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:
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)
Having freshly ground coffee beans and a french press at my finger tips
Getting in my car and running errands on my own because I can
Not constantly sweating: It just makes daily interactions so much harder; however, it was such a great way to detox!
Hearing a constant barrage of honking on the roads
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…
Meeting so many interesting people, this time making it a personal goal to actually keep in touch.
Stuffing my face with delicious, local foods (in my standards anyway)
Traveling around Colombo in a tuk-tuk
Viewing the beautiful design aesthetic of the architecture, with hints of colonial British times, but earthy in nature
Shopping! But more importantly, not paying a ridiculous amount of money for clothes made from real material
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?
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.
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.
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?
McCarthy, A. A. (October 2004). Innovations: The Genetics of Autism. Chemistry & Biology, 11, pp. 1325 – 1326. DOI: 10.1016/j.chemboil.2004.10.001
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?
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?
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?
We all have one don’t we, that metaphorical hole which we fill with something or another to make us feel whole. Its substance unique to the individual as, of course, everyone has different priorities. The putty, if you will, could be anything from socializing and shmoozing, shopping, family, religion, health and fitness, etc.
So where exactly am I going with this seeing that the above paragraph is ridiculously obvious? Well, what happens when it’s barren? When life is void of meaning? It’s dismal to think about the idea if yours is filled to the brim with nothing but positive things, but for some people this is their reality. So is this when people turn to scrupulous activities and become self-destructive? I mean, it’s undeniable that many negative outcomes to such a bleak outlook on life exist. For instance, a prime example would be the unfortunate and deadly, last-ditch-attempt-to-make-the-world-a-better-place suicide. So this begs the question, shouldn’t there be more effective safety nets installed in any given society that helps these said people? There are so many factors which can deprive someone of a full void like, for example, losing their job. So does that mean that we, as a collective, are responsible for these people? That the government should be more active in helping those who risk severe depression? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that our society has installed a plethora of groups specific to treating those that fall into self destructive habits. But, are they as effective as we think?
With all these questions swirling about, it would have been nice if I were qualified to research further into this… maybe a major in sociology wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.