As if I feared that the scope of what I could feel and imagine was being quietly limited by the world within a world, the internet. The things outside of the web were becoming further from me, and everything inside it seemed piercingly relevant. The blogs of strangers had to be read daily, and people nearby who had no web presence were becoming almost cartoonlike, as if they were missing a dimension. It was just happening, like time, like geography. The web seemed so inherently endless that it didn't occur to me what wasn't there. My appetite for pictures and videos and news and music was so gigantic now that if something was shrinking, something immesurable, how would I notice?...Most of life is offline, and I think it always will be; eating and aching and sleeping and loving happen in the body. But it's not impossible to imagine loosing my appetite for those things; they aren't always easy, and they take so much time.
So it persists, for many of us, hunger channeled into some internal circuitry of longing, routed this way and that, emerging in a thousand different forms. The diet form, the romance form, the addiction form, the overriding hunger for this purchase or that job, this relationship or that one. Hunger may be insatiable by nature, it may be fathomless, but our will to fill it, our often blind tenacity in the face of it, can be extraordinary.
The great anxious focus on the minutiae of appetite—on calories and portion size and what's going into the body versus what's being expended, on shoes and hair and abs of steel—keeps the larger, more fearsome questions of desire blurred and out of focus. American women spend approximately $1 million every hour on cosmetics. This may or may not say something about female vanity, but it certainly says something about female energy, where it is and is not focused. Easier to worry about the body than the soul, easier to fit the self into the narrow slots of identity our culture offers to women than to create one...that allows for the expression of all passions, the satisfaction of all appetites. The great preoccupation with things like food and shopping and appearance, in turn, is less of a genuine focus on hunger—indulging it, understanding it, making decisions about it—than it is a monumental distraction from hunger.
God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many professing Christians have been deceived by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own. God has prospered them. And by an almost irresistible law of consumer culture (baptized by a doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity) they have bought bigger (and more) houses, newer (and more) cars, fancier (and more) clothes, better (and more) meat, and all manner of trinkets and gadgets and containers and devices and equipment to make life more fun. They will object: Does not the Old Testament promise that God will prosper his people? Indeed! God increases our yield, so that by giving we can prove our yield is not our god. God does not prosper a man's business so that he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a business so that 17,000 unreached people can be reached with the gospel. He prospers the business so that 12 percent of the world's population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation.
What', said he, ' makes the difference between man and all the rest of the animal creation? Every beast that strays beside me has the same corporeal necessities with myself; he is hungry and crops the grass, he is thirsty and drinks the stream, his thirst and hunger are appeased, he is satisfied and sleeps; he rises again and is hungry, he is again fed and is at rest. I am hungry and thirsty like him, but when thirst and hunger cease I am not at rest; I am, like him, pained with want, but am not, like him, satisfied with fullness. The intermediate hours are tedious and gloomy; I long again to be hungry that I may again quicken my attention. The birds peck the berries or the corn, and fly away to the groves where they sit in seeming happiness on the branches, and waste their lives in tuning one unvaried series of sounds. I likewise can call the lutanist and the singer, but the sounds that pleased me yesterday weary me today, and will grow yet more wearisome tomorrow. I can discover within me no power of perception which is not glutted with its proper pleasure, yet I do not feel myself delighted. Man has surely some latent sense for which this place affords no gratification, or he has some desires distinct from sense which must be satisfied before he can be happy.