughtfully this video reflection by Wirzba on the ethics of eating before you pull that drumstick or dig into to the sweet potato casserole on Thursday.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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