Food, Eating, and Civility
CIVILITY is more than just conversing or acting more harmoniously with our fellow humans.
CIVILITY demonstrates our understanding of our world and how to best interact as conscious human beings with our environment and all its inhabitants.
We cannot denigrate, ignore, or blithely take from the world around us and then expect the miracle of mindfulness to suddenly give us silver tongues and harmonious cooperative thinking processes.
We are in integral part of nature and nature is an integral part of us.
When we destroy or create eco-imbalances through poorly considered and greed-driven mining, resource extraction, agri-business and so on, we demonstrate an uncivil relationship with that which sustains us.
When we inhumanely raise and mass slaughter entire species for food and various animal by-product chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and luxuries, we demonstrate an uncivil relationship with fellow species.
I am not, here, advocating vegan or vegetarianism. Neither Washington or the Buddha were vegetarian. There is a common mis-conception about Buddhism that it espouses vegetarianism. The Buddha saw the place and use for a vegetarian diet. But, he did not advocate for the Sangha, the Buddhist communities, to embrace this as a doctrine.
But, let us focus here on The Rules of Civility in which there were 17 rules about food and etiquette. From the book…
In general, Rules 90 through 107 are about propriety in eating and dining etiquette. In times when the day began at sunrise and ended at nightfall, dining together was a central feature of instilling harmony in the family and meeting of others outside the functions of work or religious activity. It was clearly understood that the raising and harvesting of one’s food was a core feature of a civilized community. Understanding this very basic fact of life and appreciating it for the nurturing it offers on may levels was more commonplace than it is today.
With respect to etiquette in particular, one could see the upbringing, demeanor, and civil disposition in how one approached food and showed consideration for those around the dining table. If meal times and getting together to eat as families became commonplace, again, how would that affect family life and relations – especially if no one could bring their cell phone or other personal device to the table?!
91. “Make no Show of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on then Table, neither find fault with what you Eat.”
Commentary: In these modern times when many people eat out, snack, or graze more frequently than actually sit down with others to “break bread” in any formal or familial way, the social graces of healthy, respectable, and gracious dining are all but lost. And yet, business luncheons and lunches are not infrequent as apart of commerce, conversing over deals, etc.…Thus the manners and mindfulness of eating bear paying attention to as one more avenue in which one demonstrates a civil approach to an important human function and venue of social discourse.
92. “Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.”
Commentary: More than likely this Rule has less to do with hygiene than it does about using implements that are definitely yours by their use and applying them to what is commonly shared. It may be considered not unlike an animal “tagging” something for themselves.
93. “Entertaining any one at the Table, it is decent to present them with meat; undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.”
Commentary: In this case the “Master” may be a father or whoever is deemed head of the table. In the perspective of such a hierarchy, Hawkins advises one not to invite someone to the table if you know that he or she are not acceptable to the head of the table. And, if they are, be sure that they are served like anyone and everyone else who is at the table.
In the world of Hunkertown, perhaps such rules will help your dining experience with your loved ones. Bon Appetit!