Life is a series of meals

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This essay is an analogy on life. It is comparing life to a number of meals. Here food and menu (choices), restaurants (environments and circumstances), diners (other people), hunger (passion and
drive), indigestion (poor choices) all play a critical role.

Submitted: June 06, 2018

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Submitted: June 06, 2018

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Life is nothing but a series of dining experiences chosen from among a dizzying number of options, one at a time in countless permutations and combinations. If we consider that analogy its structure would be as follows:

  • The restaurants would represent the various environments and circumstances that you find yourself in.
  • The people in your life would be equivalent to the diners sharing the meal with you.
  • The food itself will be the many choices that you consume in your lifetime; while the menu would be all the available choices based on your current environment.
  •  Your hunger would represent a combination of your drive and will to accomplish tasks in life along with your capacity for the same.
  • The way you eat the food would be analogous to how you consume your choices and will it will determine their effect on you.
  • Indigestion will be the effects of bad choices and will be vital to learning how to eat better choices.

 

Going along with this analogy, you start off life in a random restaurant (environment and circumstances). You come to grips with your hunger (desires) and learn to satiate it with myriad options of food (choices) available from the menu of that restaurant. Along the way you encounter people (diners) who are themselves experiencing this life of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. You learn from them as you decide to consume meals (choices and life experiences) with a few of them. No matter how similar, you realize that no two diners have the same preferences and digestive ability; choices once consumed affect everyone on a different scale. You eat your way through innumerable choices as you learn how to consume them from experiences, other diners and through indigestion (wrong choices).

We go over the various aspects of this analogy in detail.

 

EATING YOUR FIRST CHOICE

 

At the beginning of life, you find yourself in a random restaurant. You might start off in one which offers a fine dining experience. You might be in one where there exists no actual menu and what they serve barely qualifies as food. Whatever the case maybe, you will never have any control over this factor. This will however have a big control over you. It will determine your perception of life and the world. It will determine the way you will perceive all food (choices) that the world has to offer. From here on out, you will have unhindered control over every aspect of your various dining experiences, eventually.

Initially, you will start off in a restaurant which has been picked by your parents. You will be eating the choices that they make for you. As you grow up, you will slowly but surely be asked to choose from the menu something that you would like to order. Your parents will still have the final say but you will get your first real experience of what it is like to make a choice.

You will now have your first taste of making decisions. You can go over the intimidating list of options and make a decision or back out and ask them to order a decision for you. If you back out of decision making, they will order an item off the menu for you. You will have to keep eating their choices till you decide your own meals. Be careful not to get into this habit, for you must eventually decide what will truly satisfies your hunger come meal time.

When you decide to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of choosing from the menu, you will be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. You will not only get a chance to understand your desires for the very first time but also understand how to satiate this hunger. As the food arrives you might have eyes only for the one item that you’ve ordered. When it arrives and you get to lay your eyes on the dish you might find that it looks nothing like it did on the menu. Things are not always what they seem to be. A choice may look good on paper, not so much in reality. Unperturbed you might just eat it with eager anticipation; ending up ecstatic (if it tastes good) or heavily disappointed (if it tastes bad). You will then realize that there can be a marked difference between expectations and reality. You will then eat one of the other choices made by your parents as you will seldom consume only your choices when you dine with others. Expecting nothing out of their food order, you might just end up relishing the choice. Here you will learn one of the most important lessons, the level of delight is directly related to the level of expectation.

 

 

THE OTHER DINERS

 

No man is an island and as such most of your meals will invariably involve other diners whether you like it or not. Some of these diners will be thrust upon you, some will be chosen by you and the rest you will eat with in some capacity in this culinary journey of life. This life full of meals will always find meaning in two ways: through the various food (and their outcomes) and through the diners. Among these two, the diners will have a bigger and subtler impact on your life.

The most immediate impact will be felt on the current meal that you will be sharing with new diners. Their mere presence will affect the choices that you make. The food that you order while around others might be markedly different than what you might have ordered alone. This societal pressure will be directly proportional to the number of diners present for the meal. Depending on the type of people you are dining with, your range and necessity of food options will differ. The diners might order separately; along with you or at worst for you.

You would order different foods in diverse restaurants (make varied choices in alternating circumstances) and you should do the same with the wide spectrum of diners. Order food based on the diners with whom you are sharing the meal. If it is with familiar diners, you can let loose and make choices in unison as you all share the outcomes of those choices. If the meal is with unfamiliar diners who have been brought together by chance rather than choice; where the outcome affects you disproportionately always order what seems right to you without impeding anyone else’s right to do so. You might share a few choices with the other diners, if such a situation should arise. How you handle these choices being made will come to define what kind of eater you turn into.  

When any diner orders, regardless of whether it is for the table or for themselves, you should pay attention to them. It will teach you how others order off the menu in this restaurant (environment) i.e. how they make life choices with the limitations imposed on them. When the food does arrive, you will realize how none of it goes as per plan. Each dish is not limited to the person who ordered it and with so many people involved, no choice remains isolated from each other no matter how they may appear so. Eventually, you will learn that other people will have an impact on not only this meal but your subsequent meals and in ways you will never be able to fathom.

Eating food i.e. making choices is necessary to truly live because as humans, it is our prerogative to take action so that we truly live and not merely survive. The choice of diners is not something that is absolutely necessary and we can choose to eat the rest of our lives without other diners (even those imposed on us by fate) but that would be downright foolish. Some people can find meaning in their lives just by consuming new and different choices with a single other diner who they adore. In that case, the choice (food) becomes irrelevant and all that matters is eating your way through life with that other person.

While choices are somewhat arbitrary in their options and outcomes, nothing is as random as another human being. The sheer number of ways in which a single person can alter your life is incalculable because human nature is unpredictable. Any day, your whole life can change by one fortuitous encounter. In addition to that, other diners can introduce you to new settings (restaurants) and new foods that you might have never discovered in your life. It is highly probable because the number of choices in the form of restaurants and dishes is mind boggling and definitely not something a person can discover all by themselves. You can not only find meaning in other diners but through other diners as they introduce you the various meals of life, thereby offering the chance to live many different lives.

 

 

THE MENU AND THE FOOD

 

If there is one thing which determines the course of life, it is choice. Life is not made up of time, it is made up of choices. The choices presented to you will always have limitations, restrictions and rules on the basis of which you will make your decisions. Life is made up of choices and the moments you live as a result of these choices. 

It becomes obvious that this is the most important aspect in the entire analogy. Some people, due to limiting circumstances far beyond their control, might lack flexibility when it comes to deciding the restaurant. Everyone, though, will have a vast degree of freedom over the menu available to them in the present moment. Thus, choosing from the menu and placing orders according to the type of hunger is one of THE most important life skills that should be cultivated. A number of factors and their various combinations will decide the optimum meal for your current state of hunger.

There will never be any right way of picking from the menu as the number of choices on a single menu are vast. Add to that is the fact that not only is your hunger limited but also no two hungers in life will ever be the same and you are looking at a near endless combination of choices. To that effect, everyone will have to decide what choices they would like to eat.

Some people will be happy eating just one large difficult choice to satiate their hunger while others will order a number of smaller relatively easier choices with which they will fulfill themselves. There will be others who have will have a greater hunger and will easily devour a 7-course meal. A person might be one for instant gratification and easy options so she might order choices that provide a great deal of immediate satisfaction like waffles. She might decide to do the same for a lot of the meals in her life. This might seem like an appealing idea but remember that every choice has consequences. Choices that provide a great deal of instant gratification will present you with a host of problems in the future. That is because when a choice leads to an excess outcome of one thing it turns to its polar opposite in the future. On the other hand, choices which seek a balance between instant and delayed gratification will provide subsequent benefits which won’t be apparent for a while. Consider what happens when you choose pasta over oats every day for a meal. Though, these choices won’t have visible effects on you immediately, you will start noticing the benefits a few years down the line. By then, some people will have developed extreme short-term vision and will simply choose instant gratification over long term gains (deep fried pizza over cooked quinoa).

Never get into the habit of deciding what to order from the menu based on the food that you see on other tables or your own table. Remember things are not always what they seem to be. In the end, it is you who will have to eat the food and only you who really knows what is needed. No matter how confused you feel when going over the multitude of options, really ask yourself what is required in the moment.

Another reason to never peep at other tables (besides it being rude) is that you will hurt your own happiness. If you start comparing your order with that of others, you will always long for their choices. Remember, the grass is always greener on the other side (in this case the soup is creamier on the other table) You will not enjoy your choice as you consume it and long after you will be left wondering whether you made the right choice. There is never any way to know for certain if you have consumed the right meal in the moment and if the massive array of items on the menu hadn’t left you wondering, being a peeping tom surely will.

 

 

 

In some restaurants you will be provided with a separate menu as well and what will be offered to you here will not qualify as food at all. They will still count as choices but will be very different in nature from the ones you will encounter till adulthood. It will go by many names, one of them being “The drinks menu.” It will offer you beverages of the alcoholic kind; choices very different from the ones you will encounter otherwise in your life. These will be one of the trickiest choices you will ever face.

All food (choice) nourish the mind and the body and keep you alive. If you eat healthier food it revitalizes your soul making you feel alive. That won’t be the case with the choice of alcohol. For alcohol will represent all the choices for irrational fun. Choices which are no means to an end; which will not yield or result in anything the world considers worthwhile. These choices are of critical importance though, because once in a while it is imperative that you let loose. You will soon realize that in order to function to your capacity you will need to stop functioning and just indulge, every once in a while. In order to do some serious work, you will need to engage in some serious play. Alcohol will help you tremendously with the same.

There will be other foods which can serve as irrational fun (ice cream for instance), not directly contributing to your “purpose” in life and thus there will never be any reason to look at the “Drinks menu” unless you choose to do so. Some people will go their entire lives without having a sip of the choices that alcohol represent and that is as valid as the decision to get drunk off your choices. As mentioned earlier though, alcohol will be one of THE trickiest choices that will ever be presented to you. As you dine with others you will realize that these choices carry social burden and pressure like no other choice. Some people will spend meal after meal barely eating any soul nourishing choice (food) and will instead choose to just engage in effortless fun (alcohol). This will not only impede their growth in life but will eventually numb them to the point where alcohol will be the only source of fun. They will forego all other instant gratification fun foods (chocolates) for their only true source of fun (alcohol). Their mind, soul and body will wither from a lack of nourishment and they will transform into a shell of their former selves oblivious to the damage done to themselves. Life is balance and so all your meals (choices) need to strike a balance between the healthy and unhealthy foods.

On a side note, some people will discover by stupid luck or through sheer determination and stubbornness that you have the option to go off the menu as well. This option might also be discovered by those who are struck by a hunger like never before and decide to improvise. It can also be discovered through a feeling of frustration and desperation when a diner feels they are out of options and nothing in the restaurant will suffice. You can order a choice that no one else has thought of or some have considered outlandish. This approach will require a dash of audacity along with a sprinkling of intelligence in order to not only believe in your choice but to know for sure that this food item is something that the environment can deliver to you.

 

THE RESTAURANT

 

The menu will present you with all the choices that are available to you to choose from -  the big and the small; the difficult and the easy; the enticing and the rewarding. What you will eventually discover is that those choices are not the only ones that life has to offer to you. You will, early on in your dining life realize that you can change restaurants (situations, circumstances and environments). You will meet some individuals who are culinary nomads. They have been changing restaurants for as long as they can remember, shifting as soon as the food no longer nourishes their soul. The food offers sustenance but life is more than simply surviving. You can eat the same food over and over again and it will keep you alive but you may no longer be living. That does not apply to everyone though as some find meaning in monotony as long as it is what interests them.

You can shuttle between restaurants till you find the ideal one whose choices will never satisfy you in the long run but will always gratify you in the moment. When you find the ideal restaurant don’t be surprised to realize that you are never sure if it is the right one. How can you be? There are so innumerable restaurants with even more menus. The permutations and combinations alone are mind boggling. Among all the choices that you make, you will first have to make the choice of the environment; from where you will base all your subsequent choices. Some find their perfect restaurant early on in their life and never change environments while some keep searching all their life not finding anything they fancy. It is important to remember to savor all the food while on this voyage rather than worrying about whether you are consuming the right choices. Life is not so much about finding THE restaurant; rather it is about savoring the food while you continue doing so. It is about the journey rather than the destination. There will also be those who will know this intuitively and hence they will give up on the search altogether, going with the flow and shifting restaurants out of coincidences rather than will. There will also be those who might keep shifting even after finding their perfect eating place as they will always be in doubt over this primordial choice.

Having established the fact that there is no concrete ideal restaurant one can simply keep changing environment as and when the need arises. This will not only give you the opportunity to try new unknown exciting choices but also allow you to meet other eaters in this life of meals. You will discover more about yourself through new foods (choices) and new diners then you ever will through any other way in life. Along the way you might even find that one cuisine made by that one environment which you were meant to eat and you can eat so well that it will impart meaning to your life in an authentic way.

 

 

 

LONE DINING

 

You will have most of your meals in the company of others who are themselves going through life consuming choice after choice. With a little wisdom, you will realize that no matter how many people you eat with and no matter how long, you are always in a sense consuming your choices alone. Two diners, regardless of how similar they are and how many similar choices they consume in the same restaurant will have vastly different lives as the products of their digestion will always differ.

Keeping that in mind, it will be vital for you to learn how to eat alone and it will be healthier if you consciously decide to have some of your choices alone. This will allow you the freedom and flexibility to truly consume what it is that nourishes and soothes you. That which allows you to grow to your potential and is conducive to your digestion, to your hunger and your capacity. Your choices are yours and yours alone and this way, you will be able to learn which meals to consume in specific situations.

As you eat alone in the same environment (restaurant) time and again you will familiarize yourself with all the available choices and you will make better smarter choices. You will know which food to order to satisfy a particular type of hunger. You will know which food will not only fill you up but will satisfy the particular craving you seem to be experiencing. You will also figure out which choices are not made for you as you suffer the effects of indigestion after consuming them repeatedly. Your mistakes will make you smarter. You will know the exact quantity of food you need to pick so that you fill yourself up but never take on more than you can consume. There will never be any waste as an outcome of your choices. As you keep up the practice of eating alone, you will get better at making choices and executing them. Eventually, if you do decide to go to a new restaurant for one reason or the other, it will help you in a number of ways.

A move to a new restaurant is always daunting as you leave most, if not all, of your diners behind and come to a new setting. You will not be so intimidated as you have eaten alone many times which will make the new transition easier. You will order confidently in the new restaurant even if the menu is completely alien to you and you will end up satisfied and content. You will also attract other diners to you and enjoy eating meals with them as you step into this new phase of your life. It is crucial that you interact with other diners because life is all about sharing meals with others regardless of how many you have alone.

 

 

HUNGER

 

Your hunger will embody your ability and your passion to consume a certain combination of choices. Not only will the hunger of two people differ but no two hungers that you experience will ever be the same. As such, you will always to have decide what to eat on the basis of your hunger. You might think that a diner always eats according to their hunger but you will be wrong as there are several factors which can simulate hunger. These include but are not limited to: what others are ordering, the size of others’ orders, your ego’s desire to show your aptitude by ordering a lot of food thus “proving yourself to the world” and many others. You will however, have to learn to listen to your hunger and eat accordingly. Some people will be able to consume hard difficult choices and many at one time while others will only need a few small choices to sustain themselves. Identify where you lie on this spectrum, honor your hunger and eat accordingly. Eat only when you are hungry i.e. when you are mind and body are ready to consume choices and eat to your capacity, never beyond.

Every once in a while, you can and you must extend your limits but those will be rare circumstances when you know you can push yourself. Pushing yourself now and then, will keep your mind and body guessing and thus always primed for growth. It will also prove to yourself that you can go beyond your limits which will encourage you to increase your hunger and tackle difficult to digest dishes.

Your hunger is an indication that your soul needs to eat some choices without which it will decay. Always respect your hunger for what it is, your mind and body’s desire to survive and the soul’s desire to grow. Never delay eating your choices when your mind and body are hungry. Obey your hunger and eat when the time arrives. A delay in eating is detrimental to your being and should never become a habit. Inaction is also a type of action, the worst of the lot. You need to keep consuming choices; you should never stagnate. Remember it is only still water that goes stale.

There will be times when you will have to make choices i.e. eat food even though you are not hungry. Ideally you should not give in to the temptation of food when you are not hungry but if it cannot be avoided then you should do your best to limit the number of choices you make as they are not in a real sense your choices. If they were you would choose not to make them in the first place.

Your hunger has limitations and you should always be mindful of these restrictions. These limitations mean that you will never be able to consume even half the menu let alone the whole in a single meal. It is a disease of our age that we are in a constant state of doing and becoming. We just want to consume more choices in less time way beyond capacity. We are wired to overdo and never at rest as a result. Your hunger indicates to you that you can only eat so many choices at a time. If you try to eat for the taste of the food and not for your hunger you are bound to over exert yourself which will lead to indigestion and poor health.

Understanding the boundaries of your health and the over abundance of choices in the menu, it will do you good to realize that you will need time in the form of multiple meals to finish off an entire menu. In the case of some restaurants that will also not happen as the menu will just be far too big for a single lifetime. Add to that the fact that everything is in a state of flux and the menu might change or the restaurant might vanish. Thus, it will be best if you make peace with the fact that you can never experience all the food and it is simply foolish to do so. You would do better to savor every choice and every moment like it is the only choice.

HEALTHY WAY OF EATING

 

Every section in this essay has directly or indirectly covered food (choice) The last section will cover not what but how you need to consume your choices. How you consume your choices is of paramount importance, maybe even more than what choices you consume.

A healthy way of eating your choices can prevent indigestion and can help you eat the most difficult combination of foods or hard to digest choices. When you sit down for your choice consumption, it is important to do so in a calm state of mind. You should begin your meals with a bit of gratitude that you have the opportunity to consume a plethora of good choices. You must be extremely mindful not only when you eat but also before you eat. This will ensure that you choose foods which are right for you and not those which only provide instant gratification or look good. Choosing with full awareness will also ensure that you order the right quantity of food even in the presence of other diners and you are confident of what you truly desire. Finally, you will be satisfied in your choice and will not be looking over to the other tables always unsure about your food.

When the choices do arrive, you will eat them knowing full well that there can never be any right choice and what you have ordered will suffice. You should eat in this same state of calm awareness with complete focus on the food. You should smell your choice, first eat it with your nose and eyes before you eat it with your tongue and mouth. Eat your choice slowly so that you can execute your choice well and enjoy every delicious bite. No matter the simplicity or complexity of your choice, if you eat it mindfully, it will always feel like bliss as it is nourishing your soul more than your body. Eaten mindfully, the choice will be easier to digest and as mentioned before, a mindfully eaten meal never results in indigestion.

 

If at any time in the middle of eating your meal should you feel uncharacteristically full and not able to consume the remainder of any choice that you’ve made; have the willpower to stay away from the food no matter how tempting it appears. When to let go is also an important choice that you need to learn how to make. Never eat a choice if you feel like it is way beyond your capacity at the moment. There might also be instances when half way through eating a choice you realize that you no longer seem to enjoy it, you should immediately let go of the meal regardless of the amount of resources that have been sunk into it. You can always order something else or just wait; a new hunger is always around the corner!

 If you consume your choices in an unhealthy manner it will affect your mind and soul while reflecting on your body. Your body will acquire a disproportionate shape, your skin will lose its sheen and the eyes will fail to sparkle. No matter how many right choices you consume, it will all be in vain if you do not master the art of consumption. On the other hand, someone who consumes even wrong or difficult choices (for any number of reasons) will remain largely unaffected as he overcomes them in the right manner.

After eating your meal, you should let the effects of your choices wash over you completely. The tendency might be to start thinking of your next meal but resist the temptation. Learn how to decondition yourself from this consumption obsessed society. In this way not only will you able to reap the benefits of your choices but your body and mind will learn from the choices regardless of the outcome. If you eat with mindfulness you will slowly start understanding your hunger, which will allow you to consume your next set of choices when the time has arrived in the best possible manner.

 

 

 

INDIGESTION

 

No matter how well you consume your choices you will inevitably suffer from indigestion as you will make mistakes. That is needed because a life without mistakes is no life at all. You might eat too many choices in one sitting; eat the wrong combination of choices; consume when you are not really hungry or even when you are not in good health, mentally and physically. Indigestion can happen for these and many other reasons but it is imperative that you respond to it well otherwise it can hamper your life and subsequent choices for a significant amount of time. Even more important than curing current indigestion is to cure yourself of your poor choice consuming habits that lead to indigestion in the first place.

In a society where choice-based indigestion is rampant, it is easy to overlook your poor habits which lead you to make poor life decisions. We as a civilization have become numb to the effects of our poor choices but that is no reason for you to continue doing the same. Every time you experience indigestion, the first step is to acknowledge that you have made a mistake which has resulted in the condition. It is then crucial that you retrace your steps and understand what triggered it in the first place. By retracing your steps, you can learn from your mistakes and thus avoid them in the future. It can also lead to you making better choices as you slowly understand your poor choices. I say “can” because most people never learn from indigestion as they cannot give up the tempting choices that caused it in the first place, knowing full well their harmful effects.

As you recover from indigestion, it is crucial that you rest and recuperate from the blow the bad choices have dealt to you. It is essential that you do not get right back to action. Instead, you should nurse yourself physically while you get stronger mentally in order to ensure that you take better decisions when the hunger strikes. This might be obvious but it isn’t easy for most people because we are addicted to eating (i.e. to doing) and can’t seem to just relax and do nothing when it is most needed. It is almost a disease of modern times that we feel we must constantly be doing things in order to be better than everyone else. Hence, we constantly keep eating choice after choice, never relishing any of them and already thinking of future ones while consuming the present one.

While it is human nature to undertake tasks and activities, it is also human nature to relax between them and just take in the environment every once in a while. Ideally, you should be eating healthy choices when the time is apt; in the right proportions and combinations according to the depth of your hunger, all the while truly enjoying the meal. When you are done with one meal, do not harp on the past meals or worry about the future foods and restaurants. Instead, take a deep long breath and enjoy the ambience of the restaurant you find yourself in at the moment.


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