The Promethean Diet

The following essay/meditation is from my sister project, Pneuma. If you’re interested in listening to this essay as a podcast, visit my website, pneumameditations.com or search Pneuma By Daniel Finneran on any of your favorite podcast platforms.

Hello my friends, and welcome to this episode of Pneuma.

Before all else, I want to say a word or two of thanksgiving–a custom of mine without which, at this point, I can’t very well imagine beginning an episode. I want you to know that I’m deeply grateful for all the support you’ve shown me…for all the encouragement and kindness of which, if I’m to take an honest measure of myself and the little talent I possess, I think I’m still quite undeserving.

So, again, thank you.

In a past episode (to which I’ll include a link in the show notes below) I did my level best to lead you on a difficult guided meditation. It was, I admit, a quite demanding exercise, calling upon all your resources of mindfulness and temperance (of which, as is painfully clear to us all, we’re equipped with but a limited store). Its noble objective, its salutary aim, was, ultimately, to help you avoid overeating.

Yes–to avoid overeating.

To avoid committing gluttony–one of the seven deadly sins to which, almost every time the dinner bell tolls and the table is set, the majority of us can’t help ourselves from succumbing. Alas, precious few of us (even those who have listened to my episode and implemented its techniques) can count ourselves superior to and untainted by this inescapable sin. We’re all guilty of it, time and again.

It hardly need be said that there are few things in this world at which we humans, a naturally hungry and acquisitive species, are less skillful than exercising our moderation. It’s a muscle that’s forever in need of flexing to remain strong. Perhaps it’s for this reason that moderation, or temperance, is included among the four Cardinal Virtues–along with justice, courage, and, most important of all, prudence. These are thought to be the fundamental virtues that a life well-lived hinges on. 

So, you see, temperance–while a stiff challenge to a society availed of every material advantage, awash in every sweet refreshment, and caressed by every soft comfort–is vital.

So temperance, by and large, concerns itself with how we eat. It scrutinizes and passes judgment on how we approach our meals, how we govern our appetites, how we comport ourselves at the table, how we restrain our excesses, nourish our needs, and balance our animal urge to indulge, with our higher impulse toward decorum.

But it doesn’t entirely answer the more difficult question of what we should eat. With what foods, I ask, should we nourish our bodies? To which foods should we devote the finite space on our plate? From that same plate, what should we exclude? What should we cast aside? What should we prioritize? What should we bring first to our mouth? What last?

What follows is a dietary scheme of which, before now, right here on this channel, you’ve probably never heard. It’s an original diet plan (“original” in the sense of its going back to our earliest human origins) of which I can’t flatter myself with having been the author. I am, rather, little more than its humble practitioner. I hope, in time, through this channel, to become its promoter as well.

I call this nutrition plan, “The Promethean Diet”.

It has a great ring to it, does it not?

Before I lay out precisely what this diet entails, you must know a little about the fantastic story behind its namesake, the valiant titan, Prometheus.

Prometheus, whose name means “far-sighted”, “fore-thinker”, or “foresightful”, is one of my favorite characters in all of Greek mythology. I’m not alone, I’m happy to say, in having been thoroughly enchanted by his amazing legend. Intellectuals and poets in the Romantic age (most prominently Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley) were likewise fascinated by the grandeur, the suffering, the pathos, and the moral at the core of the tale. Mary Shelley, for her part, discerned in it a grave warning against unchecked presumption, improper striving, and the manifold risks of overreaching oneself. Thus, she affixed to her haunting and immortal work, Frankenstein, the lesser-known subtitle, The Modern Prometheus.

I think, after I recount to you all his audacious endeavors, his clever stratagems, his philanthropic acts, his marvelous achievements, and his ruinous downfall, you’ll join me, and Mary Shelley, in elevating Prometheus above all other heroes who’ve graced our Western literary world.

He was at once the meticulous sculptor of and selfless benefactor to mankind. According to one pagan creation myth, with which that of the Judeo-Christian tradition harmonizes neatly, Prometheus formed man out of clay. He and his bungling, “short-sighted” brother, Epimetheus, were tasked with the creation of this most delicate and peculiar of all creatures. Just as our Biblical father, Adam, was raised from and molded by the earth (indeed, his very name means, “from the earth”), our first parents in the pagan tradition were also built from the “ground-up”–quite literally from the dust.

Epimetheus, the unforesightful fool, distributed all the desirable qualities (such as swiftness, size, strength, agility, and flight) to the vast number of wild animals by which, only a few hours ago, the new world had been filled. Man, although shaped like a god, and crafted with the elegant symmetry of a divine being, was left sorely wanting. Thanks to Epimetheus’ poor planning, he was graced with no special power, no natural advantage, no competitive “edge” of which to boast.

Prometheus was quick to rectify his brother’s thoughtlessness: in the soul of man, and man alone, he kindled the first, faint spark of reason–that precious, divine flame by which our wit is warmed, our spirit illumed, and our individuality enlivened.

For this endowment, we humans could never exhaust our thanksgiving. We could extend our gratitude to Prometheus for a thousand years–an entire millennium in debt–and, still, it wouldn’t be enough. And, yet, Prometheus, a philanthropist in the truest sense of the term, decided to assist our infant species even further. The superintending titan, the father and protector of mankind, revealed himself, time and again, to be deeply invested in our present survival and our future happiness.

And it’s here, at this point, we reach the Promethean diet. 

As you see, Prometheus was very solicitous about the welfare of his “children”–the race to which he’d given form and life. In hopes of sustaining them, and contributing to their physical and intellectual growth, he contemplated what diet might be most suitable for their palate. He weighed a variety of options, from vegetarianism to veganism; plant-based  to grain-based; cereals to smoothies; beyond “meat to actual meat; Jenny Craig to Oprah Winfrey.

He decided, at last, to nourish mankind with the very same foods after which the mighty gods on Mt. Olympus savored: the meat and entrails of the ox, rich with fat.

One day, not long after Prometheus had made up his mind, a settlement between the mortals and the gods was set to take place. The holy rite demanded the sacrifice of an ox, (a good old-fashioned steer) of which Prometheus made a neat and tidy butchery. He carved every section with utmost precision, dexterity, and care. To one side, he portioned the ribeye, the filet mignon, the picanha, the brisket, flank, chuck, round, and loin–mouth-watering slabs through which glorious, marbled rows of shimmering fat danced and streaked. He included with these delicious cuts the densely nutritious entrails–most notably the liver. This, the liver, was held to be one of the most nutritious food items of all. It was also believed to be the seat of human emotion–a very powerful organ indeed.

Meat and entrails rich with fat–this, along with ambrosia and some seasonal fruit, was what the gods delighted to eat. This is what they fed on. Prometheus intended to deliver this Olympian spread to the mouth of his favored species, man.

Eager for humans to partake of and enjoy this royal fare, Prometheus contrived a scheme to get it into their hands and bellies. He decided to cover the delicious fatty meat and entrails in the ox’s stomach–a most unappetizing cover by which even a famished soul, desperate for any edible morsel, would be repulsed. Normally, the stomach was left aside for the birds and dogs to eat; for neither man nor god was it deemed fit.

He then proceeded to lay out a second offering by which, should his clever design succeed, he aimed to deceive Zeus, the foremost god of Olympus. This second pile was composed of the ox’s white bones, around which he wrapped a mouth-watering sheet of glistening fat. Imagine a pile of refuse covered in the succulent drippings of hickory-smoked bacon, with salty-fat sweating from its every porcine pore. Would that not appeal to you, regardless of what it concealed inside?

Before Prometheus set the bones in this sack, however, he boiled them in a pot for twenty hours. By so doing, he was able to extract the marrow and reserve for man a delectable, hearty broth. It’s here, at the dawn of man, we were first given to sipping bone broth.

At last, the moment of judgment had arrived. The festival had begun, and, in accordance with the holy ritual, Prometheus laid both offerings before the feet of Zeus. The god, before whom countless oblations were set and libations poured, felt his fearsome belly rumble. Overcome by hunger, he was faced with a decision. The hurler of lightning could choose a dish that was externally unappetizing, but perhaps delicious on the inside, or one that was externally very appealing, but interiorly uncertain.

He chose the latter.

Zeus leapt at the bag of bones concealed by the glistening fat. The other pile, filled with savory, fatty meats and entrails, went to the humans as a result. In every subsequent sacrifice, the same apportionment was followed: to the gods went the useless bones, while the humans enjoyed the animal’s more delectable parts.

Thanks to the craftiness, irreverence, and ingenuity of Prometheus, mankind was blessed with a godlike diet: meat and entrails, rich with fat.

Needless to say, Zeus was irate. Displeased by his bad decision, he was, more than anything else, outraged by Prometheus’ insolence and disrespect. In a fit of wrath, he responded by extinguishing all fire on earth, which was said to be stored in and produced by the ash tree.

I think we all know what happened next: Prometheus, fiercely devoted to the cause of mankind, flew up to heaven and stole back the fire. In order to keep it kindled during his perilous journey back down to earth, he carried it in a long, rigid fennel stalk, whose pithy core served as an excellent vessel in which to transport the precious flame.

The gift of fire, restored to us by Prometheus, was invaluable. It was the match by which the forward progress of our civilization was ignited. Our entire uplift and evolution as a species depended on it. With fire, we were now able to cook our meat. To cook meat is tantamount to “pre-digesting” it. Cooked food saves us a prodigious amount of time, energy, and space. Tough, fibrous, uncooked food requires a longer intestinal tract for its full absorption. Vastly more energy, much more chewing, and much more time are needed to assimilate it. That’s why gorillas, our burly simian cousins, spend nearly all their days munching on plants, from which their massive intestinal tracts are able to extract a relatively small amount of nutrients.

Equipped with fire, we humans could now cook our meat, digest and assimilate its greater store of nutrients more quickly, strengthen our bodies with its large quantity of protein, and divert our excess energy toward the rapid growth and development of our complex brains.

We have Prometheus to thank, then, for our unique combination of brilliance and brawn.

Of course, Prometheus was made to suffer for our boon. He was chained to a rock in the Caucasus Mountains, to which a hungry eagle (the avian symbol of Zeus) would pay an unfriendly visit each and every day. The eagle would proceed to sink his talons into the hero’s bare chest and, with a beak besmeared with blood, devour his Titanic liver. Each evening, the liver’s regrowth would be commensurate with the amount consumed during the day. Thus was the sad fate of Prometheus, until liberated, at long last, by noble Heracles.

Again, though, I might highlight the centrality of the liver in the sad ending of this story–the most important and nutritious of all organs into which the eagle tore. The fact that the eagle honed in on it, while sparing all other organs, is, I think, pregnant with meaning.

And so, there you have it: The Promethean Diet, explained here on Pneuma as nowhere else.

This divine diet, coeval with our origin as a species, is as simple as it is satisfying: fatty bovine meats and wholesome entrails; bone marrow and savory broth; ribeye steaks and liver filets; copious amounts of butter and salt. Combine these with ambrosia, the honeyed nectar of the gods, and seasonal fruits–mangoes in July, citrus in December–and you’ll be as strong as a Titan, as vigorous as a god, as handsome as Heracles, and as intelligent as a sage.

Add to this a prolonged daily fast, twenty-four hours if you can manage it, and your health will undergo a radical change. Your life will enjoy a near-superhuman enhancement. Your waist will taper and your skin will sparkle. Your hair will shine and your stomach will flatten. What’s more–get yourself out into the sun and perform an hour of exercise, and you’ll have undergone a veritable apotheosis.

This, I’ll have you know, dear listener, is precisely the diet to which I adhere. Every single night, after a day-long fast, I eat a nourishing meal of fatty meat and liver, joined by a dab of raw honey with a variety of colorful fruits. To this, I’ll add a little bit of dairy, half a sweet potato, and some farm-raised eggs. Of course, I’m faithful always to sip on my bone broth before anything approaches my lips.

I’m disclosing quite a great deal about myself in my saying so, but it’s true: I stand at my counter and eat the aforesaid every single night. I implemented this diet, the Promethean Diet, a few months ago, and I feel as though I’ve risen to the very pinnacle of health. I feel as though I’ve gained admittance to the cloud-capped summit of Mount Olympus, at which Zeus and his gang are all gathered to greet me.

So that you might join me, I plan on developing this diet more in the weeks to come but, if you’re curious about trying something new, give it a “go”. What, after all, could be better than telling your friends that you’re on the “Promethean Diet”? The name alone recommends itself. It sounds so cool!

Email me at pneuma.finneran@gmail.com if you have any questions about how to get started, or send me a DM on instagram or facebook–of which I plan to make more frequent use. On those platforms, you can search my name, Daniel Finneran. I’ll respond immediately.

And, with that, the hour of our parting has arrived. Too soon, as always, but come it has.

Before we depart, I urge you, dear listener, if you found this information stimulating, entertaining, informative or fun, do me the honor of subscribing to this channel. Give it a five-star rating and share it with friends. Send me some messages outlining your thoughts. Let’s all join the “Promethean posse”. Until next time, fare thee well, from Pneuma.

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