Over these last eight days, I’ve been waking up in front of my fridge wondering what I’m doing there. It’s not as dramatic as Tyler Durden’s experience in Fight club where “I nod off, I wake up in strange places, I have no idea how I got there”. But, I am finding myself all of a sudden standing in front of an open fridge and staring into it; briefly daydreaming about its contents and then waking up to the futility of it all: I can’t eat it; I’m on rice and beans for another 17 days.
While I now catch myself every time I open the fridge (at least I hope so), what I’m really waking up to is my food habit loop. This is, according to Charles Duhigg, author of the bestselling book The Power of Habit, a “process within our brains that is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future: THE HABIT LOOP”. Mark Miller is another Advocate during this round. He is a professional addiction counselor and therefore much better equipped than I am to talk about food addiction and so forth (and he will later on), but my unconscious habits and routines of going to the fridge keep bringing me back to the ideas of sleep, sirens tempting me to that refrigerated rock, and the change that is occurring in me during this round of advocacy.
Kafka in his short story “The Silence of the Sirens” reimagines the epic story of the Sirens, Odysseus, and the rocks. He writes:
“Now the Sirens have a weapon even more terrible than their song, namely, their silence. True, such a thing has not happened, yet perhaps it is thinkable that someone might have escaped from their singing; but from their silence certainly never. Nothing earthly can withstand the sense of having overcome them with one’s own resources, and the overwhelming arrogance resulting from it.”
I want to say that the sirens are my silent-sleepy-unknowing food habits steering me toward destructive food choices that impact the whole world; the Cue and Routine of my habits. But what I fear is that the sirens are really the silent Reward in this habit loop: Food which doesn’t sing to me but lures me in through its silence. My fridge is full of dozens of items that if they were capable of speaking up and sharing their story with me, I probably wouldn’t buy them. I would recognize them as destructive. But instead, my food stays silent as I make my choices that do their part to unknowingly steer the global food system toward the rocks.
Where are the rocks? (Do you know how many slaves work for you?) Watch out for these here: (The global food system is a hot mess.). Wake up to these: (The high economic and ecological costs of making food available as we know it.)
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon “Remaining awake through a Great Revolution” is resonating deeply within me today. All of us listening to the silent wooing from our food on this ship of fools must begin to wake up to the reality that we are heading toward the rocks. To quote from his great sermon: