By Laurie Lee
One of the major pleasures in life is appetite, and one of our major duties should be to preserve it. Appetite is the keenness of living; it is one of the senses that tells you that you are still curious to exist, that you still have an edge on your longings and want to bite into the world and taste its multitudinous flavours and juices.
By appetite, of course,I don’t mean just the lust for food, but any condition of unsatisfied desire, any burning in the blood that proves you want more than you’ve got, and that you haven’t yet used up your life. Wilde said he felt sorry for those who never got their heart’s desire, but sorrier still for those who did.
Appetite, to me, is that state of wanting, which keeps one’s expectations alive. In wanting a peach, or a whisky, or a particular texture or sound, or to be with a particular friend. For in this condition, of course, I know that the object of desire is always at its most flawlessly perfect. Which is why I would carry the preservation of appetite to the extent of deliberate fasting, simply because I think that appetite is too good to lose, too precious to be bludgeoned into insensibility by satiation and over-doing it.
Fasting is an act of homage to the majesty of appetite. So I think we should arrange to give up our pleasures regularly — our food, our friends, our lovers — in order to preserve their intensity, and the moment of coming back to them. For this is the moment that renews and refreshes both oneself and the thing one loves. Sailors and travellers enjoyed this once, and so did hunters, I suppose. Part of the weariness of modern life may be that we live too much on top of each other, and are entertained and fed too regularly.
Too much of anything — too much music, entertainment, happy snacks, or time spent with one’s friends — creates a kind of impotence of living by which one can no longer hear,or taste, or see, or love, or remember. Life is short and precious, and appetite is one of itsguardians, and loss of appetite is a sort of death. So if we are to enjoy this short life we should respect the divinity of appetite, and keep it eager and not too much blunted.