For Granted

Not only did my trip to Sri Lanka this summer serve as a much needed vacation, but also as a much needed reminder of the dangers lurking in not staying present and mindful throughout life. Now this may start to sound like the beginnings of an amazing yoga practice, but yogis and yoginis are not wrong to remind their students to stay present because as I have come to realize, staying present is not easy. We often blunder through life blinded by routine, to do lists, and social obligations. I feel that because of the daily hubbub of life, it is only natural that we take everything good around us for granted. So instead of rambling on, I have compiled a list of things that I took for granted while traveling:

  1. Drinking straight from the tap: Even though more and more people in Canada swear by bottled or filtered water, at least we can drink straight from the tap here (maybe not in BC right now)
  2. Having freshly ground coffee beans and a french press at my finger tips
  3. Getting in my car and running errands on my own because I can
  4. Not constantly sweating: It just makes daily interactions so much harder; however, it was such a great way to detox!
  5. Hearing a constant barrage of honking on the roads
  6. Locking up EVERYTHING – you seriously live in an impenetrable forte

As I re-read my list forged in complete honesty, I cannot help but laugh! I am sure that if family and friends in Sri Lanka read this, I will be perceived as the tourist from now on! In that being said, there was so much I enjoyed while uprooted in Sri Lanka! So, in the spirit of list making…

  1. Meeting so many interesting people, this time making it a personal goal to actually keep in touch.
  2. Stuffing my face with delicious, local foods (in my standards anyway)
  3. Traveling around Colombo in a tuk-tuk
  4. Viewing the beautiful design aesthetic of the architecture, with hints of colonial British times, but earthy in nature
  5. Shopping! But more importantly, not paying a ridiculous amount of money for clothes made from real material
Tuk Tuk

I present one of the cheapest modes of transportation in Sri Lanka, the tuk-tuk. You just have to be careful, they might take you round and round!

The Independence Arcade Square, a beautiful hangout spot with shops and restaurants! I say beautiful because of the water features, glass topped koi pond, and manicured gardens!

The Independence Arcade Square, a beautiful hangout spot with shops and restaurants! I say beautiful because of the water features, glass topped koi pond, and manicured gardens!

Just like with everything in life, there will always be the good and the bad, the things you will enjoy and the things you wish would change. So I will end with this: Is it too bold to say that without travel, we become complacent and distant, lost in our daily routine of sleeping, eating, working, paying bills, etc? Are we always due for an annual uprooting from normalcy to rediscover that which we take for granted?

 

The Scientific Age vs Food Culture

Words cannot express how good it feels to finally type away at my laptop, stringing words together to make sentences, which in turn fill a post up with an idea. It has been pretty hectic in Farrah-land, but I have gotten better at maximizing all the small tid-bits of time amidst the bustle.

So, what have I been squeezing into these time gaps you ask? A book that I have been itching to read for quite awhile now: “Outside the Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products” by Jeannie Marshall. This was definitely one of those eye-openers at the North American Food Culture compared to the cultures that exist all around the world. Now, I could write about everything I had originally planned on writing about, but it would be at the risk of writing a lengthy post about Marshall’s entire book – yes, that is how informative of a read it really was. Decisions, decisions! To be quite honest, it was a tough decision to choose one set topic as they all flowed quite nicely into each other like rivers into the ocean, but I settled on the concept of science and food culture.

©Farrah Merza: Outside The Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products by Jeannie Marshall

©Farrah Merza: Outside The Box: Why Our Children Need Real Food, Not Food Products by Jeannie Marshall

Marshall (2012) talks about how North American culture is nutrient-specific, which means that instead of focusing on the meal, we focus on our nutrient intake (p. 63).  I was blown away! I mean, I have never thought about my motivation behind eating… who does! But it is so true. I catch myself saying “oh, I need to include some protein in my dinner”, when I really should know better and enjoy food. Thank both the German chemist Justus Von Liebig and his research into the “essential elements in food that sustained us”, and American chemist Stephen Babcock for continuing that line of research in collaboration with dairy famers (Marshall, 2012, p. 61). Liebig discovered the “percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that he thought were needed in a healthy diet” (Marshall, 2012, p. 61). However, it was Babcock who found the vitamin link when he devised his experiment of controlling what certain groups of cows ate: one group was limited to corn, one to wheat, one to oats, and the last group to a mixture of all three grains (Marshall, 2012, p. 62). All four groups were not allowed to graze on the farmer-recommended plants they usually graze on (Marshall, 2012, p. 62). The cows fared okay, but when it came time for breeding, the real results were more than evident in their calves: The calves born from corn-fed group were -for the most part- fine, but the calves begot from the other three groups were a different story; they were weak and sick, and the wheat-fed group’s offspring were blind (Marshall, 2012, p. 62). Interesting eh! However, it is important to note that the famers knew that the cow’s varied plant-based, grazing diet was the best without any research; they knew from their agrarian culture, which was passed down from their forefathers. It was a shame that culture was never really credited for their vast knowledge of locally produced food. Unfortunately, research and nutrients was the game, which later skyrocketed when certain diseases (i.e. rickets, linked with vitamin D deficiency; and scurvy, linked to a vitamin C deficiency) were attributed to a deficiency in certain nutrients.

Now please do not get me wrong, I am not against science by any means! However, the research conducted on food has turned on us, the public. Food companies use this research to convince us to buy packaged junk by fortifying them with nutrients or getting rid of the high sodium/sugar levels that are usually present (Marshal, 2012, p. 67). That’s all I ever see stacked on the grocery store shelves. It’s a sad sight, and we need to smarten up. And yet, and the same time, how can we? There’s no time to cook, no consistent, warm climate to grow gardens, no emphasis on locally grown produce with all the exports we’re all exposed to, and no one set food culture because of our diverse demographics. Furthermore, ever since I can remember, I have been drilled with the North American food chart outlining the allotted daily grain, protein, dairy, and fruit and vegetable servings; however, never about local produce, their cycles, and how to use our Canadian soil (aka, never about a healthy, Canadian food culture). But, times are changing as now because thanks to Toronto’s non-profit group called FoodShare, there are schools who pride themselves on their green gardens, which are maintained by students (Marshall, 2012, p. 133). Marshall (2012) talks about Bendale, a technical high school located in Scarborough, which, with the help of FoodShare, created their own food gardens (p. 133). [NOTE: If you clicked the Bendale link, you will be able to see that their specialized skills will include horticulture and landscaping (p. 3). They also have a "Blooms and Bargains" market place open to the community (p. 5)] I was overjoyed reading this segment; my eyes were dewy for the first time with hope for a healthy food culture in Canada. It is a safe bet to say that this is where the shift has to start, from our youth. I actually wrote about educating our youth for the post carbon era last year in Part 2: Educating the Masses (click and read if you have not read it!), which ties quite nicely into this post as I touched on greenhouses and gardens in schools.

So yes, the scientific age versus food culture… but why should it be versus? Why can’t we, the consumers, strip this incessant, profit-based food culture we are saturated in so we can focus on rebuilding a healthy, food culture with the knowledge researchers have amassed? It is about respecting food culture (more importantly the local food culture), but tending to our scientific endeavours as well without our knowledge being abused.

“The Dog Ate my Homework”

It has been too long, but trust me when I say that I have been absolutely craving the eventuality of blogging. Alright, back on topic. I’m currently reading through a drab textbook about communication and the following phrase just sparked my curiosity: “Excuses place your messages – even your failures – in a more favourable light” (p. 183). See, this is a bit problematic for me. I mean sure, having a reason behind a blunder does instill some empathy towards your plight, but it is not just as cut and dry as this text claims with this phrase.

The nature of our society is one of a constant go-go-go, work-more-and-play-less type, which leaves little wiggle room for excuses to work as effectively, even if it may be genuine. In such downtrodden times, there’s no room for error and frequent excuses because there’s always another solution… always. It’s terrible, it’s horrible, and unfortunately it’s life.

So what now? Should we be content with our current culture? I am not going to lie, I do love being busy with so much on my plate. However, what happens when all empathy and sympathy is stripped and only product is valued?

**********************

Reference:
Clark, D., Devito, A., J., & Shimoni, R.. (2012). Messages: Building Interpersonal Communication Skills 4ed. Pearson Canada Inc. Toronto, Ontario.

Autism and the Power Play

Weird title, right.

Well, I actually can’t sleep because these thoughts are whirling around in my head. What thoughts you ask? You can kind of get a whiff of the overall theme from the title itself.

Currently, I’ve been absolutely fascinated with autism and play-based curricula. Yes, a by-product of being forced by my English class to write a research paper pertaining to the diploma being pursued.

Now, the research into autism is currently honed into the genetic link, as previous studies on twins have proven that link (McCarthy, 2004, p. 1325). I have yet to research the specifics and current outcomes of this branch of research; however, the scientific articles I’ve read does briefly mention potential environmental factors that could pose as risks (McCarthy, 2004, p. 1325). But, my question is why these environmental factors are not as important as the genetic link? To answer that question, I have formulated two theories that could quench my thirst. You ready? Here we go.

Number 1. To pin point environmental factors will probably rely on the knowledge of the specific “susceptibility gene” that researchers are trying to determine (McCarthy, 2004, p. 1325). A pretty reasonable hypothesis, right? Alright, let’s continue.

Number 2. To focus on environmental factors would touch on preventative measures; aka, things to avoid during pregnancy. Now, is it just me or would it be justifiable to state that preventative measures would affect profits for pharmaceutical companies? You have to admit that “cure-based” research would put some sort of marketable product manufactured by these influential companies. But, who’s to say I’m right in this opinion.

So I leave this to you, my dear readers, to ponder. What do you think? Is it numero 1, or 2? Is it both, and if so is do they weigh as equals?

*************

Reference

McCarthy, A. A. (October 2004). Innovations: The Genetics of Autism. Chemistry & Biology, 11, pp. 1325 – 1326. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemboil.2004.10.001

Those Smarty Plants!

Have you ever wondered about plants?

I know, weird question.

It actually all started with stumbling upon David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things” video segment entitled “Smarty Plants”. While watching this video, I began to give these seemingly docile creatures a little bit more thought. I mean, they are everywhere and yet we pay them very little attention. But, what if they are smarter than we humans had thought? What if they “talk, forage, wage war and protect their kin” (CBC Television, 2012)? If you watched the video, what did you think? Did they display a higher consciousness akin to us OR was it simply mechanisms set in place “in favour of selection”, as one commenter pointed out?

Well, hopefully following the lead scientist and ecologist, Cahill, helped solve that question for you. His quest to find these “smarty plants” definitely uncovered some plants that blew my mind, such as the dodder vine favouring its victims based on their biochemistry. Another aspect discussed that intrigued me was how plants let out “chemical screams” to repel certain species of animal and insect, or attract the higher-ups on the food chain to avenge that specific plant from the unwanted invaders. Suzuki even points out that the smell of freshly cut grass is actually the grass letting out their “chemical scream”… to whom? … Now that’s a good question isn’t it. To whom indeed.

So, this entire video got me thinking… is it too bold to conclude that the grass might be formulating the right “scream” to get rid of us?

What do you think?

*****

Source:

Smarty Plants: Uncovering the Secret World of Plant Behaviour. (September 27, 2012). CBC Television. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episode/smarty-plants-uncovering-the-secret-world-of-plant-behaviour.html

Critical Thinking

Don’t you think we’ve lost the capacity for critical thinking? For losing our discretion when it comes to making decisions… blindly following the strict rules and regulations?

Take for example, the simple yet controversial use of travel mugs. Controversial? Yes, controversial. Allow me to explain. Travel mugs are meant to lower your ecological footprint, making the use of paper cups obsolete… well that is the theory isn’t it. Well, I’ll have you know that I cannot finish the entire contents of my mug IF filled to the brim. So, I always ask for them, the wonderful people behind the counter, to only pour the equivalent of a small in my mug. However, I find myself figuratively scratching my head when they proceed to fill a paper cup first before pouring it into my mug. Heaven forbid they give me a drop too much or a drop too little. Kinda defeats the purpose of using one now doesn’t it. I’m happy to say that this doesn’t happen all the time as now I’m accustom to telling them to fill it half way instead.

Right, back to being a little bit more serious about critical thinking. It is really easy to take everything that bombards us on a daily basis at face value, not digging deeper into the context. Now I’m not going to lie, it’s an arduous task to sift through all the media broadcasts, but is it worth it when the credibility (or lack there of) behind the messages is uncovered? It’s just like thinking about the purpose of that travel mug before filling it with whatever beverage that the customer wants. It’s about using your judgment in estimating that small-sized amount and then asking the customer if that’s enough. It’s about using your intelligence, taking a step back, and processing our intricate world.

Now I could be wrong, so what do you think? Is critical thinking on the decline?

Ripples

Fact: Starting October 2012, Sheridan college is starting to charge 3 dollars to park after 3:00 pm for those part-time students who do not have permits (Parking Policies). It has been free for all this while… so why change it now?

Well, to answer that question, let me ask you this one: Are higher education establishments becoming money-grabbing institutions? I mean, you have to admit that the cost of pursuing higher education (either via College or University) is ridiculously expensive, like for instance investing in textbooks that will become obsolete in under a year.

Now what does this have to do with “ripples” you ask? Well remember that it only takes a drop of water to cause ripples in a vast body of water… so maybe it will only take a cumulation of small changes like this to start off the vehicle of change. What do you think? Have we, the masses, become mindless drones so overwhelmed with the regular bustle of life that we fail to think critically? Critically enough to push for changes?

You tell me.

The Norm

I admit, this post is a premature one considering I have not finished reading this novel yet. However, in that being said, I am already struck with the idea that suspicion surrounds Nick because of his persona and actions during his wife’s (Amy’s) disappearance. Granted the police have to start somewhere and of course, it is those closer to the victim who are always suspected first. But, the concept just got me thinking of how people are perceived and how important those perceptions really are in certain situations.

“The news reports would show Nick Dunne, husband of the missing woman, standing metallically next to his father-in-law, arms crossed, eyes glazed, looking almost bored as Amy’s parents wept. Then worse. My long time response, the need to remind people I wasn’t I dick, I was a nice guy despite the affectless stare, the haughty douchebag face. So there it came, out of no where, as Rand begged for his daughter’s safe return: A killer smile” – pg 64

Not going to lie, that killer smile makes him seem pretty guilty right? So what does this all have to do with the title, “The Norm”? Well think about it, if we don’t act/react the way society dictates us to, we’re perceived as weird and depending on the situation, guilty. See, the thing with Nick is that he was taught to hide emotion, to hide it from his father and the world because quite frankly, emotion was a sign of weakness. So maybe his way of dealing with it is to not show his inner turmoil. So is it fair to deem people as scrupulous in nature if they do not meet our reaction standards? I mean you have to admit, categorizing people based on their reactions/actions is a well-oiled survival mechanism allowing us to instantly distance ourselves from a potentially shaky individual. But again I say, is it fair?

As I said before, I haven’t finished the book yet, so the question of whether Nick is guilty or not still hovers over me. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that no matter how guilty he appears to be, a Red Herring will be thrown in and give an unexpected twist. I’ll just have to find out for myself now won’t I.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

©Farrah Merza

The Corner

A place where if a snake was backed into, would instantly strike viciously at its attacker(s). It is a well coined expression based on this absolute truth of what actually happens. So this begs the question, do we humans always strike back without a second thought if faced with a similar predicament to that of the snake?

I believe it is instinctual, ingrained in our basic need to survive. But, can we ever overcome that instinct with out intellect and squash that behaviour if we feel it to be self destructive? Sounds like an intellect vs. instinct topic doesn’t it.

So I will leave with this: What will happen if one is backed into a corner? An even scarier notion, what if that person had nothing to lose?

Sunrise

“You should have seen that sunrise, with your own eyes. It brought me back, to life” – John Mayer in 3×5

The oranges and yellows dance in the sky, colouring the sky a frosty blue – a different kind of blue, a calmer, mature blue. The sun itself is crisp, new to the sky as if it never graced our hemisphere at all, tickling the belly of the clouds with a hue of red. The air cooled from the rein of night, untainted by the afternoon heat and smog. Yes, viewing the sun rise is such a soothing experience.

So what is so magical about the sun rising from the horizon? Would we all benefit if we started our day off early, early enough to witness the sun slowly making its way through the sky? To bathe in the cool, morning rays as opposed to the harsh afternoon ones?

In our culture, we foster the term to “sleep in” as a term to describe the rest of our bodies from a late night. But to me, to miss the sunrise would be to miss nature’s most exquisite painting.

***

[New goal: Wake up early and take siestas]