Hello and welcome to Friday, January 10, 2020! This is a rare and precious day that will never come again.
I remember hearing, “you are what you eat,” at a young age. Being a teenager and knowing everything, I really didn’t care. I ate what tasted good and made me feel good. That’s all that really mattered at the time. Being as privileged as I am, I still pretty much demand that my food to taste good and make me feel good. Though I must admit, I sometimes pay for good tasting food in ways you don’t want a detailed explanation on!
But there are some painful details I feel like I should share.
I sometimes wish I could unlearn what I was taught in my environmental studies and food and social justice coursework. It makes eating very difficult! I learned so much about the detrimental effects of our current industrialized global food market that when I go to the store, I find myself being very picky about what I purchase. When I buy things that taste good but were produced in such a way that undermines the health of our environment, I feel sick. Just like after I eat unhealthy food. My stomach turns, and well, you know the rest.
I eat mostly a vegetarian diet. I can’t stomach the incomprehensible way non-human animals are treated in confined feeding operations. Not just for the animal’s sake, but also for my own. I believe that the essence of what I consume is transferred to me – their experience becomes mine. If they suffered, I’ll suffer.
I’m also nauseated when I consider other detrimental aspects of our food production system: land and water degradation through chemical fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide use, eutrophication, desertification, genetic modification, nutrient depletion through overuse, the exploitation of people – farmers, slaves and underpaid and overworked migrant workers, rainforest destruction, extinction of plants, insects and animals, loss of biodiversity through monocrops, food waste, the remarkable contribution to climate change and the significant threats to pollinators. I could go on. The fact is, we are feeding on this destruction and it is becoming us. It’s as if we are locked in to this self-destructive industrialization of food which is killing the planet and is likewise killing us. But it’s not hopeless – I’ll come back to this.
What I didn’t realize until recently is that our food extends beyond what we ingest through our mouth. We also become what we consume through other means. We become what we read. We become the movies and television we watch. We become the music we listen to. We become our conversations. Our food is much more than “food!”
As a young father, I remember defending showing my children violent cartoons and action movies with the idea that I watched them, and I turned out OK. While there may be some truth to that, if we look around, it seems that in many ways our children are becoming increasingly more violent. So are video games and movies. Hmmm. I don’t watch many violent movies or sports anymore. When I do, for a period of time after, I see that most of the thoughts that arise in my mind are aggressive in nature.
When I read the news, which seems to be produced by negative sensationalists looking for ratings, I find myself becoming depressed, hopeless, agitated, critical, worried and less compassionate. Alternatively, when I read spiritual texts and literature on personal development, the thoughts that arise in my mind are loving, compassionate and inspirational.
When I listen to the music that I grew up with, rock and roll, my mind becomes hyper-excited. There’s a feeling of rebellion and righteousness. When I’m driving and listening to this music, I tend to speed. On the other hand, when I listen to kirtan chanting, soft music and silence, I experience more peace and ease. I tend to not speed when driving.
Facebook! Many of you know that this can be a problem for me. It consumes me (What is consuming you?)! If I spend too much time on Facebook, it’s not long before I read enough divisive memes that I become irritated, condemnatory and disgusted with people who think differently than me. Nevertheless, if I just focus on the positive and inspirational posts, I have more acceptance, understanding, love and compassion.
In many ways, our society seems fixated on all that is wrong in the world. This feeds our righteousness, discontent, fears, worries and concerns. It can be paralyzing. We want to be of service in the world, but when we think about the harmful industrialization of food, biased melodramatic media, violent entertainment and sports and the divisive nature of our political climate, many tend to become hopeless, bitter and complacent. What we lose sight of is all the good that is happening all around us! If there are one thousand cars on the road with you and three of them are driving erratically, are you going to pay attention to the nine hundred ninety-seven law-abiding drivers or the three? What will the news report on? What will we tell our friends? “Everyone needs to learn to drive,” Maybe?
The world is improving in so many ways. Here are some statistics:
• There are roughly four-hundred thousand philanthropic charities in the US alone.
• Farmers markets and co-ops are springing up everywhere.
• In the last 20 years, global poverty has almost been cut in half.
• Roughly 80% of the people in the world meow have access to electricity.
• In 15 years, global hunger decreased from 15% to 11%.
• There has been a 40% reduction in child labor since 2000! This is huge!
• Life expectancy is increasing.
• Under-five mortality has decreased by more than half since 1990!
Yes, we have a lot of work to do, but there is so much being done. We become what we eat and what we pay attention to grows. If we continue to feed on all that is harmful and that which creates suffering, it will surely increase. If we consume all that helpful and beneficial, it too will increase. Eat healthy!
One last meditation: what are you feeding others?
I love you and there isn’t anything you can do about it!
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