Laurie Lee on Appetite

Laurie Lee (1914-1997)

We’re four days into the Bahá’í Fast and its full impact is beginning to bite. (Sorry — just couldn’t resist it.) A good friend of mine in Leominster put me onto a piece written by Laurie Lee on appetite which contains some interesting thoughts about part of the power of fasting, at least for us in the affluent world.

You can find the full piece on this link. It behoves us to remember as well though that there are millions in the world at the moment who are not fasting but starving. For them these words will make little sense at all. Only compassionate and effective action constitute an appropriate response. None the less Laurie Lee’s words are a timely reminder to us that affluence has a price and also that such good fortune is not ours by right.

{josquote}One of the major pleasures in life is appetite, and one of our major duties should be to protect it.{/josquote}

Fasting is an act of homage to the majesty of appetite. So I think we should arrange to give up our pleasures regularly—our food, our friends, our lovers—in order to preserve their intensity, and the moment of coming back to them. For this is the moment that renews and refreshes both oneself and the thing one loves. Sailors and travelers enjoyed this once, and so did hunters, I suppose. Part of the weariness of modern life may be that we live too much on top of each other, and are entertained and fed too regularly. Once we were separated by hunger both from our food and families, and then we learned to value both. The men went off hunting, and the dogs went with them; the women and children waved goodbye. The cave was empty of men for days on end; nobody ate, or knew what to do. The women crouched by the fire, the wet smoke in their eyes; the children wailed; everybody was hungry. Then one night there were shouts and the barking of dogs from the hills, and the men came back loaded with meat. This was the great reunion, and everybody gorged themselves silly, and appetite came into its own; the long-awaited meal became a feast to remember and an almost sacred celebration of life. Now we go off to the office and come home in the evenings to cheap chicken and frozen peas. Very nice, but too much of it, too easy and regular, served up without effort or wanting. We eat, we are lucky, our faces are shining with fat, but we don’t know the pleasure of being hungry any more.

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