The Edible Matter chapter reminded me a lot of Herman Melville's short story, Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street. The story is acting as a component to my thesis, so it's fresh in my mind. What I found interesting is that in Bartleby, outside of Bartleby himself and the narrator, the entire cast of characters are named after food: Turkey, Nippers, Ginger Nut, and Mr. Cutlets. In relationship with Vibrant Matter, Bennett argues food as cognitive or active bodies. The characters in Bartleby are all very active. While each has his own differing personality, they are, regardless, all active personalities. Bartleby, the one character with a name unrelated to food, is a very inactive character. It's also important to note, Bartleby barely eats anything. He only keeps ginger nuts in his desk drawer which are passed on from Ginger Nut. The narrator never sees Bartleby eat. In conclusion to the story, Bartleby dies of self starvation. As an inactive character which shows sign after sign of depressive behavior, Bartleby relates directly to Bennett's discussion of food acting as an active player. Of course, there are other outside effects and previous experiences which also hinder Bartleby, making him a very passive aggressive character.
Edible Matter focuses on the issue of food. Bennett not only looks at food as vibrant and active matter that could shape us as individuals and our collective consciousness, environment and politics, but also she looks at the food through the idea of assemblages. To her, it is not just the human body as a part of the assemblage, also the body itself is an assemblage. The borders between the “eater and the eaten becomes blurry: my meal both is and is not mine; you both are and are not what you eat.” She believes if we see food as active matters it would help us to understand crisis of obesity in America. How eating dehydrated fat, sweeteners and salt, junk foods can shift human being’s learning, consciousness, brain…. To me, we can completely be being controlled and numb and act like zombies by being exposed to toxins in food and environment and certain chemicals added in food and water. Food is major mean of mass control. I talk more in the presentation. There are many other factors involved too. I understand what she intends to deliver when she is talking about potato chips as seducers or active matter which call people’s hands to grab them. Potato chips have some addictive substances like MSG and salt and carbohydrate itself are addictive too. Also many times we are addicted to the act of eating potato chips and it is related to behavioral addiction and emotional eating. Bennett turns to Nietzsche and Thoreau in order to explore how these 19th century thinkers addressed the issue of food. I am not totally agreeing with the Hungry Soul book that Kass looks at other things as non- vibrant and passive and just human soul as active that gives life to inactive substances. Of course we can’t ignore the power of perceptions, thoughts, emotions and also human energy field vibration on the food she eats. If human being is living in a very high vibration state close to her spirit vibration, she can transform low vibration substances to high vibration. (low vibrations food: can be GMO’s pesticides or other low quality food which they don’t have enough life, like organic fresh fruits and vegetables). In a life of Metal Bennet looks at metal again as vibrant and active matter again. Metals have the quality of regeneration, growth and they can act as catalyst of social life. I consider metal as alive as well The interesting things about metals are they can affect many things such as sexuality and sex organs. For example, copper exist in IUD can help with preventing pregnancy.
In chapter 3 of Vibrant Matter, Jane Bennett is discussing how food as an actant becomes part of us to contribute to a larger assemblage. She views the food system as an assemblage as well it seems. Several questions that Mallory and I brought up in reading this is... How can something that is non-living - food - become living just by entering us (humans) which are living. This may relate to Kaas perspective on the argument. We use the food as energy. What distinguishes life from non-life? She further will discuss the problem with our food system. I do not disagree - there is a problem with our food system. Especially when I go to Publix or Wal-mart in Gainesvile, FL which produces oranges itself and buy and orange that was raised in California on the complete opposite side of the country. That just does not makes sense to me. Yet, again, another question that Mallory and I decided we must ask ourselves, is this - Is this the problem or is there at greater problem beneath the surface of it all? What caused our fast paced food culture? Could it be the movement of the woman from the home to the work force which basically stripped the education of home/food/life/home economic skills from the generations to follow. How many of us know how to make biscuits from scratch or sew our own clothes - not as only a hobby - but efficiently and effectively on a daily basis. I am not trying to speak to this being the only possible cause of our food system. What others could be the cause?In chapter 4, a life of metal, Bennett is equating metal that has "life" to the life of a human. She suggests that metal has elements of life. While it may have elements of "energy" is it really alive? what is the real measure of a man.these are just some of our thoughts.
The Hungry Soul, My favorite moment in these two chapters came from the introduction of Leon Kass. As an evangelical Christian, his ideas on life, the body and the soul most aligned with my personal beliefs. I once heard a quote that “we are not bodies with a soul, but rather we are souls with a body.” My understanding of the soul is that everyone is an immortal. The time that we have on earth can be traced and documented by following the effects and placement of our physical bodies. It is appointed that “Just as man is destined to die once and after that face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). It is the soul that will live on after the body passes. It is the body that lives on after the digestion of food. Kass understood and was able to articulate the differences between life and matter. He sees life as a superior entity that sustains itself by absorbing non-life. Example of non-life: when the body digests an apple, which was life, it destroys the flesh, thus destroying the apple. The apple as it existed is gone. The eater remains. The eater did not turn into a hybrid of the eater of the apple. He is still a man. Just a little more nourished. Kass was able to describe a moment that Bennett seems to have trouble comprehending. He has a clear understanding of definitions and the boundary lines between distinct entities. Bennett sees food and the body as a hazy mixture. She seems to concentrate so much on the microcosm that she ends up blurring the boundaries of what she is studying. Similar to how she previously looked at the power grid, she was unable to make distinctions or accusations when problems arose. When examining food in the digestive system, Bennett seems to have trouble discerning where the body begins and where the food ends. She cannot see the forest for the trees. I also believe Jane Bennett missed an opportunity to clarify which of the three views (Thoreau and Nietzsche) discussed in Chapter 3 were most accurate. The introduction to Nietzsche and Thoreau were interesting however, I believe they were using food as evidence to support their beliefs, while Kass used his beliefs to examine food. What was her purpose on bringing up these three ideas and how do they fit into her narrative?Another point, I thought Kafka’s summation of a man was short sided and sad. That an ape gained the title of “Man” because he could smoke and drink and talk summarized his measure of a man. What does make a man? ……
Some instances of food acting upon a human subject:Scrooge blames "a bit of cheese" for his dream about his former business partner. I've found that eating spicy food before bed gives me wacky dreams, but this is probably because I wake up more often in the middle of the night due to the searing pain in my stomach and chest. In this way food is affecting my behavior.When Bennett discussed Nietzsche's "warrior food" it made me think of MREs and Space food (like TANG). These are foods that are processed specifically to increase shelf-life and to give the "warriors" the most efficient nutrition. Bennett suggests however that "warrior food" is only suited to a warrior lifestyle. It's interesting to consider the different lifestyles that different diets are suited to. For instance, in the cookbook Commissary Kitchen by Albert "Prodigy" Johnson, the author presents to us some healthy recipes that he developed during his time incarcerated. He used only ingredients which he could obtain within the Prison Commissary.The section on Thoreau and his craving for the vitality of the woodchuck made me think of how everything that we eat was at one point alive in some way. Except maybe McDonald's. Thoreau ends up talking about the mess involved with a life of eating meat and eventually switches to a vegetarian lifestyle. The mess made me consider Kosher and Halal practices and how the butchering process needs to be done in a specific and ritualistic way. There are also specific things that practitioner's of those religions can and cannot eat.I'm not sure if I agree with Bennett about the vitality of processed materials. She says that they are less vital than their unprocessed counterpoints. Some processed foods are quite vibrant, both materially and culturally. Consider boxed mac n' cheese or light beer or canned plum tomatoes.