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Sherlock Holmes cartoon
from Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Rosenblatt and Sonnenschmidt

Sherlock Holmes dieters are not ashamed of their devotion to food. They love it, and they are perfectly willing to have everyone know it. When they sit down to eat, they are there for the food. If there is company, that is all well and good, but it is the food that they are there for. They are humble about this marvelous feature of their life.

All this is to say that they are not egotistical. They don't sit down to eat in order to be noticed. They aren't great talkers at the dinner table. They make the occasion of every meal a special occasion for eating, not talking. It is egotism that motivates people to talk too much. The Sherlock Holmes dieters sit and eat and enjoy the meal and don't worry too much about making an impression. They see no shame in being a connoisseur of food.

Emily Post had something to say on this topic: "Unconsciousness of self is not so much unselfishness as it is the mental ability to extinguish all thought of one's self—exactly as one turns out the light. Simplicity is like it, in that it also has a quality of self-effacement, but it really means a love of the essential and of directness. Simple people put no trimmings on their phrases, nor on their manners; but remember, simplicity is not crudeness nor anything like it. On the contrary, simplicity of speech and manners means language in its purest, most limpid form, and manners of such perfection that they do not suggest ‘manner' at all."

Self-importance and making an impression seem to be the norm. This kind of thinking runs counter to being a Sherlock Holmes dieter. How can you pay attention to your food if you are paying more attention to the impression that you are making?

Worrying about making an impression is exhausting. Instead of paying attention to matters at hand, such as eating, the egotistical person is paying attention to himself or herself.

People who work to make an impression think that they, themselves, are the creators of their wonderful social position, wealth, intelligence, good looks, and creativity. They don't see that they are not their own creation. The truth is, we are not our own creation. We are in Nature, not apart from it. Each of us is a phenomenon of Nature, appearing for a lifetime and then disappearing. We behave in ways that are given to us by Nature itself. We are the product of billions of years of evolution and thousands of years of civilization. When I look at my hand, for example, I consider that it is my hand, but it is also not mine - I had nothing to do with creating it. It is completely given to me, produced by millions of years of evolution. The working together of bones, muscles, blood, and nerves proceeds, independent of my consciousness. If my hand is injured, healing agents travel to the injured site, all without my direction. Similarly, I have certain feelings. They, too, are mine, but they are also not mine. As with my hand, millions of years went into producing them. I did nothing to create them. Similarly, our sentences arise from a pool of originations in the mind. They occur to us as a whole, and then we express them. Each person is privileged to have life, warmth, senses, intelligence, personality, skills, locomotion, protection against disease, and all the other amazing characteristics of human life, all of them creations of the processes of Nature.

My mind, as well, is a creation of Nature - my consciousness, my feelings, my hopes, my regrets, my past, my present, my future. Every thought and every feeling is provided by Nature - it is precisely the result of my inner makeup and/or my current circumstances. Everything that has happened was inevitable. It could only occur in the way that it did. Since the configuration of being was such, only what did occur could occur. The Buddhists refer to this truth as the impersonal nature of all phenomena. They point out that self-importance is unjustified. They say, not I, but life in me.

Religious leaders have tried to make out that we are our own creation by inventing the concept of the soul, as if there were some part of us that is, indeed, our own creation. Since we are responsible for ourselves, and since we create what we do each moment, we certainly seem to be our own creation, but deeper thought reveals this not to be true.

What happens is Nature's way. We cannot overrule the processes of Nature. It is egotism that tries to set us apart.

When we give Nature its due, we experience a change of heart. Instead of insisting on our own way regardless of others, we see both ourselves and others as creations of Nature. It is not so important to justify ourselves, since it is Nature that is the creator. We only take what we get. We are not so afraid of being in the wrong or making a mistake. Bad memories learn to rest in the past. The nature of our lives comes to be seen as connected with something larger - creation itself. What we personally possess is not necessary for our self-regard.

Is egotism at the dinner table uncommon? Hardly. We only have to think of those who interrupt other people. Instead of waiting for the other person to finish what he or she is saying, this person breaks in and steals the conversation. And what does he or she talk about? Himself or herself. Making an impression.

Egotism is a narrowing of a person's view of himself or herself in that it ignores the magnificence of being human with an evolutionary history and amazing features of mind and body. Egotism makes the self more significant than the significance of being a human being.

Although not egotistical, the Sherlock Holmes dieter is individualistic. Nature has made each one of us unique, in looks, personality, voice, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, intentions, hopes, and memories. Nature has produced variety as a characteristic of being human. Not only is each person unique, but he or she cannot be otherwise. I can only be the unique person that I am. I can learn from other people, but what I learn I use in my own way. No one can feel what he or she doesn't feel or believe what he or she doesn't believe. I am exactly who I am and not the least little bit who I might wish I were.

Having an interest in oneself is having an interest in what one likes and what one wants. Since I am unique and individual, what I like and what I want are unique and individual. I do not assume I should or can be the same as other people. Rather, I assume I am different. I can learn from others, but what I like and what I want are personal to me. I take the broadest view of what it is to be human - I am always more than who I think I am. I am more than any group I belong to - I am more than being a Christian or Jew, black or white, gay or straight, or man or woman. What I like and want are in their overall configuration different from any stereotypes of any groups I belong to, just as anyone's basket of groceries is different from anyone else's.

When I pay attention to what I like and what I want, I discover that I am enjoying myself. Enjoying oneself is the opposite of self-sacrifice. It is enjoying one's personality. Standing on my own ground instead of on other people's, I find a balance, which is the natural state of the organism. It is like getting into a warm bed and pulling the covers over my head - I am myself in my own universe.

The Sherlock Holmes dieter is, thus, both humble and individualistic. He or she gives Nature its due, but at the same time he or she honors the magnificence of being alive as a human being. We are all living organisms functioning in present time. As Holmes said in "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter," "My dear Watson, I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one's self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one's own powers."

In a sense, being a distinct individual is taking God's side. It is saying, life only avails. It is honoring the amazing creation that is a human being and then encouraging, supporting, and promoting this amazing creation. Along the way, harmful restrictions and limitations that society has taught as proper are dropped in favor of creative living. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in "Self-Reliance," "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that he must take himself, for better or worse, as his portion." The same is true of every woman. "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string." "Life only avails, not the having lived." That fact "forever degrades the past."

In this freedom to be oneself a person does not know what he or she will hear or see. The voices and images come from life itself, out of the processes of life. Life itself is in me and I a part of it, engaged in it. I listen for its voices. I seek gifts of new thoughts, feelings, ideas, images, and attitudes in a region beyond my view of myself. In my view of myself I know what to expect, knowing, as I think, who I am, but, when I look for gifts beyond who I think I am, I look into a strange territory where I discover more than I had conceived.

When a person overcomes his or her egotism (a lifetime endeavor), he or she is free to pay attention to what is right under his or her nose. The pleasure in a good shepherd's pie overcomes trying to hold one's image together. The non-egotistical person has the humility to take delight in food. It is not beneath him or her.

The Sherlock Holmes dieter isn't a great talker at the dinner table. He or she makes the occasion of every meal a special occasion for eating, not talking. Are we here to eat or to talk? Answer: eat. Talk comes later. Think, for example, of the Victorian gentlemen who retired to the smoking room after dinner - their time for talk was following dinner. It is egotism that motivates people to talk too much. There is no shame in being a connoisseur of food. It is pleasant to be passive to its enjoyment without having to make an impression.


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