We Feed Each Other


Adult Northern Cardinals, male (red) feeding female. Photo by Deborah Yaworsky. Feederwatch.org

I recently picked up a book I read many years ago, Diet For A New America by John Robbins. The copyright is 1987. Here’s the 2012 second edition. Many of his topics continue to be discussed today, almost 30 years later.

Here’s an excerpt from his chapter called All Things Are Connected, p. 350:

There is an old story which tells of a man who lived a long and worthy life. When he died, the Lord said to him: “Come, I will show you hell.” He was taken to a room where a group of people sat around a huge pot of stew. Each held a spoon that reached the pot, but had a handle so long it couldn’t be used to reach their mouths. Everyone was famished and desperate; the suffering was terrible.

After awhile, the Lord said: “Come, now I will show you heaven.” They came to another room. To the man’s surprise, it was identical to the first room – a group of people sat around a huge pot of stew, and each held the same long-handled spoons. But here everyone was nourished and happy and the room was full of joy and laughter.

“I don’t understand,” said the man. “Everything is the same, yet they are so happy here, and they were so miserable in the other place.

What’s going on?”

The Lord smiled. “Ah, but don’t you see – here they have learned to feed each other.”

It’s romantic, isn’t it? Romantic in the sense of an idealized view of reality. But the kernel is that we are not, as much as we envision ourselves, independent. How many of us eat only the food that we have grown and cooked? Every day, other people are feeding us. We depend on each other. Maybe a better way to say that is we are interdependent. All life depends on all other life. In fact, the word “life” embodies this interconnectedness. What do you think?

6 thoughts on “We Feed Each Other

  1. forumholitorium

    Love the picture. I agree that we are all interdependent. Once you accept this, the way is cleared for a sense of responsibility to other beings to develop because each of your actions affects the whole.


      1. forumholitorium

        Me too. I have slowly grown into feeling this sense of responsibility. Which doesn’t at all mean that I generally act in the best interest of the whole because it is often very difficult to judge what is actually the best thing to do. Your blog goes a long way in clarifying these kind of issues at the level of diet and nutrition – it has made me reframe the way I think about food and society. Thanks!


  2. Bix Post author

    I think of the people around the world who produce our coffee and tea, our rice and beans and grains and other seeds. I think of the farm workers and food workers here, people who sort and package and bake and clean and serve. I think about all the people whose work goes into the food I eat.

    But when I wrote this, I wasn’t just thinking of food. I was thinking about how we depend on each other for … so many things! Water, electricity, our homes. Connection. And how each of us gives. As long as we are alive, we are giving. We are taking and we are giving. That is what life is. What we give though is up to us.

    Which reminds me of Jane Goodall:

    “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”



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