Worshipping the Golden Calf

During Moses’ absence, when he went up Mount Sinai, the Israelites cast an enormous statue of a golden calf. Imagining that it contained supernatural powers, they laid treasured offerings at it’s feet and prayed for miracles. When Moses returned, he was incensed that the children of Israel, believers in the One God, would revert once again to pagan behavior. Resolving to put an end to it, he fervently implored his fellow Jews to stop this fruitless practice, to notice that that which they worshipped was inert and undeserving of the powers and status they had bestoyed upon it.

Moses engaged his brothren in inquiry asking them if it was true that a statue that they created with their own hands could possibly be God? How could it have the power to remove their heartaches or grant their prayers? In this way, Moses helped the Israelites to see that they had been engaged in magical thinking that couldn’t have any basis in truth.

Hearing this story, it’s easy to poke fun at the Israelites and label their behavior as ignorant or even comical. How could they have been so foolish as to mistake an idol for God? Yet, when we install food on our altars, seeing it as our God, our companion and our savior, we are no different! They expected an inert golden calf to provide them with what it could not, and we look to food to give us what it cannot.

Simple enough you may say, but how do you stop wanting what you want? How do you break the habit of turning to food in your time of need or celebration or longing? The answer is: take another look. Open your mind to a broader perspective and come to see the whole truth of food rather than your habitual unquestioned assumptions. Huh?

Okay, let me put it differently. Not wanting what you think you want is a tricky business because in your moment of wanting, nothing seems clearer or more powerful than your desire. The Pleasure Seeking Child in all her power and glory has your undivided attention and it takes tremendous will to say, “Not now dear, may be later,” (as you might say to a child who wants a snack right before dinner.)

Listening to and following the dictates of the child is a habit, one that has grown stronger through repetition and reinforcement. But if you believe that breaking this habit is daunting, just remember that you created it in the first place. As such, you have the power to uncreate it.

Of course it’s in the ego’s best interest that you see the desire to experience the taste pleasure of food as impossible to resist because this perspective keeps you from challenging the ego’s authority. Now is the time to let go of any story that you’ve created about this.

My favorite story was seeing the almighty hold that food had over me as a dastardly plan created by God to keep me suffering and struggling. And of course, because God created it, I was powerless to thwart it. To break free, I had to realize the I was the Kingmaker. Through inquiry, I debunked my story and withdraw my misguided projection. The power of choice had always rested in me and as such, I chose to dethrone food.

If the Child is tempting you with Pleasure Food and you’re not hungry or that food is not on your plan, then ask yourself what you’re telling yourself in the moment that’s creating the impulse to reach for food. What are you thinking? What are you feeling right now? Then ask yourself if eating the Pleasure Food that the Child is tempting you with will truly satisfy the itch you’ve uncovered? Will it alleviate the feeling, will it solve the problem that you’re ruminating about, will it rewrite history or alleviate worries about the future, will it allow you to say the things you wanted to say in that conversation with your co-worker or spouse or child? What will two minutes with that particular food give you? Are the negative consequences of shame, blame, self-castigation, lethargy, and weight gain worth it?

For those of us who have eating and weight issues, food has been our Golden Calf. We’ve projected all sorts of romantic fantasies and imaginings onto it that it doesn’t deserve and can’t possibly live up to. Ultimately, like most desires, the desire to eat Pleasure Food is all trumped up and doesn’t deliver. At best it provides a fleeting, nice taste in your mouth. At worst, not only doesn’t it provide lasting satisfaction and pleasure, it leaves you wanting more, causing you to stuff yourself until you want to wretch in the hopes of prolonging the taste pleasure.

Seeing the whole truth of food in this way, you can’t believe in it or idolize it any more. It’s like learning the secret of a magic trick. You can’t be fooled any more. It’s time to melt down your golden calf and see food for what it has always been: nice tasting fuel, not a lover, not a god, just food with a lower case “f.”