Thursday, November 25, 2010


The company makes the feast.
- Anonymous
 The feast is a very ancient concept, almost certainly pre-historic.  Man is a social beast, and the social grouping requires regular glue to bond its members.  Nothing like an unusually large meal to bring family and friends closer together.

But this utilitarian, cultural anthropological view risks missing the most profound aspect of the feast.  It's not the feeding of the bodies that's important; it's the feeding of the soul.  That's where the glue is found, not in the extra calories.

And in pre-industrial societies, those extra calories were important, as most people lived only a harvest or two from starvation.  And the spiritual aspects were still more important.

The picture is from Peter Bruegel the elder, The Wedding Feast.  Whether because someone was getting married or buried, feasts were for a reason.  Every feast had an event to justify the expense.  Until that unique experiment in governance arose in America.

Thanksgiving is sui generis - unique.  It is the most American of holidays, a feast with no triggering event.  Be thankful, we're told.  Thankful for what? we ask.  For whatever you like.

It's a decentralized celebration - we each of us decide what that spiritual point is that makes this day a special feast.  Nobody tells us, we take care of it ourselves.  And the entire country shuts down, as each of us do just that.

It's not the calories, it's the psychological meaning that bonds us.  Many parts of America, born of the puritan tradition, have a problem with the excess.  Groaning tables seem to rebuke us: do you really need all this?

Yes, you really do.  This has been known since the ancient days; the Greeks had a saying: Moderation in all things, including moderation.  A feast short circuits the usual rules of restraint.  It has to.

Because it's not about the extra calories, which many of us perhaps could stand to avoid.  Don't.  The feast is about stepping outside of the normal flow.  A feast isn't about eating, it's about the glue that bonds us together.  See the glue, not the food - unless your gravy is a little too thick and sticky.  But even that is a meditation on the whole point of the thing.  Calorie guilt misses that point, which is spiritual, the feeding of the soul.

Today I'm thankful for many things, not least of which is all of you who stop by.  I hope that your feast today is a feast of the soul as well as of the body.
“The liturgy, like the feast, exists not to educate but to seduce people into participating in common activity of the highest order, where one is freed to learn things which cannot be taught.”
- Father Aidan Kavanagh


SiGraybeard said...

Happy Thanks Giving, Borepatch. I add your musings and perspectives to the things I'm thankful for.

Six said...

Happy Thanksgiving BP.

Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you find food for body and soul.