Vignettes of Ruin and...

Substantia (the God of Ceaseless Hunger)

In Gluttony on April 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm

The hunger Substantia instills in us is unrelenting.

Big hot slices of Brennan’s batch bread toast with butter and jam. Cheddar cheese and relish panini. A “share” bag (ha!) of Thai sweet chilli crisps. Bag of Marks and Spencer’s honey roasted cashew nuts. Domino’s stuffed crust pizza. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Chunky chipper chips, curry chips, onion rings. Croissants and garlic bread baguettes. Singapore noodle and won-ton soup. Creamy korma and naan. Spicy nachos with plastic cheese sauce.  A litre of Coca Cola, large popcorn and a bag of fruit jellies (for cinema visits). Anything by Mars, Cadbury’s or Nestlé. Starbucks big frothy cup of white chocolate mocha- the size of your fat face. Ways to pay tribute to this god are numerous and there are only two requisites: it only need be junk, and be no effort to acquire.

But it probably doesn’t really matter what it is, because we won’t taste a single morsel of it. When we eat those luxury nuts from Marks & Spencer’s, we cannot taste the immolation in Borneo, the canopies aflame in the rainforest kingdom, clearing vast stretches of land for sterile oil palm plantations. No, we cannot taste the loss of habitat or life when we eat a Mars bar or a Galaxy Caramel. Our taste buds cannot discern the morbid obesity stretching us from the inside out when we gulp down all those fizzy drinks and chow down greasy cod ‘n’ chips: we cannot taste the barren reaches of our depleted ocean. We refuse to smell the obscene wealth of the Coca Cola empire or the Starbucks and Subway franchises that saturate our so called Western “culture.” We cannot detect the note of the unfair wages and conditions foisted upon workers in third world countries for ingredients mass-produced on their soil for a first world market. We care not for their starvation as we put sugar in our tea.  But we do care for the crumbly Fox’s biscuits we are unable to finish our tea without.

All of this waste, all of this toil, all of this anguish, just so we can satisfy our raging appetite. So we can eat, eat, eat, feeling absolutely nothing, until our stomachs hurt, until our guts cry out from the punishment of it.

But it is not food that we have been so hungry for. The tears stinging our eyes as we insult our body with one tasteless bite after another are not for the relief of having our burdensome cravings fulfilled.

I know what it is to be a slovenly slave to Substantia.

When Vincent binged, I binged too. As he curled up in the arms of Intoxicatus in the bedroom, I would sit on the settee in the living room, with Spectoris on one side and Substantia on the other. Everytime I started a new film or a new series episode, I would have the compulsion to eat. I would have to get up and fix something before I relinquished my mind to fictions and my body to whatever wanted it. And Substantia would always want it. She has her own voracious hunger, one that preys on wreckages like me.

My body began to change. Inevitably I grew fatter and I could no longer claim the word “voluptuous.” My clothes were like shrink wrap against my plumpness and I had no energy. My skin became greasy and excess dripped from my pores. But I could not stop. I would just consume more.

Now, Substantia weighs down on my limbs and my thoughts. She has rendered me unrecognisable to myself. I know I am just filling up an emotional void with a physical solution. But it seems so difficult to break the cycle. Sometimes, I think I catch accusatory glances from thinner people, they look down on me from their bony thrones. Without you, world hunger would not exist, they seem to say. It is your fault the oceans are empty and the trees burn. Look at you, parading proof of our immortal greed on the outside of your cage, where everyone is forced to see it.

I hide away in shame. I want to feel better, I want to feel clean. I tear through the kitchen and throw out all the unhealthy food. Yes, I want this! I want my self back. I want to be thin again. I stare at the empty cupboards, I stare down the monstrous face of Substantia rearing up inside of me.

So hungry now, and nothing to fill up this empty vessel. Nothing, except…

I find a clean knife and begin to cut a tentative, delicate piece. I put it in my mouth. The flavour is so bitter and harsh. So dry and unsavoury. I want to spit it out. But I must eat this, once and for all.

I try to swallow my unhappiness.

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  1. Ailis hello:) your posts always leave me impressed by the accuracy of sensations, and detailed description of the impressions and feelings …

  2. seriously, stay out of my head … I’ve had this same problem for many years. I try to hide when eating, in a cubicle, in my car, out of sight. Never going through the same drive-up within a week, so the employees don’t start to recognize me and my gluttony. I’ve wondered if it isn’t a slow suicide by food, nothing as dramatic as a jump in front of a bus, but a subversive self-harm just the same.

  3. Ailis….and Substantia, what an emotional journey you have written. I simply love the post. This past Friday, I was in so much physical pain from a stomach virus (I believe). However, a spiritual friend said is was distress at all of the Planetary changes occuring. It is easy to blame it on the consumption of “bad” foods, however the deeper answer is our psychological and spiritual place within ourselves. I commend you on your thought-provoking essay and the revelations sent forth.
    Stay strong, meditate, quiet your thoughts, and make disciplined choices.
    Walter

  4. ahh, i’m trying to loose my shackles to this vice…
    but i need the energy to, don’t i? i’ll grab something scrumptious.

  5. Urgh. Well, I have very particular theories about food, theories that others have called crazy, refused to listen to – but it’s what I gleaned from firsthand experience with Substantia, God of Ceaseless Hunger, that shaped my extremely conscious relationship with food. Maybe something better suited to a one-on-one discussion than a blog comment, though.

    What’s done to produce our junk food, on the other hand, I never once thought of that. Chilling.

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