by Sam Buntz
Eating is weird: you have a hole in your face, a kind of trash can (to paraphrase this pseudo-Buddhist manual I read once) into which you can place various objects. If you smoke, you pour smoke into your bizarre-o face-hole; if you chew gum, the face hole can mash around some sweet-tasting puddy for awhile, before spitting it out.
On the most basic level, all you really need to do is eat—if the climate is right, and there aren’t too many savage beasts around, you can probably deal with just folding a giant leaf over yourself. That’s shelter. After satisfying this essential, you can freely cram whatever non-poisonous articles you can find into your face-hole with abandon. Love and togetherness and sexual reproduction and Transcending the Mundane Sphere through Culture and all that stuff are fine, but as Orwell once noted, we are first “bags for putting food in” (not that I necessarily agree with the total primacy of eating—though it’s certainly funny).
[DIGRESSION: Lord Byron, ever the womanizing misogynist (a classic combo), once said, “A woman should never be seen eating unless it be lobster salad and Champagne, the only true feminine and becoming viands.” Contra Byron and most chivalrously, I’ll watch a woman eat anything, and will enjoy the experience to boot (not in a sick way, though). But if I had to pick something to watch this hypothetical chick eat, in particular, it sure as hell wouldn’t be lobster salad. On a related note, I’d like to see someone figure out how to eat a burrito elegantly and without appearing to be a total slob — only a woman would be capable of fulfilling this challenge, in my humble neo-feminist opinion.]
I’ve never done and have no desire to do psychedelic drugs, but a couple friends of mine took acid (or some weird synthetic peyote powder stuff—I forget) and claimed that they realized that their faces were actually a certain kind of pet. You needed to constantly care for your face-pet—feed it, comb its hair, tweeze its eyebrows, whatever. Despite my skepticism about the ability of chemicals to expand consciousness in a genuine way, I had to admit that this was sort of an insight. Your face really is like a pet. For some reason, I feel that this is directly related to what I just said about eating.
In any case, I was babbling on about this very subject to a Wise Sage I know. (Something as basic as eating starts to seem like divine Nonsense when you think about it too much—kind of like repeating a word over and over again until it sounds ridiculous.) The sagely man had this to say: “You have to eat the world to stay in the world.” My mind was totally blown—I thought this was great.
In the science-fiction novel, The Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay, the hero travels to another planet by drinking a bottle of light from that planet’s solar system. It’s a specific kind of light called “back rays”—the tendency of back rays is to return to their source, so when you imbibe them, they transport you to that same source. In tandem with the aphorism from the contemporary Ecclesiastes just cited, this provoked me to wondering: if we were able to eat food from another world—a better one—maybe we could go live there… If a stranger gave you some Celestial Vittles, wrapped up in wax paper, on a drizzly November evening, maybe you could take off for Arcturus or Narnia or The Western Paradise of the Buddha Amitabha. And maybe the food that can do that is… Compassion. Soul Food. (Yeah—I know you didn’t think this was going to get all lame at the end.)