Recently, Public Broadcasting presented a Nova three part documentary entitled, Becoming Human. The three episodes were dedicated to unraveling the formation of our human species. Not only was this three part documentary enlightening, it also made me wonder about our ontological needs, and how we, as a society, might have disrupted our deeper longing to the detriment of daily living.

In part II, we were told of a great discovery by Tim White and Richard Leakey who in 1984 found a complete 5′ 3″ skeleton of an 8 year old hominid they named Turkana Boy who lived 1.5 million years ago. Due to the wholeness of the skeleton, scientists were able to learn much more about our brain development and the social development of our early ancestors.


The campfire linked to our social development

One fascinating aspect of their research noted that we differ from apes  due to our brain development. Human childhood takes longer, and because of this, humans are much more docile than chimpanzees, and other primates.

This brought them to the realization that hominid humans might have discovered fire at an earlier time, and that our socialization as a species has a direct link to our  preparation of a meal. It would seem that food preparation, and the sharing of a community meal has a direct link to us living together as social human beings. The creation of the camp fire holds great importance towards our development.

These facts made me wonder if there might be data available as to the rise in crime over the years directly linked to when families no longer shared meals together. It made me wonder if there might be a deep inner need for socialization which takes part in a family joining together in the preparation of the meal, and sharing it together.

With the creation of fast food, or the introduction of frozen dinners  and people eating when they felt like it, would this have some connection to a greater number of people feeling disjointed from society? Might we be better served to recapture the ritual of family food preparation? Is there a connection between those who are raised with family meals and those who’s children are forced to forge for themselves?

If there is a connection towards a meal, and lessening of aggressiveness, I can’t help but jump to the obvious link between the ritual of a family meal and that of a agape meal or ritual Eucharist. In the Eucharist, all people who attend are preparing the meal, the people who are active in the liturgy are the celebrants, and all are welcome to the table to partake in bread and wine as the Body of Christ.

In a day when we might look at food and eating as mere refueling, we might want to take a step back and ponder the other benefits of a participatory meal as socialization, a reduction of anxiety, and the creation of unity founded in each other – – – a message Christ has been telling us all along.