Vatican Saying 69

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This Saying alludes to the Epicurean teaching on the desires: past the basic food that one needs in order to stay alive, all else is "variety"; while one may need one's daily bread, for example, one hardly "needs" bread with raisins, or sesame seeds. The desire for any and all variety belongs, as per the Epicurean classification, among the natural but unnecessary desires.

Yet, Epicurus tells us, the problem does not lie with our body (and its limited needs), but with our soul (and its "ingratitude"). This ingratitude makes us, despite the (natural) living animals that we are, greedy: we develop all sorts of false beliefs about what is, and what isn't necessary. Thus we end up expecting an infinite variety in our diet, as if our happiness and well-being depended pressingly on ever different experiences.

It is not natural, bodily hunger that fans the flames of desire for exquisite foods, but the greed of the soul that craves some imaginary, extraordinary pleasure that supposedly only such foods can give. The body, with its natural needs, should be the rule and guide for our conduct, suggests Epicurus. Once hunger, the real need for food, has been alleviated, everything beyond that is simply variation, and not a necessity.

EDITORIAL NOTE: It is also important to recognize that the Greek term diaita, albeit a direct cognate of the English "diet", is a far broader term, meaning "daily", and most akin to our modern notion of "life-style". Thus this Saying is relevant not only to matters of food, but also to all those that define our daily life.

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