Belly Up

Illustration from Der menschliche Körper: Anatomie (1906)

“It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, ‘Work!’ After beefsteak and porter, it says, ‘Sleep!’ After a cups of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, ‘Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread out your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!’

“After hot muffins, it says, ‘Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field — a brainless animal, with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life.’ And after brandy, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, ‘Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow men may laugh — drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of alcohol.’

“We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgement. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father — a noble, pious man.” –Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (1917)