Vi fortsätter idag med att låta Norman Wirzba själv få sammanfatta sin bok – här, kapitel 5, om bordsbön (och återigen från intervjun med The Other Journal)
OJ: How does eating show us our place in the world? That is, how is eating central to what it means to be humans or to be creatures? And how does eating and the act of saying grace show our place in the world?
NW: I think we could start with how our eating shows us to be interdependent creatures. We’ve sort of gotten used to the idea—and there’s a lot in our culture that encourages us to think this way—that we are self-standing beings. And if not self-standing beings, we are at least self-legislating beings, which means we get to decide for ourselves the kind of life we want, and we want to have that life on our own terms. We love the kinds of conveniences and technologies that allow us to have life cheaply, conveniently, and on demand. And what that does is it gives us a really distorted sense of who we are, because we then start to think that the world exists for us. That’s a profoundly damaging view of the world because the world doesn’t exist for us; the world exists for God. And so the question should be, how can our eating show that we understand this? And when you think about how we live and what Eric Schlosser called the “Fast Food Nation,” we see that eating has become primarily an economic act where everything hinges upon cheapness, speed, and efficiency, and in doing that, we’re doing great harm to our bodies, to agricultural workers, and to animals. We’re destroying our fields. To have all these cheap, convenient foods means that we’re not adequately caring for things.
Our duty to care for things is, I think, fundamental. It starts in Genesis, where we have a kind of foundational story in which God says we’re supposed to take care of the garden. Through much of our eating today we’re not taking care of the garden. When you look beyond the physical act of consumption and start to ask questions about the stories behind the food—what’s really going on to get that food to us?—I think you get a picture showing us that our eating and our living are not right. Ultimately, I want to help us understand what it means to be a responsible, faithful creature in the world. Eating can be a powerful way to do that.
You also ask about saying grace, which I think is really important. I grew up saying grace, and I imagine lots of people have. The act of saying grace can become formulaic, but it can also have a lot of value. We’re all very busy people and that means we don’t reflect on what we’re doing much of the time. We just go through our day by rote, and because we haven’t stopped to think about what we’re doing, we continue in ways that are damaging to creation and to ourselves. So an important part of saying grace is stopping and clearing our minds of the clutter, worry, and anxiety of all that’s going on in our heads. Then we turn our attention to what’s on the table. What we discover is that we’ve got a history of living and dying happening on that table. We’ve got a history of agricultural workers and cooks and people who have produced and prepared the food. We need time to take that in because, otherwise, we are more likely to abuse what we take for granted, what we don’t value. My hope is that we will learn to value food, not make an idol of it, but value it as God’s gift given to us.
And how do we learn to receive the gift gratefully? That leads into the next dimension of saying grace, where we learn to try to be thankful for what our life depends upon. To be grateful will invariably put us into a position of humility because we understand that without the gifts of family and friends who nurture us along the way, and without God’s gifts of fields and water and plants and animals and bees, we’d be done! Without worms and bees, there’s no fertility or pollination; and without fertility and pollination, we don’t eat; and without eating, we don’t live. And so I think eating can be a powerful sort of lens to get us into a deeper understanding of who we are and where we are and on who and what we’re dependent.