Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lighting the fire within

Certain words are tossed around in casual conversation without ever being clearly defined and, in the process, take on a distorted meaning or are ignored altogether. For me, one is holistic. To my mind, this word has been co-opted by New Age metaphysical sorts and healing arts practitioners. But, in reality, there couldn't be a better word to describe many of the noble causes to which we all subscribe--going green, healthy living, even liberal arts education.

Let me start with a definition. Holism: the theory that living matter or reality is made up of organic or unified wholes that are greater than the simple sum of their parts. Basically our American patchwork approach to problem solving, be it national health, poverty, education, the environment or foreign policy, is destined to fail because we don't address root causes and global realities, nor do we provide holistic solutions.

Most Americans exist completely apart from the natural order. We live in artificial dwellings, are transported by artificial means and "nourished" by artificial foods. We wear high heels, mask all body odors, prepare meals in toxic cookware, wrap our bodies in synthetic materials. We pop pills to feel better and lose ourselves in electronic black holes to assuage boredom. Many of us live lives of isolation, like lone wolves, instead of in community with our fellow human beings.

Some of the more visionary among us provide suggestions for improvement. No more plastic bags! Wear hemp clothing! Eat organic! Bike to work! Use crystals to deodorize! Give free hugs! Such solutions are mere band-aids on a gaping wound. They are unable to stem the flow of blood, but they somehow make us feel better.

My children are learning about the benefits of recycling. Period. I think the conversation should be expanded. Instead of taking our cans to the curb, why not vow never again to drink anything that comes in a can? Or, even better, any beverage besides water. Let's teach our kids that canned and bottled beverages are inherently unhealthy for the body, as well as detrimental to the environment. With a more holistic approach, the need to recycle would become less urgent, and the children would be better educated and healthier.

A holistic solution to energy conservation and national obesity can be found in the home thermostat. Many of us have turned down the heat to conserve energy. Good for the planet, no question. From a more holistic perspective, is it natural for man to live in a tightly climate-controlled environment? It isn’t. But our bodies have adapted to this artificial reality over time and we feel impelled to preserve it. So while we may turn down the thermostat, we bundle ourselves up to maintain the status quo.

I like to keep my house cool, about 60 degrees. I wear t-shirts and drink ice water and my little kids, with barely an ounce of body fat amongst them, play in their underwear, completely inured to the cold.

Remember that human beings are not dependent on the environment to determine body temperature. It is set biologically and will be maintained naturally in nearly all situations. If the outside temperature is hot, we perspire and our metabolism slows down so our bodies don't overheat. This makes us feel sluggish; hence, the lazy summer day and dog days of summer weather characterizations. If the outer temperature is cooler, the body maintains heat by increasing the rate of metabolism to convert fat to energy. We build a fire within. Not only do we get warmer, we get thinner and more energetic to boot! Over time our metabolic rates are reset at a higher level, and we no longer feel the cold. We are warmed by our own energy source, not by a polyester sweatshirt.

Think about what it means to live naturally, like cavemen. Get familiar with the workings of the body. Ponder what the planet was before man imposed his artificial intelligence upon it. Then attempt to conform to that which is natural wherever you can. What is good for the body will be good for the mind and the spirit, and likely the environment as well.



lisa marie said...

Nice to see someone else who keeps their house cool. Ours is 57 at night and 59 or 60 during the day. :)

I made a commitment to comment (blog 365 group) and I’m popping by to say hi! *waving*

Klayton Elliot Kendall said...

And read lots of Robert E. Howard!

b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
b said...

Your take on Holistic is absolutely brilliant. I had not thought about simply not using things that even need to be recycled at the curb. Water out of the tap...wow!

Thank you for the comment on my blog. You must make your Mom so proud.

igm said...

Bottled and canned beverages are not inherently unhealthy. I think indoctrinating children with alarmist misinformation is unhealthy.

I agree that the solutions can be simple. I don't drink bottled water unless I'm in the developing world. You can reduce your waste by changing your consumption. Buy quality and buy less often. Trade. Buy used. Sell on consignment. Mend things, don't just chuck them out. I've walked to work for four years now since I moved and eliminated a 25 km daily commute.

My eight-year-old is scared of global warming. Nightmare scared. I've gone too far in trying to make him aware--now he's preoccupied. My eleven-year-old gets it, and the twins are still too young. I'll have to be more careful in my indoctrination, leading more by example than by doomsaying.

chanpheng said...

People just seem to want the latest shiny thing and don't think of the consequences. I've seen a transition in the time I've been in Asia - from people wrapping what they can in banana leaves to a period when small paper bags were made from used children's notebooks to plastic.

There is starting to be more recycling in Asia - it's becoming a livelihood in some urban areas. It's nice to see.

Marie Walden said...

igm...I will agree with you that bottled water is not inherently unhealthy, although often no better or safer than tap water.

But I defy you to name one canned beverage that is superior to a natural alternative...

suesun said...

Guinness?!? :-)

reliv4life said...

this was enlightening and interesting. You have my mind churning anyway...I will turn down my thermostat, even though it is snowing and REALLY cold!