Roman Calendar

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Food" (from "Musonius Rufus on How To Live")

From Musonius Rufus on How To Live:


Musonius spoke often and very emphatically on the subject of food - as a question of great significance - leading to important consequences: he believed that the foundation of moderation lay in self-control when eating and drinking.

. . .

Gluttony and high living are thoroughly shameful - no one will dare deny it; yet I have observed very few aiming to avoid these vices. Quite the opposite! . . . What else is gluttony except immoderation in the matter of food, causing people to prefer what is tasty over what is good for you? High living is nothing else but excessive luxury on the dinner table. Excess is always evil - but here in particular it reveals its true nature in these people - it makes them greedy like swine or dogs - incapable of proper behavior with hands, eyes, or gullet - the desire for delicacies perverts them completely. It is so shameful to behave this way towards food that we liken them to unreasoning animals rather than to intelligent human beings. Now if this is shameful, the opposite must be good - exercising moderation and manners in eating - demonstrating your self-control there first of all (not an easy thing to do, requiring attention and practice). Why should this be? Because despite there being many pleasures which lure humanity into wrong - forcing us to yield to what is contrary to the good - pleasure in eating is probably the hardest of all to combat."

Worth noting that in the 21st century United States we can certainly sympathize with these sentiments, and whereas in ancient Rome only certain wealthy classes had access to a surfeit of unhealthy food, the modern West has the additional problem that the unhealthiest and least natural foods are the easiest and cheapest to produce, hence the vast majority of people in the West have to be on guard against gluttony and addiction as well as malnutrition - malnutrition is common, even among those who eat far too much!

"For we encounter other pleasures less frequently, and we can avoid some of them for months or whole years - yet we're tempted by this one every day (and usually twice a day), since it isn't possible for us to live otherwise. Thus the more often we're tempted by pleasure in eating, the more dangers there are involved. Each meal is not one hazard, but many:
* eating too much
* eating too fast
* wallowing in pickles and sauces
* preferring sweeter foods to those more healthy
* serving your guests different food, or different amounts, than yourself
* indulging at unseasonable times - putting off something else we ought to have done fist
Since these and other vices are connected with eating, if you wish to show self-control, you must be free of all of them - blameless of any of them - this requires constant practice . . ."

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