Monday, October 8, 2012

A Different Way of Feeding the World.

For 40 years, his food each day was only one meal and his transportation only walking. And yet he  lived to be 91. He slept at night on a plank which one day would be at the bottom of his casket. He felt he was one with the universe. The Kyeongyang Catholic magazine gives us some thoughts on  Yu Yeong Mo 1890-1981 by a professor emeritus, head of a research institute. Yu, also called Taksok, was searching for a way everyone could easily follow in living together in peace. It all depended, he believed, on our habits of eating and reproduction.

Jesus played a prominent role in his life and was an important motivating influence on his thought. Though baptized as a Protestant, he had his own understanding of Christianity. The professor says that if we copied his way of living, the problems of the  21st century would be solved. Even though we may not  agree with Taksok, the professor says he can teach us something worth knowing.

In Korean, the word for 'life' has not only the biological meaning it has in many other languages, but also the metaphysical meaning of the breath of life that comes from God. For Taksok, giving up the biological understanding of eating and reproduction is required if we are to follow God's understanding. The body is born to die, the ego must die for the spirit to live.

The Word of God plays a prominent role in Taksok's thinking,  but skipping over many of his ideas let us focus on one of the most upsetting. For him, whenever we eat, we are participating in a funeral rite. The following explanation sums up his surprising words: the mouth is a tomb since we are putting living remains into our mouth. Though there is of course a difference between animal and plant life, they are all living matter.

For us to eat, he says, other living matter has to die. So everyone of our meals can be considered a funeral for the matter being eaten is or was alive, and is the reason he reduced his meals to one a day. In place of the other two meals typically consumed,  he would say, "I'm eating from the flesh of my body, and offering it up in sacrifice." For Taksok, this was the zenith of prayer.

Rice, for Koreans, is the sacrificial offering. St. Paul said that our bodies are temples of God. Those that understand this have the right understanding of what eating means. What I eat, I'm offering up to God. Without this thinking, according to Taksok, whenever we eat, we are stealing. The act of eating itself is only possible because of God's grace and the abundance of nature and the numberless workers who produce and distribute that abundance to all of us. We should reflect on this, says the professor, every time we eat.

If we were to accept Taksok's intriguing idea that eating is a participation in a funeral and a sacrifice, feeding 7 billion inhabitants of the world would not be such a huge problem. The solution might at least begin by reducing the size of our bodies by less feeding of the body. Tightening the belt surrounding our greed, he says, is the way to accomplish the goal, which would lead naturally to more sharing and serving of others.

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