You are How you Eat: A Motivational Story of Cheese, Triumph, and Inner Peace
Partially inspired by Grandma’s chicken soup
A meal is an ongoing conversation between the food, the consumer, and the chef. I'm digging into the cliché that cooking for oneself (or for others enjoyment and sustenance) will taste better than something store-bought; or worse, from a value menu.
As my chubby elementary school pictures can attest, I LOVE food. I've been cooking since the age of 10 when my tyrannically organic mother conceded to having pizza for dinner.
"Fine, but you're making it yourself," she answered with a honeyed grin.
I set down the Gameboy and got to work. Thirty minutes of prep and 18 minutes in the over later, molten mozzarella and crisp prosciutto enlighten my tastebuds.
That pizza was better than everything I've had delivered in under an hour.
I set out to discover what made that pizza so damn good
Aside from the hit of dopamine that comes from trying something new, it was my appetite for cheesy, saucy, fresh-from-the-oven pizza that guided the night's decision making.
I chose the right cheese, toppings, temperature, and timing - I kneaded the dough to a balance of fluff and crunch. I set aside ambition, promises, homework, and every other joy and pain of my young life to focus all my attention on one task. I acted out of love... love for those perfect bites where you get a hit of every topping.
The pizza was delicious because I cared about it being delicious. Because I cared, I selected only the necessary ingredients and carefully scattered them across the raw dough. I checked the oven to make sure it came out at just the right time.
Action is a Matter of Meaning
Had my motives been ulterior or my techniques sloppy, that pizza would've sucked. I'd forget some ingredient at the store and my mise would not be en place. I'd forget it was even in the oven - it's happened before.
Changing an action's motivation changes its meaning, which alters its purpose, which affects your level of attention in manifesting the action’s reality.
"But I can cook and engage my own inner world at the same time!" you might (but probably wouldn't) retort.
Think of it this way: why is fast food pretty nasty no matter how drunk you get before eating it? Because it's made indelicately, mechanically, and with cheap, capitalism-friendly ingredients. The people behind the counter of whatever chain joint (probably) don't care too much if you like the food. The higher-ups only care as long as your opinion supports their bottom line. Conversely, why does Grandma's chicken soup taste so good? Because it's made specifically and solely to be enjoyed. More specifically, by you.
But this is no place for sweeping generalizations. For all we know, there's a teenage chef-to-be at your local Burger-Something who genuinely wants you to enjoy the experience. There may also be a grandma out there who can't care if you like her food. But this is the point: your motivation for acting is clearly reflected in the quality of your labour.
Digging a little deeper, we see that psychology affects the quality of everything we do. Salacious sex, passive-aggressive niceties, and disgruntled employees are all examples of conflicting principles. In other words, we’d rather be somewhere else doing something different with other people. It seems so obviously simple when you say it out loud. But at the moments of action, it's easy to forget our reasoning behind some super-specific motion; like squirting the mustard bottle instead of squeezing it.
If this is true of something as simple as making a sandwich, imagine the interplay of action and intent during a heated debate where your circumstances are actively trying to rattle you. This inner conflict, more commonly known as cognitive dissonance, influences presidencies, legislation, marriages, and too much of life.
You can't be at peace if you don't know where you are now
Do I prefer thin crust or thick crust? Paper or plastic? Am I sexually and/or emotionally attracted to men, women, both, or neither? Does my personality conflict with or complement my values? Do I ever want kids? Does pineapple belong on pizza? These internally divisive questions come from both the conscious and subconscious minds. They bounce back and forth, subtly influencing every decision we make. Every person is subject to various conditions like these (and infinitely more). It falls on each of us as individual persons to uncover our own cognitive dissonance and create separation between a thought and its veracity.
You and I are the biological equation, nature + nurture, that resolves over a lifetime. Our nature changes how we nurture ourselves and how we nurture alters our character. But before we come full circle, to put it poetically, we are, at our best, symbiotic variables. At worst, parasitic nuisances. This leaves us with the question, how do you really know who you are?
Ultimately, I don't think there is a way. I am beyond my own grasp of understanding. Just as a lighthouse cannot illuminate its bulb, I can never fully understand the computing daemons of thought. We are stuck moving forward with a point of view that adapts to its surroundings quicker than you can notice the shift.
We certainly get hints here and there, hopefully pointing us in the right direction. The only way to move forward is to let go of what's holding us back: unhelpful, detrimental, destructive, and arbitrary beliefs, even if doing so means facing uncertainty. It's a normal part of the human experience.
Think about it. When have you last taken stock of the grounding assumptions that dictate your day-to-day life? How aligned are you with who you want to be? Do you even want to find out?
What to do About Uncertainty
The first step is to recognize the relationship between behaviours and beliefs. And why the effort? Because self-inquiry is the only way to come to terms with the uncertainty of having to define who you are. Because the edge of precariousness is only dulled by posing the question.
Cognitive dissonance has a remedy: Self-calibration. It’s an acquaintance with one's beliefs. It's the practice of aligning who we are how with how we would love to be.
What to do About Rampant Motivations
In the same way, nature and nurture influence each other, actions and motivations shape each other. Though motivations drive an agent's actions, it is the agent who may reflect upon and edit their reason for being. The decision to act differently is itself an act of rebellion against the voice in your head that thinks it can dictate how you feel.
Do not, however, take this as me saying that it's easy to rewire your own programming. It's not. In fact, the harder you try, the more resistance you'll face, just like quicksand. Translated, this means that we don't grow by adding new beliefs, or by transforming old ones, but by letting go of the negative ones we already hold. Just as quicksand won’t let you go until you relax, you won’t be free release limiting beliefs until you loosen your gip on their importance.
It's not easy at the beginning, and it doesn't get easier as time goes on. Your ego learns new ways of getting a rise from you. You just get better at not letting that voice get in your way. But the best part is that labour is rewarded with the knowledge that you really are the master of your own body, mind, and life. It's quite liberating.