What is so bad about gluttony? A little massive over-consumption of food every once in a while is fun, especially when committed with others. Successful holiday gatherings all around the world are based on it. Imagine the Thanksgiving through New Year's season without a whole lot of foodnot fun!
A little occasional gluttony is part of the human condition. But, as most world religions remind, all things must be done moderately.
Each sin has its hangover, and if indulged too often, gluttony's hangover does not shake off lightly. Too many food-filled festivities and years of gaining the "Seasonal Seven" (the average amount of weight gained by Americans between Thanksgiving and New Year's) can add up to extra weight, heart disease, Type II diabetes and a lot of guilt and regret. If you are a human being on this planet and have read mainstream media within the past year, then you know that too much gluttony is killing many of us right now.
So how did gluttony become such a problem these days? In ancient times, food was not very plentiful. Those who ate more than their fair share were shown the door and then some. So prehistoric people controlled their eating because tribal society made it very clear that eating too much equaled taking food out of another's mouth. Gluttony, or occasional overeating, was not widespread because it was not a smart thing to do.
Evidence shows that those with voracious appetites took themselves and their descendants out of the evolutionary process. Early cave drawings reveal clansmen who inadvertently turned themselves into bait for hungry wild animals. Archeologists have found food-loving pharaohs died early in their reigns from a variety of overeating diseases: clogged arteries, clogged pores, you get the idea. An outpost of gluttons reportedly existed along a remote avenue off the Silk Road in China, but they too quickly consumed their supplies and eventually starved. Simultaneously, vandals knocked off the sign indicating their avenue. No travelers returned for months. They left only this haiku (a poetic form dropped off earlier by Japanese bards):
Oh, where have you gone,
Never-ending feasts sublime?
No treats tears my soul.
Over time, economic hardship in the countryside propelled young people city-ward in search of jobs. As cities began to flourish, big sin followed. Youngsters apart from their families for the first time felt lonely in big cities. They felt bored. They felt cramped and crowded and jostled around too much. Everyone yelled at each other a lot. There was not enough space for everyone to be comfy and happy. So, understandably, people used food to assuage their loneliness.
People began to "pig out" to feel better. In the anonymous, alienating urban landscape, gluttony grabbed its first meaty foothold in the early metropolis of Rome. A group of zealots formed a club for eating, imbibing, socializing and more eating. The bustling vomitorium visited by the typical Roman after a huge eating frenzy was no match for the Gluttons' Vomitorium Maximus Maximus. These Gluttons began to recognize each other by their girth and by their drive to consume. In any public place, who was a glutton and who was a Glutton was easy to distinguish. Their largeness became a badge of honor. And while another civilization was heralding the fittest and most athletic physiques, the Gluttons were competing in the Gluttympics, an orgiastic orgy of all things edible and sometimes inedible. The primary competitions included eating contests.
Modern games (like Nathan's Hot Dog Swallow-a-thon held every Fourth of July in Brooklyn's Coney Island) have nothing on their ancestors'. In the ancient world, contestants had to eat an entire animal, horns, hooves and all. The winners gained the fear, repulsion and odd admiration of the spectators, but the drooling and ever-digesting champions often died soon after as many of the animal parts were sharp and indigestible. So while the losers had less status, they had their lives. Glory for a moment of belching and applause while a goat's hoof enters the small intestine can bring anyone on the Golden Podium of Overeating to rethink his or her most recent accomplishment.
Scribes recorded details of the Gluttons way of life in what became known as The Gluttonberg Bible. Then, in 490 AD (give or take a few hundred years), Turks began uprooting classical civilization and forcing Gluttons to find new places to homestead and over-consume. The original Gluttonberg went missing. Fortunately, a lucky Glutton prophet rediscovered it and shared the secrets and glory of Antiquity's Gluttons. Unfortunately, a little-known adjunct barbarian tribe, coincidentally called the Gluttons, used it to put a sinister twist on gluttony. These Gluttons, finding life quite bleak at the time, desired the glory, status and riches of their ancestors. They were jealous of other barbarian tribes that were prospering. The Gluttons realized that since everybody ate, using food as warfare would really do some damage, so they began to steal food from their enemies and live on the run. They ate whatever they could get their hands on. The Gluttons became fit, healthy and strong. They also became adept at running long distances while eating legs of mutton.
After a period of successful pillaging, they began to settle down. But access to lots of food combined with staying still turned out to be a disastrous recipe. They found themselves being victimized by relatives of the other barbarian tribes who had kept their gluttony (small g) under control and channeled their energy into other pursuits like forming kingdoms and persecuting innocents now as kings instead of as barbarians. The only way for the Gluttons to escape was to cross an ocean to a new land where their ways could go unchallenged. Over-consumption was unheard of in the Americas until the Gluttons made their way over on the Mayflower to practice their religion of Gluttonism: "In Glut We Trust!" they cried. So they moved quickly to Philadelphia, where one follower had a vision that it would one day be home to a portable feast known as a "cheesesteak." Based on this vision alone, since so many Gluttons enjoyed both cheese and steak on a minute-by-minute basis, they moved without hesitation to ravage this soon-to-be-spoiled countryside.
Other colonial societies did not appreciate the marauding of their Gluttonous neighbors. Those caught in Gluttony were made to sit in the stockades and wear a scarlet letter G upon their chest for no less than a fortnight. Gluttons often looked forward to this punishment; people threw food at them, which they ate, and as the letter Gs were dyed scarlet from all sorts of berry juices, they would eat the Gs as soon as they could work their mouths around the huge wooden stockades. While in the stockades, the Gluttons lost significant girth and thus their status amongst the other Gluttons. They were often not welcomed back by their people. Rejected and not knowing where to turn, these Reform Gluttons were forced to blend into the colonial towns that punished them. Those that could not or would not blend in moved to the southern colonies where other criminals like debtors and tax evaders had been sent over from England.
These early southern gluttonous roots had their hand in the only war fought on this country's soil. The U.S. Civil War was not just fought over the issue of slavery. The entire Deep South's Gluttonous and gluttonous ways irked President Abraham Lincoln, a lanky, temperate-eating man from Illinois, to no end. When the war was over, Southern Glutton strongholds had been wiped out. During Reconstruction, the weakened Gluttons left their old ways behind and merely tried to survive as the entire nation mourned, starved and rebuilt.
Some offspring of the Gluttons still carry on as their ancestors did. A 21st-century glutton poster boy has devised a way to get all the benefits of gluttony without messy, constant eating. A Los Angeles plastic surgeon whose great-to-the-tenth-power-grandparents were Gluttons promotes "Body Gluttony" in his practice. He offers special incentives and deals for frequent "Body Gluttons," as he proudly calls them. Each time a "B.G." gets a body part made bigger at his office, the "B.G." gets a punch in his or her punch card. Ten punches, and the "B.G." gets a free T-shirt that serves as the unofficial credo of the L.A. Body Gluttony Movement: "If you think my chest is big, you should see my ass." Wearing one of these T-shirts, boldly inviting others to oggle the wearers, has become the latest status symbol amongst Southern California's plastic and sculpted. Mainstream media outlets are fascinated by this big-body-part trend, so they broadcast images of these New Gluttonists almost constantly. Many Hollywood celebrities eagerly display their wares. This is why it is so easy for The New Church of Gluttonology to recruit new members. Everyone is eating it up.
Today, the Gluttony Movement is so widespread around the world that fewer and fewer people can actually move their own bodies. Its strange, overwhelming epidemic of success shows no sign of slowing. It eventually leads its own followers to premature deaths and somehow still goes on.
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