Pessimistic Pigs and Fast Food Day

Scrolling through my Twitter stream this morning, I learned two things I did not know yesterday. First, researchers at the University of Lincoln have concluded that ‘judgment in non-human animals is similar to humans, incorporating aspects of stable personality traits and more transient mood states,’ or as the BBC blithely summed it up, pigs can be pessimistic (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37996361). Second, today is Fast Food Day, which people (not you or me, presumably, but people) ‘celebrate’ by ‘going through the drive-thru, dining inside or ordering their fast food to go’ (see http://bit.ly/2fwhe7C). Perhaps the latter explains the former, for if I were a pig, I’d certainly be pessimistic about the future of a humanity that ‘celebrates’ fast food.

The semi-liturgical language used of Fast Food will not be lost on this blog’s readers, many of whom will be recalling three great saints today: St Margaret of Scotland, St Gertrude the Great and St Edmund of Abingdon. It would be easy just to poke fun at the secular inversion of Fast Food Day, but perhaps we ought to think for a moment. Nature abhors a vacuum. If the Church is no longer providing rituals and celebrations that capture the imagination of the millions who have abandoned formal religion, it is inevitable that the calendar will fill up with ‘days’ to mark this or that which substitute for what, in truth, we already have in abundance. I am not suggesting a false or empty antiquarianism but a reappraisal of what we have and what we do to affirm our faith. The lives of St Margaret, St Gertrude and St Edmund were all very different, but each of them would have understood, in a way we in the West no longer do, that faith is strengthened by the habits and rituals with which we mark times and seasons. When the whole world is in need of the true Bread that comes down from heaven, a burger is not an adequate substitute, is it?

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