“Everyone’s life is full of suffering, but going hungry won’t make it better. Bodies don’t last long on a diet of virtue alone.”
– Yukina, Samurai 7
Episode 7, “The Friend”
When Yukina says this, she is speaking to a young woman named Kirara. Yukina is a primary hostess of a business that caters especially to luxurious comforts, while Kirara is a humble priestess from a humble farming village. As a guest, Kirara is provided a dinner of much higher quality than she is accustomed to. Thinking about her fellow villagers, and the dire straits they are all in at the moment, she is hesitant about actually consuming this fine cuisine set before her, uncertain that it’s appropriate for her to have it. She feels guilty, being given so much good, delicious food, while others are on the brink of starving.
That’s often the way of it, isn’t it? Those who are accustomed to luxury often take their blessings for granted, but those who are new to it may not know how to even accept it. Those who are especially kind and dutiful, as Kirara is, may even feel guilty about it. If they haven’t earned it, after all, how can it be all right for them to have it, even if it’s an honest gift from a friend?
When Yukina shares these words with Kirara, she’s not trying to dissuade her fried from being charitable and giving. She’s merely pointing out that depriving herself of the first truly decent meal she’s ever had will do nothing to improve the situation.
If a man were to lose his family to a terrible tragedy, would he somehow be healed of that pain if another person chose not to have a family of their own? Would his lost loved ones be joyfully restored to him if someone else chose not to be happy? No, of course not. That is not how it works.
Joining a painful situation, or staying in one, does not lessen the suffering of others.
Neither will refusing to eat a good meal, when it’s put in front of you by the kindness of others, accomplish anything more than your own hunger. It’s okay to enjoy it.
For that matter, it is often when people seek to improve their own situation, to make themselves more prosperous and comfortable, that they naturally enable that prosperity to enter the lives of those around them.
The automobile, for instance, was invented as a more comfortable and sanitary mode of travel than horseback, and society was transformed by it. The people who produced them were well-paid, and improved their circumstances as well, which spread more prosperity around them. Such it is with other luxuries, like fine foods and drinks. Someone had to produce them first, and the fairest, most free system would reward them appropriately for it, allowing them to improve their circumstances as well.
If we were all to deny ourselves the good things in life, we would be crippling the economy of those who make them, and taking something precious from society as a whole. How would that help anyone who is already starving?
Of course, it is an easy and frequent thing to do, to go too far in the other direction, the way of hoarding and gluttony and outright thievery. Those evils, however, do not take away from the virtue of gratefully, and humbly, enjoying what is fine and delicious. Feeding ourselves with good food is how we give ourselves greater strength to do greater good in the world.
We must take good care of ourselves now in order to be helpful later.
It is no bad thing to enjoy life a little, and we certainly should not be made to feel guilty when we do so.
It is just a question of balance, as per usual. 🙂