Recently, i have been noticing many people praying before their meals. We've done it a few times at common meals here in the German House (though i did not participate), and i've seen various acquaintances pausing briefly, quietly, just before they start to eat. I have never actually prayed myself before a meal, however. Certainly, i have bowed my head and listened along as grace was said, but i did not speak the words myself in my mind. To me, there is nothing to speak to. In my intellect i'm an agnostic, but in my heart i'm an atheist. The few times i have actually prayed have been rare and far between, usually late at night, caught up either in philosophical puzzlement or despair, done skeptically, without believing i was really talking to anyone or anything. I cannot conceive of what i would be praying to; prayer is to me utterly devoid of meaning.
However, in these recent weeks, i have found myself admiring this pause before a meal, this acknowledgment of where the food came from and just how important it is to one's life, and further, an acknowledgment of all that is good in one's life. One does not need a spirit in the sky to talk to to give this affirmation meaning; one does not need to be thankful to recognize one's fortune. I heartily enjoy eating, and do it with great pleasure, but seldom consider the process that it took to get me the nourishment that is sliding down my throat, the work and water and life and death that goes into a few hours' sustenance; i seldom consider my place in the great cycle of life and death. Perhaps i should follow a practice often used by many religions, and take up a ritual sprouting from another's beliefs, molding it to fit my own. Perhaps i should say or think briefly to myself before eating,
Something has had to die to bring me this nourishment today. Many things have died and will die to keep me alive. Many things will feed off me and take their lives from my life and after my death.
I am part of a great circle of life and death and life again.
May i always remember this.