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“We can ask whether and to what extent our customs about eating are informed by insights into our nature. We can even ask whether and to what extent our customs about eating contribute to the perfection of our nature.”
– Leon Kass, The Hungry Soul
Saying ‘goodbye’ to students on the last day of classes holds a rich poignancy. Yesterday, among a number of notable exchanges with my students, one exemplifies why teaching offers reasons for hope in darkening times. At the conclusion of our study of human nature, a young lady approached me and said, “Dr. Cuddeback, I want to live according to the truth we have studied. What do you suggest that I do?”
What a question! It almost takes my breath away. Surely, I know that hearts tend to be moved by the things that we study. But seeing it in the flesh is so real, so powerful. And ‘being moved’ by what we study is in reality quite complex—an amazing combination of gift and of active reception and response to the gift. ‘Being moved’ might in some sense just ‘happen’ to us; but also we must choose to be moved, and then to act accordingly.
You would think I would be more ready for this question: isn’t it after all what the teacher most anticipates? I swallowed; and I suggested two things.
Start by asking God. He has put this question in your heart. He will provide an answer, if you ask.
Second, look at how you eat. There, ask the question that Leon Kass poses in the quotation above.
This will perhaps seem strange. I make no claim it is the best or most fitting answer to my student’s question. But you must begin somewhere. And we had ended our course with Leon Kass’s great book, a central assertion of which is that in how we eat, we can embody and cultivate our deepest convictions about what it is to be human.
Being intentional about how we eat, examining and making fitting resolutions: this is an obvious concrete path to living the truth more fully. And human life is always essentially about living the truth.
In view of this, I have chosen three questions every person can ask about how he eats…