Fear of dining alone – proof we are made for the Gospel?

This weekend my wife traveled out of state with members of her family for a niece’s graduation. I have avoided these graduation trips from the start, and this year I successfully dodged my obligation once again (though not without blame – and a little guilt).

The 48 hours alone were fine except for one thing. I cannot abide eating alone.

Breakfast? No problem.  I’m the early riser in the family, and I am long accustomed to a quick solo breakfast, with a book to read.  The emptiness of a solo lunch or dinner, however, I cannot stand. How do other people stand it? Both of our widower fathers admit to leaving their TV sets on at meals – to fill the air with human conversation during their lonely repasts.  For me it always comes down to a book or a good magazine – at one solo meal this weekend I tried music. Not bad.

But the fact that I have access to distractions does not change the fact that without them I feel very raggedly disconnected with my higher self when dining alone.  Eating is an act I find to be a very desolate, very mechanical, almost senseless affair – almost like a force-feeding – when I do it unaccompanied by another human being.

Not to prolong this – I think there is something interesting lying at the root of this feeling of desolation I get when dining alone. I can feel in my angst a primal anthropological fact about our humanity and about the interesting rites which surround our human institutions of table fellowship.

Less feasible – but no less interesting – is the possibility that the Son, in his varied table ministry (i.e. both before and after the Passion meal), consciously utilized the power latent in the feast of fellowship to convey to us the communal bedrock of his good news of forgiveness and fellowship with God.  If Jesus was himself cognizant of the anthropological fact, it makes sense that he decided to spend so much time eating and drinking with sinners while on mission. As I suggested in a previous post, maybe that was the mission.


3 thoughts on “Fear of dining alone – proof we are made for the Gospel?

  1. It would seem likely that people are less hostile when consuming a meal, so what better place to engage in teaching and sharing?

    On the other hand, try mindful eating, in an Eastern Buddhist kinda way. That is always a shocking thing to do, and I at least get bored really quickly. I suspect I would eat less if I did it more often.

    We are confirmed TV addicts and my husband and I “play” jeopardy during dinner. Somebody always yelling “I was swallowing!” when we lose a question. lol..

  2. John,

    Great post. Ive always thought that there was something mystical about the sacrament of breaking bread that seems to transcend my ability to comprehend the fullness of the experience. But even beyond table fellowship, which we find peter and paul in disagreement over, lies our innate desire for community. This is what spoke most to me in reading your post.

    Forgive me because his is fresh in my mind due to a recent post, but trinitarian theology suggests that God is ‘in himself’ this very community, so as created being we share in that community and in that very desire to reproduce community, and its our very desires which remind us of this.

    I too do not really enjoy being alone. But sometimes during those times when I feel like I need to ‘be alone,’ I find myself most desiring to ‘be’ with God.

    Good thoughts.

  3. Good comments both.

    Sherry, I am in complete sympathy with your ambivalence toward ‘mindful eating’ – except I see light in the direction of gratitude-for-life or a kind of ‘saying grace’ before meals. I think ‘thanksgiving’ is an acceptable translation of the Greek ‘eucharist.’

    Michael, there’s lots of ‘material’ in Peter’s and Paul’s disagreement over table fellowship. And I accept the rich potentials for contemplating an ‘absolute community’ via trinitarian thinking. The communion flourishing at the heart of the universe is encouraging to all lesser communions – and seems to promise a communion-motif between lowest and highest as well.

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