Thomas Merton and ‘This Cult of Foods’

From The Seven Storey Mountain, 180-181(emphasis mine)

The whole result of this diet was to teach me this trivial amusement, this cult of foods that I imagined to be bland and healthful. It made me think about myself. It was a game, a hobby, something like psychoanalysis had been. I even sometimes fell into the discussion of foods and their values and qualities in relation to health, as if I were an authority on the subject. And for the rest, I went around with my mind in my stomach and ate quarts and quarts of ice-cream.

Now my life was dominated by something I had never really known before: fear. Was it something altogether new? No, for fear is inseparable from pride and lust. They may hide it for a time: but it is the reverse of the coin. The coin had turned over and I was looking at the other side: the eagle that was to eat out my insides for a year or so, cheap Prometheus that I had become! It was humiliating, this strange wariness that accompanied all my actions, this self-conscious watchfulness. It was humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. There was more justice in it than I could understand.

I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all our vitality and sanity depend: and so now I was reduced to the condition of a silly old woman, worrying about a lot of imaginary rules of health, standards of food-value, and a thousand minute details of conduct that were in themselves completely ridiculous and stupid, and yet which haunted me with vague and terrific sanctions. If I eat this, I may go out of my mind. If I do not eat that, I may die in the night.

I had at last become a child of the modern world, completely tangled up in petty and useless concerns with myself, and almost incapable of even considering or understanding anything that was really important to my own true interests.

This was written in 1948.

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