Swimming In Systems…

Girthing Globally…

The so-called obesity epidemic has made headlines once again.  Another study released this week suggests that obesity on a global level is still on the rise.  In the days since this study was published, I have read a half-dozen feature articles and blogs about how we can reverse this generations-old trend.  Yet, for all the intellectual studies, discussion, and attention obesity gets, and despite all the good intentions behind solving the problem, obesity levels worldwide are still increasing.

When it comes to fighting obesity, as with many other consequences of our social and technical advancements, too often our thinking is narrow, poorly aimed, and most often searching for singular fixes in small areas which feel good to pursue, but are often demanding and fruitless.

What is largely ignored in all the conversations about solving obesity, is the entirety of the problem; the constant expansion of the many systems which have led to its existence.  Food systems.  Marketing systems.  Social systems.  Political systems.  Religious systems.  Educational systems.  Pharmaceutical systems.  On and on.

Any one of these systems could alone be considered a monster.  Together, they conspire to be a leviathan.  Like any good leviathan, obesity is going to go where it wants to go, and will only die when it runs out of the fuel on which feeds it.  I am reminded of two fleas attempting to steer the dog they sit upon.

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Complexity begets complexity…

On the surface, solving obesity may seem like it’s all about calories in vs. calories out, changing portion sizes, providing better school lunches, CrossFit, Yoga, using a treadmill, going low-carb, low-fat or paleo, standup desks in the workplace, and even the use of qualified fitness trainers.  These may hold some value for some people at some times, but alone these aren’t going to change a thing.  The fact remains that scientific advancement and social awareness relating to obesity are at all-time highs, and our collective girth is still girthing.

How’s The Water, Boys…?

While in mid-thought this morning, as I was pondering obesity, it finally occurred to me that systems – all systems, whether they apply to the obesity epidemic, politics, consumer culture, or anything else, is the water that David Foster Wallace spoke of during his now famous commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005.  Whether this was his intention or not, it seems to me that systems, invisible and everywhere, are the water which surrounds us.

If you’re not familiar with the speech above, please bookmark it for when you have time.

 We live within millions of systems.  We navigate and transcend them, never really seeing their entirety, and always under the influence of delusion, believing we possess some level of control.   We live, breathe, act, choose, survive, delight, frown, frolic, and even get fat as a result of our systems.  We select our presidents, career paths, partners, and even our gods as influenced by an invisible ocean, and like the young fish who replies to the older fish, “What the hell is water”, we are oblivious to it as we swim.

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When I think about obesity in this context, or when I think about any disturbing social trend from air pollution, to engineered corn, campaign finance, political partisanship, landfills bursting at the seams, and even when I think about war, I tend to be more gracious these days in my judgement for both the victims as well as the perpetrators.  We are all born under water and begin swimming through our sea of systems immediately, most often with the best of intentions.  All the while though, we never really know we are swimming at all.  So, how’s the water today, Boys…?  Be well.  cc

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Fat Dogs, Niebuhr, and Tomorrow…

No Time For Obese Dogs…

I sat down this morning preparing to pose a question on social media about the responsibility humans have in stewarding obese dogs.  This after an exchange last week about who is responsible for canine obesity.  My stance is that, much like obesity in humans, pet owners bear only a portion of the responsibility for canine obesity.  That is, dogs like humans, are subject to increasingly complex food, pharmaceutical, medical, and social systems.

Though humans do have some say in the obesity of their dogs, these systems are probably also influencing canine obesity, though not to the level that the same systems are influencing human obesity.  To a lesser degree, canines are also susceptible to the economic and media systems which influence humans, though the freewill thing which humans relentlessly pander to, probably doesn’t distract dogs too much.

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I’m thinking, too much bread in his diet….

I chose not to post my original question on social media though, because I realized it would have done nothing more than set anchor to a line of convoluted and irrational arguments that would chain me to my laptop for hours.  At the end of the day I thought, we’re all caught up in an endless web of systems anyway…

Three Wise Men…

In his book, The Religions of the World (formerly The Religions of Man), Huston Smith suggests,

We need to remember that in their own day, prophets are not seen as prophets.  To most, they appear to be fringe thinkers, not to be trusted, and often irrational.  It is only those few who follow them, and with the posthumous spreading of their ideas over time, that elevates them to prophet status.

As they walked and spoke in their own communities, men like Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad did not command the attention of too many, though they did make some noise.  It was only after death, and by those few who valued their ideas who worked to spread those ideas, did they become elevated to prophet status.

I have been reading (some of) the works of Reinhold Niebuhr recently.  Niebuhr is hard to classify.  He was a Christian theologian and educator.  He was a prolific author, a public intellectual, a sounding board for other intellectuals, and an occasional advisor to heavyweight political figures during his time.  Though he considered himself a socialist Christian, and since both of those terms today have been hijacked and mutated, I will argue that Niebuhr was the ultimate conservative by the real meaning of that word.

Portrait Of Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

A portrait of the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), United States, mid-20th century. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

I came to Niebuhr by way of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, both of whom draw on Niebuhr’s moral and diplomatic sensibilities in their own works.  In his book The Limits of Power, Bacevich refers to Niebuhr as a prophet at least a dozen times.  Chalmers Johnson suggests that if every nation had a Niebuhr whispering in the ear of its leader, there would be no need for NATO, The United Nations, or military bases beyond domestic borders.

All Systems Go (Where They Want To)…

Among other things, what the works of Bacevich, Johnson, and Niebuhr reinforce to me is that principled ideals, however impactful their potential might be, are not going to immediately override systems which are already in place and aimed in a forward direction.  The best we can hope is that reasonable ideas take root, and are cultivated over time to gradually steer the trajectory of a system.  The civil rights movement, still in progress, is a good example of this.  If we take an honest big picture view, it’s clear that prophets make good helmsmen on the initial watch, but communities need to keep steering once the prophet is no longer around.

Americans are caught up in all the systems of modernity; technical systems, political systems, cultural systems, economic systems, and many others.  Whether we are talking about obese canines, the military industrial complex or international diplomacy, and whether we consider ourselves passengers, components, or victims of the systems which carry us, I am reminded as our presidential election draws near, of the two flies believing they control the horse who’s ears they stand upon.  We are driven, and we are bound by systems.

Vote The System To A Slight Turn…

Like many, I often think voting doesn’t matter and I don’t trust any of the candidates.  I do though, believe that voting is a responsibility and it’s one I take very seriously.  Perhaps my vote this year, which will go to the most Niebuhrian candidate on election day, will help steer the modern political system just enough toward a new direction that we can pass it off to a more reasonable generation, who might spread the word of Niebuhr’s prophecy and steer us better still.  Of course I’ll need the help of 100,000,000 or so like-minded friends to make this happen.

Before you vote this November – before you decide on a candidate, a platform, or donate any more money or your own sensibility to a cause, please consider reading The Irony of American History by Niebuhr, The Limits of Power by Bacevich, or Blowback by Chalmers Johnson – all 3 if you have the time.  It’s time we steer away from America’s imperial ambitions abroad, and that we take a good look in the mirror.

I gasp at what is taking place with the current presidential race, but realize the idiocy of it all is a reflection of our culture at large – of the systems we have set into motion and make no attempt to steer.  It seems clear to me that we could benefit from a new prophet to help lead us out of our Idiocracy.  As Bacevich calls for a Niebuhrian revolution, I stand alongside him in hopes that someone – anyone will listen, learn more, and help spread the word.  If not Niebuhr, perhaps David Brooks.  Be well…  rc

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We are just one or two elections away from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho…

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dave Alvin.  Prettiness and such like that.  Enjoy…

Epidemicology…

Caveat: I chose not to cite any data sources in support of this essay. There is much conflicting data on the topic of obesity and health. The opinions expressed here are based solely on my experience in health & fitness, my observations, as well as books, data sources, and websites which, it turns out, all agree with me.

Not Really…

We are all familiar with the term, obesity epidemic. We see reports, studies, and media programming that remind us how dangerous yet widespread the obesity epidemic has become. We are led increasingly to believe that being overweight is unhealthy, avoidable, and wrong.

I’m not going to argue in favor of, or against obesity. I’m going step back and share my big picture perspective that obesity is less an epidemic and more the unavoidable result of our increasingly complex food system and shifting cultural values, and that fighting obesity on an individual basis will not slow or stop the expansion of the expansion.

The Flow…

While it is true that obesity, as defined by the CDC, has increased steadily over the last 6 decades, I believe that any large scale reversal of that pattern will not be the result of the individual mechanisms we use to fight obesity on a personal level, such as gastric related surgeries, liposuction, excessive dieting, excessive exercise, nutritional supplementation, and pharmaceutical support. With these means being more available and more used than ever, and obesity still being on the rise, that math does not add up. It simply demonstrates that, collectively, fighting individual obesity is not working to reduce obesity overall.

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Though some individuals find success with using exercise, diet, and medical/pharmaceutical technologies to reverse or to avoid obesity, a majority of people who use these resources will not find success in the long-term. I believe any permanent change to the cultural obesity trend will be the result of both large and small changes in our food system, over time, which are organized and called for by society as a collective, similar to the changes in civil rights, animal rights, and global ecology that we have seen in recent decades.

Those efforts to change the food system are already forming and gaining traction, but the arc of their results is a slow turning. Examples of this are laws requiring calories to be included on menus, local food movements, transparency in food manufacturing & marketing, and social awareness created by the propagation of literature; books and documentary movies on the subject.

As It Relates To Health…

We have been fed the ideal over time that obesity is intertwined with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and the probability of early death – a lesser quality of life notwithstanding. Increasingly though, there is data that suggests that obese people who exercise regularly, and include reasonable amounts of fruits and vegetables in their diets are no more likely to suffer from these ailments than people of average body weight. Some call this fat but fit. I call it, doing one’s best within a failing system.

Still, many people who fall into this category of larger, but healthy, attempt to fight their obesity by the means mentioned above, because they feel a social pressure which suggests they are unhealthy and undesirable. Whether or not they are unhealthy is coming into question, and that fruitless debate continues. Being socially or personally undesirable is simply a matter of bigotry.

As It Relates To Vanity…

Yesterday I visited a friend in the hospital who, for the last 13 months, has been dealing with the severely debilitating consequences of a lap-band surgery gone bad. I am removed from the internal thinking which led to her to the decision to have lap-band surgery, but from the outside looking in, though she might have been overweight at the time of the surgery, she was attractive and seemed to be in good health.

That is, her surgery was as much about vanity and/or social pressure as it was about health. My friend will remain in the hospital for at least several weeks. Her life has been in jeopardy as a result of this failed surgery on at least two occasions, though it appears now she will ultimately be okay.

Wide And Prejudice…

The epidemic which scares me more than the so-called epidemic of obesity, is the epidemic of prejudice toward heavier people. If a person wakes up in the morning and fails to eat fruit and Greek yogurt for breakfast, fails to remove the pile of clothes from the treadmill and put in a hard 30 minutes, or if they fail to stop at the gym on their way to work, they are not a bad person. And doing any or all of these will not make them a good person.

Being a good person is more related to mindfulness, kindness, and noble effort. Being a bad person, I suspect, is more related to disrespecting people, institutions, and animals – period. Body weight and body size have nothing to do with one’s character. Judging somebody for their shape size or weight does – period.

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The Slow Turn Of A failed System…

When I look at our social values as it relates to body image, male or female, young or old, and when I observe what it is that we revere and what we are willing to do in the name of looking better or being leaner, I often shudder.

I don’t fault anyone for wanting to pursue or maintain an attractive appearance, and I have certainly put effort into that ideal through the years. I’ll suggest though, for those who strive to improve their physical appearance, that before they begin, they closely examine the potential for cascading consequences which may result from the means they choose.

The quest for a smaller stature, and the emphasis we place on it is as old as culture itself, and I’m not arguing we abandon that pursuit. I’ll suggest though, similarly to civil rights, animal rights, ecology, and government, that the system we have allowed to place us here, and that we are all caught up in, is more in need of repair than any of us as individuals. I believe the arc of this system improving is on the rise, though obesity may still be a social issue for a few more decades.

That obesity is a contributory factor to poor health is, in my opinion, still just a theory. That we treat obese people with a greater guard, is simply a shame. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from the Dharma Violets. Enjoy!

An Amazing Age,,,

Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself. Basically, it’s made up of two separate words — mank and ind. What do these words mean? It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.” Jack Handy

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An Amazing Age…

A father stood by a campfire sharing thoughts of life with his discouraged adolescent son. He explained that life can be hard, but reminded his son that it was much worse for their ancestors. He explained that they live an amazing age. He spoke about how quickly man can cover long distances – much faster and further than even a few generations ago. The food system had advanced in a way that fewer people were going hungry, and food was much easier to produce. Though wars still took place, there were less of them, and with fewer casualties within them. Tyrannical leaders had declined in number, and advances in medicine had enabled longer lives, and a better quality of life with each passing year.

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Of course that conversation could have taken place in any age of man going back 4,000 years or more. And I guess that’s my point; that every generation of man reaps the benefits of advancement. All who have lived, have lived in an amazing age.

Today we live with the most advanced technologies and social structures to date, and certainly the most complex. Yet I’m not such a fan. The worst unintended consequences of advancement are… a lack of advancement. I too am a discouraged youth.

And Then, Depression Set In…

I have experienced my share of depressive episodes – those times when continuing my own life seems the worst possible solution. I have survived those episodes though, without medication, for one reason above all others, the knowledge that my depression always passes – always.

I don’t wish to understate the value of medication for those who live with depression. That technology – the advancement of pharmaceuticals, has changed and saved millions who live with depression. I only suggest that for me, the best medicine is the knowledge that my depression always passes – always. It’s kind of old school.

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When I’m in the throes of depression, it’s not so easy or so convenient to conjure up thoughts of it passing. Nor are those thoughts fast-acting. They do come though, with no side effects, nor any cascading consequences which may lead to more cascading consequences.

In recent decades depression has become better addressed, both scientifically and socially. Depression can be treated, discussed, and most importantly, it can be allowed. That it is allowed, is a great social advancement – part of our amazing age.

I Need A Kind Of Therapy Which Hasn’t Been Invented Yet…

I live with another ailment though, one which is rarely discussed and may not even exist beyond my tortured mind, though I suspect it does; the inability to comprehend and cope with the increasing complexities of our amazing age. I live in a greater state of flux today than I did at age 40. Each new advancement for the betterment of mankind seems to come with choices, tenfold.

Last night I spent 75 minutes navigating the Netflix search menu, looking for a program worthy of my time. Eventually I selected a series of TED Talks on space exploration. Seventy-five minutes spent searching. In that amount of time I could have watched 5 of those TED Talks, or 4 episodes of McHale’s Navy. I yearn for the black and white Admiral TV of my youth. Only 12 channels choose from and a few dozen more on UHF, but most of those were snow.

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Driving last week my advanced navigation system was guiding me to a job interview. Knowing the area fairly well I decided to trust my hunter-gatherer instincts and took an alternate route. The voice from the speakers kept attempting to reroute me – even to the point when I was directly across the street from my intended location. “Make a U-turn and go 1 mile to the Rancho California Exit” the voice said. My destination was 50 yards away. That actually happened.

I can’t remember my daughter’s phone number – because I don’t have to. Talk about an instant panic attack when I needed to call her from someone else’s phone…

The thought that gets me through my depressive episodes, that it always passes – always, doesn’t work for my complexity issues. The increasing complexities of life are exponential. They never pass, they only get worse. To paraphrase Lewis Black, “Exponential means to get crappier and crappier and crappier.”

I’m not a neuroscientist nor a cognitive psychologist, but I do read some of their work when time permits. Once conclusion I can safely make is that in no way is the human brain keeping up with the pace of our advancements. My disease may not be your disease yet, but it will be.

No Going Back. Close Your Eyes And Ears Going Forward…

There’s no going backward though, only the hopes that humanity will figure out how to take the greatest advancements from the past, retool them, and superimpose them on the future. We won’t see horse drawn carriages again, but we already see cars without internal combustion engines and that’s a legitimate advancement. That those cars might drive themselves is also an advancement. If self-driving cars are an advancement, there will surely be unintended consequences along with them – like losing our inherent ability to find north or south quickly, or to minimize what little muscle tone most people have left – from turning that steering wheel.

I genuinely believe the humanity is headed in a positive direction, pulled by the underlying currents of a higher purpose. Read the books Nonzero and The Better Angels Of Our Nature and you too might be convinced of this. That future though, might look a lot like Idiocracy. Be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head…

Modernity, Complexity, Conflicting Data, And Guruism…

Increasing complexity…

Every so often I sit down to write what I perceive will be my final essay for this blog.  To this point, I have been incorrect to have made those assumptions.  Today was one of those days, once again that feeling came over me that this was it.

In the 10 years or so since I began writing fitness related essays, the world has changed more than it had in the 30 years prior.  That’s not an exaggeration.  The complexities of culture have increased, and expanded in a seemingly exponential way.  It appears no part of culture is exempt from this.  Ideas, boundaries, rules, opportunities, and arguments have grown more complex in all aspects of culture.  The ideals of exercise and fitness are part of that cultural expansion. 

Complexity begets complexity...

Complexity begets complexity…

 

Conflicting data….

As there are many more ideas in what exercise and fitness should be then there once were, there are now many more resources, more information, and more people supporting these ideas, resources, and information.  Along with the increasing ideas, have come increasing platforms.  There are many outlets now for anyone who wants to share their fitness advice.   If a person has an idea, and a computer, they can establish a dedicated following in short order.  That said, there are now many more conflicts within the ideals of fitness and exercise.

I say often that we live in the age of conflicting data.  For every argument one can make in support of a cause or an idea, and back it up with some kind of data source, someone else can make an opposing argument supported by a different data source.  Few data sources, on either side of any argument, are without agenda.  Though such conflicts are as old as culture itself, in this technical age arguments come much faster – often faster than they can be processed or understood, and that’s a huge problem. 

Social media has become a platform, if not a battle ground, on which these conflicts are increasingly played out.  The utility, as well as the benefit of any good idea can be quickly obscured by the clouds of argument.  Information becomes chaotic. 

World War III might not a a terror based war.  It just might be a war over conflicting data...

World War III might not a a terror based war. It just might be a war over conflicting data…

As is usual in battle, truth seems to be the first casualty.  The internet is scattered with millions of peddlers selling products, ideas, and agendas with varying degrees of sincerity behind what they sell.  The internet is lined with millions of consumers, not all of whom are discriminating enough to avoid becoming the unwitting victims of those pushing a lesser agenda.  The intentions of those on both sides, of course, can range in reason and motivation. 

Information Merchant…

Personally, I fall into both categories.  I use the internet as a consumer of ideas, to gather fitness, and exercise related information.  I also use it as resource to promote my business; that I may share information.  In short, I am an information merchant.  I hope my intentions are on the reasonable side, and believe they are.

Through my social media platforms; my Facebook page, youtube channel, and this blog, I attempt to share information, and generate a peripheral income with my online training business.  I make my primary living though, teaching exercise in a one-on-one environment.  Be it in my studio, or via Skype, a student can look me in the eye, judge me, and even question my intent for his or her self.  He or she can walk away if they prefer to purchase the information elsewhere, or not at all. 

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail...

A trade route for modernity; the overland data trail…

 

As it relates to my information, I have never sold my ideas, values, or techniques as absolute.  Rather, I have sold them as useful suggestions which may carry some level of utility based on how they are accepted, and applied.  I believe I have something to say, and I appreciate that I have had a clientele through the years willing to purchase my information.

Guruism; it’s the new hobby…

The relentless guruism touted by the self-appointed leaders in the fitness social media, and the concussions of the conflicts they create, have begun to wear me down.  Many of the so-called leaders in the online fitness community simply dress themselves up in low body fat, tanning solution, and a catchy logo only to regurgitate bad or stale information in exchange for cash.  At the end of the day many of these people are selling untested or second hand information, and don’t have a clue to stand on. 

Several years ago a reader of this blog, a 30-something fitness enthusiast, part-time professional writer, and mother suggested to me that she wanted to switch careers, and become a fitness trainer.  Through many emails, phone conversations, and even a personal visit on my part, I not only helped point her in the right direction and encouraged her, I was her biggest cheerleader. 

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In less than a year’s time, she began a training business, and grew her fitness blog to be one of the most popular online.  She has thousands of followers, and now makes a very good living at it.  All it took was a weekend fitness certification, a few steamy pictures of her torso on her website, and the platform of social media.  She is now free to give absolute and exclusive advice to anyone willing to pay for it.  There are thousands more out there too, just like her; supremely knowledgeable, absolute in their beliefs, and connected to PayPal.

Here are a few things (from a list of thousands in my head) that would-be fitness gurus of the social media era might want to consider as they strive to promote themselves, and their business:

1)      Leadership involves listening, and not being exclusive.
2)      Admitting gaps in one’s knowledge base, and subsequently filling them is always a good thing.
3)      Even that best ideas don’t always need to be shared with everyone, because they don’t always apply to everyone.
4)      You don’t always have to be right.
5)      The primary objective of your business endeavor should not be to keep score, to sell books, to hook up subscribers, or to count fans or web hits at the end of the day.  The primary objective of your endeavor should be to share information applicable to the audience, do so in a concise way, and be available to the end user should they have any questions regarding your messages or your intentions.  If there’s money in that at the end of the month, then count your blessings!

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Snorting creatine, because that one guy on youtube told me I should…

 

This will not be the last fitness related essay I ever write – not by any means.  By way of my social media platforms, I will continue to share my ideas, values, and experiences in exercise and fitness, never making claims that my ideas, techniques, or experiences are exclusive, though I will suggest they are often unique.  I will though, become much more discriminating in the social media outlets I support, and champion.  I will encourage you to do the same – this platform included. 

It’s funny, after reading this a time or two, I can’t help but feel this message could well be superimposed over similar conflicts in the areas of politics, and religion.  But you already read between those lines, yes….?  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Deer Tick.  Enjoy…

 

Downshift…

Preying for change…

I’ll begin this by stating in clear terms; I have no problem with the killing of, or the eating of animals.  So long as those animals have been raised humanely by organic methods, or have been caught in the wild by methods which will not significantly reduce populations or threaten the species, I’m good with it.  Man has been eating other animals almost from the beginning, as animals have also been eating other animals, including man.  All who are born, are born as a potential snack.

What I can no longer do, what I am no longer willing to accept, is to eat animals raised inhumanely, sustained callously, and slaughtered brutally.  Between the callousness of their surroundings, the hormones and antibiotics they are reared with, and within the filth they are raised in, high volume animal farming is something I can no longer support.

Shake up in the cabinet…

As I have cleared the last of my farmed meat from my freezer; beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp, and as I have used my last egg given by a caged chicken,  I now begin a process that will have me obtaining most of my protein from plant-based sources – even if those sources contain GMOs.  I would rather eat genetically modified soy curd, than an inhumanely raised chicken, or farmed or threatened fish. Or to put it more succinctly, I would rather have more GMOs in my diet, than OMGs.

As I can access and afford it, I will also include protein derived from un-caged chickens, unchained dairy cows, grass-fed and humanely slaughtered beef, bison, and whatever game and fish I catch, or my friends are willing to provide to me.

This is not a stand against eating Bambi.  If Bambi is in the right place at his wrong time, and ends up on my dinner table, I ‘m down.  This is a stand for how I believe we should conduct ourselves as a species, and as the stewards of this planet.  I am no longer willing to accept the way many corporations raise, slaughter, distribute, and market animal food sources.

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Guess who is coming to dinner…?

Sensationally speaking…

I understand the video below is social media sensationalism at its best.  I also understand that it’s real – nothing seen in it has been contrived.  These, and similar methods of animal processing are all around us, and have been for decades.  It is only social media that has many of us seeing red for the first time, over seeing red for the first time.  Seeing this video was simply the final push I needed to take this personal stand I have been on the verge of for more than a decade, but have selfishly resisted.

Judge Not, Roy Bean…

In this decision I am not passing judgment on anyone else, nor am I advocating similar actions by others.  The complexity of our food system – of our society has expanded to a point where answers and truths can no longer be established by outside sources.  In this era of increasing complexity, I truly believe that the best answers and the best truths we can depend on must come from within.

Sadly, people are certain to judge me on this decision.  There will be jokes cracked, social media friendships threatened, more than a few snickers.  That’s on them, not on me.  Though I don’t believe I will waiver on this, as I have not wavered on not owning a vehicle, I certainly won’t attempt to predict the future – I consistently suck at it.

 Restaurant not impossible…

Though I expect making these changes might offer some challenges in the beginning, I’m not too concerned about the adaptation process.  My weak link though, will be in restaurants. I eat out often, sometimes several times a day.  Most everything I eat in restaurants I have deemed acceptable until now.  That definition has changed.

Most of what I order in restaurants has been chicken or egg based.  My friends may roll their eyes as I add tofu or textured vegetable protein to a garden salad at the local diner.  Perhaps not as much if I just thrown a little ground bison that salad, and call it good.  We shall see.  Regardless, eating out will need to be modified.

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu...?

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu…?

The hustle to keep up the muscle…

Lastly, as a lifelong weightlifter, bodybuilder, and weekend athlete, I have raised myself to be the ultimate carnivore.  I have eaten red meat most every day of my adult life, often by the pound, with a belief that animal protein, beef in particular, is a requirement for strength, energy, and forging a tasty aesthetic.  This is going to be tested to be sure, since my bodybuilding aspirations remain intact.

If my strength, energy, and aesthetic suffer for a lack of feedlot beef, farmed fish, and caged eggs, my soul certainly will not suffer.  In these days, and in these times, my interest lies much more with soul-building than with bodybuilding.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Alabama Shakes. Enjoy…

Day After Day, I Keep Waking Up….

I will be on vacation in Colorado and the wilds of Northern Nebraska until the end of the month, so this is my last column until mid-August. 

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“Humans are just a stage in the emergence of amazing complexity in the universe.” Martin Rees

Destiny, And The Big Picture

I’ve become obsessed with contemplating the increasing complexity and interdependency, in Darwinian terms, of societies and biology, and of how well intermingled they are – yet not necessarily parallel.   That’s a big-picture obsession.  To a lesser degree, I obsess on my own increasing complexity – because it’s a story which could have ended long ago.

And as I see myself grow more complex and increasingly interdependent with others, I still don’t know what I am destined to be within the expanse of my life, but I can say with great clarity at this moment, I am destined to be, and that’s a very little-picture statement.

A Letter To A Friend

I don’t wear a helmet when I ride my bike.  I love the wind through my hair when I ride at high speeds – it’s the rush of pure physical freedom.  Last month a concerned friend saw me riding in Fallbrook without a helmet and sent me an email to call me out on it.   She explained that her husband fell off his bike recently and his helmet probably saved his life.  I told my friend, based on that story, that I would begin wearing a helmet immediately – though I truly did not want to.  A couple of days later I bought a helmet, but never put it on.  Who was she, to tell me how to live my life…?

Below is a letter I sent to my friend this morning:

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Hi Danielle –

A while back I pledged to you I would begin wearing a bike helmet ASAP, and that I would prove it to you by sending you a picture of the helmet. And then, my life went very dark for a while.  “Fuck-it” was my attitude.  Things weren’t going well for me at all, and seemed to get worse every day.  One thing I could depend on each day though, was the wind through my hair as I rode to and from work – as exhilarating to me as any sensation I have known, and yes, I said ANY.  And deep down Danielle, there is a part of me that would be perfectly ok with being taken out by a truck.

Two nights ago I was riding down Green Canyon Road after work, and riding as fast I have ever been on that road.  On a straight section of the road, a truck passed me then suddenly crossed in front of me, and went off the road and into a tree.  It took less than 3 seconds for me to pass those tire tracks –3 seconds.

Before I left my studio that night, I bobbled my key in my hand for about 3 seconds. Now I know that if I had not bobbled that key, and had left 3 seconds earlier and been between that truck and that tree, I would have been killed, helmet or not.  But if the truck had hit my tire, front or back, and knocked me off my bike, who knows – vegetable soup..?

I’m sorry I did not keep my promise to you, but if you ever see me ride without a helmet again, call me out on it, please.

roy

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I have some bad hair days ahead of me...

Destiny, And The Little Picture

The driver of that truck was ok, called a tow truck, and did not want me to stick around.  I was trembling so much I could barely keep my feet on the pedals of my bike as I rode the final miles to my house.  All that evening I kept thinking about bobbling that key.  What, I thought, would have happened if I had left my studio 2, or 3, or 4 seconds earlier…? I would have been right were that truck was. 

One could play a futile head game of destiny that, if I had been in that spot 3 seconds ahead, perhaps the driver would have seen me there, steered away from me, and I would have actually saved him from swerving and hitting the tree.  But a more likely scenario exists where I could have been tenderized, pureed, or both.  There’s just no tellin’…

I don’t know what destiny is anymore.  I have survived a parachute malfunction, a lightning strike, the foolish act of jumping into a class IV rapid after a beer-based breakfast, driving a truck with an unknown rattlesnake under the driver’s seat, being thrown into a jetty by a wave that refused to close out, and a few other self-induced brushes…  Still, I carry on.

Biology expands.  Societies expand.  Time and the universe expand.  And at the end of the day, for some reason, the story of me continues to expand.  It’s not just me who’s lucky to be alive though, it’s you too.   I’m curious, please use the comments section and share your “lucky to still be here” stories.  They may be used in a future essay or series of essays.  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this, from Dog Trumpet, the modern day decedants of Mental As Anything.  Enjoy…