The way we move, think and eat is not detached, in a Cartesian sense, from who we are and how we experience our place in this world. We cannot be disconnected from our natural environment for it is that which literally keeps us alive. This interaction is a primordially intrinsic necessity that shapes our thoughts, movements and proprioceptive context in nature. To lose this interactive sense or become disconnected with our body is immediately endangering this crucial mind-body-nature equilibrium. The most important disruptive factor in society today I believe is our sense (or lack of) awareness.
This post is intended to dwell upon the need for a paradigm shift in modern thought practicalities through ideas about reinstalling a sense of awareness of our connection with nature through diet and physical movement, and the way our evolutionary path has almost perfectly laid before us a schema for health, happiness and longevity. This needn’t be a lofty concept beyond the realms of the common citizen, for it is based on integral components of our past that have sadly been usurped by corrupting interests and the subsequent watering down of common awareness.
Accepting the status quo
We need to (re) learn and (re) live our connection with our natural environment and we need to do this through a deeper awareness of the factors that both enable and contradict this linkage. Let me begin with some of the most encompassing contradictions in modern Western societies today. For many people, a cursory reflection upon their ideas of independent or collective choice in life will reveal tendencies to ´accept the status quo´ with regards to many seemingly self-directed scenarios. I´m thinking here of our choice of career, choice or meals, choice or activities, partners, dwellings and so on.
We are natural social animals and this is revealed through our desires to seek the company of fellow citizens, dwell, interact and procreate together with members of similar ethnic groups and secure identities that are framed within certain social and cultural norms and values. This, in order to feel secure about ourselves as individuals and as members of a certain society. From an evolutionary perspective, this is nothing new, but dangers are inherent in this pattern as well.
Practices of ´flock mentality´ have always made me cringe slightly, even if I have readily partaken in many, as it has always revealed a sense of vulnerability in the way people accept what others do or say as being either correct, or most sensible. Certain norms, practices and ´knowledges´ are usually appropriated by members of society for political, economic or other subversive gain. A quick glance at any number of corrupt or dictatorial regimes around the world reveals clearly how individual and collective choice and freedom is subjugated in coercive ways. What about the way we are told in so-called democratic Western societies to eat?. This is indeed a great example.
20th Century dietary catastrophe
The nutritional guidelines presented in the latter half of the 20th Century by state health authorities are perhaps the most crass and damaging examples of how people are made to bare the cost of the influx of modern western diseases through being told it is down to the false choices we make when eating, moving or thinking. Successive ´democratic´ regimes, or guardians of the health and welfare of millions of people, are now in an impossible position of having to cover up for generations of false claims about disease and illness and its relation to activity and nutrition. Let me explain some more.
We are told that we are obese because we are inactive. Or that we eat too much. Or that we have bad genes. We are told to practice moderate activity every now and then, preferably in the ´fat burning aerobic zone´. Intense activity is bad for us we are told. Even dangerous. We are told to fuel our bodies with 4-6 servings of sugar (carbohydrate) each day. We must avoid animal fat, and instead go for processed low-fat variants. We should eat wheat they say, and copious amounts of fruit. This list goes on.
The human body is an incredible organism of adaptive capability, but is not metabolically adapted to the foodstuffs that it eats today based upon high carbohydrate/sugar intake, gluten and processed plant oils. We don´t get fat because we sit and don´t exercise, we get fat and develop diabetes and heart disease because the food we are told to eat, and don´t question, has deranged our metabolic pathways by confusing the appetite mechanisms that allow our bodies to regulate energy expenditure. This is not to mention the chaos caused by derailed insulin production and inflammation and stomach frailty exacerbated by excess linoleic acid.
Alternative ways of thinking
Ok, the point I am trying to illuminate here is that despite our options not to abide by social norms and the ´standard way of living´, the very guardians of our own welfare (politicians, teachers, doctors, scientists etc) have got so much wrong, and are indeed so far beyond the point where they can back track and admit that their advice has been responsibility for so much illness and death, that society needs to find its own health paradigm through new awareness of the factors behind what has gone wrong.
Back in the age of antiquities, it was the philosophers who held the hand of wisdom and to whom citizens turned to for advice and ´truths´ on general matters, including aggressors with insubordinate aims towards power, conquest and domination. Where does this leave us today, if the hand of wisdom coming from minority movements is labelled ´alternative´ simply because it questions the wisdom of those in control?.
We become trapped paradigmatically in a thought process that has alienated alternative ways of thinking that question the status quo and our place as members of a collective sociality. Maintaining this, and quickly moving towards quelling any sign of incoherence to socio-political thought has been, and still is, a principle tactic of oppressive regimes in maintaining order and control over its citizens. Scary thought.
Movement and awareness
So back to movement and awareness, and how this paradigm shift needs to be enacted. Society needs to be reminded of processes of evolution and our place today as a condition of context and adaption, both towards and away from our natural tendencies. We eat, we procreate, we sleep and we fight in different ways to achieve these things. The way we eat has included hunting, collecting, fighting, starving, sharing and learning what is and isn’t toxic for our survival. This is basic evolutionary theory, although we are now being offered a get out of jail free card. We can manage to be locked up in life like battery chickens, and still live a linear path to longevity we are told.
Science and artificial production has enabled us to survive on non-natural and harmful foodstuffs like wheat, sugars and plant oils and take drugs that prolong survival rates of diseases such eating causes (heart disease, diabetes, cancers etc). Modern society has led us away from nature, from hunting and subsisting as our basis of survival, to an abundance of artificial ´foodstuffs´, and we are told to accumulate capital wealth and surround ourselves with material ´stuff´ that has little or no causal effect on our survival or happiness. The great outdoors, or natural experiences, have become seen as éscapes´ from daily life, a place where we can gain energy to fulfil our needs in ´reality´. Who is in charge of this reality?. When exactly did we decide that physical activity and a connection with nature should become a pastime?.
This is not to say that we should, as a true stoic would advocate, ditch modernity and crawl out from under a rock to eat sea birds and berries. We are part of the great evolutionary path which we should embrace, its just that we have lost touch with the realization that we are not yet adapted genetically or proprioceptively to being out of our natural surrounds, which is nature untouched by processed forms of modernity. Yes, I contend that we are ill adapted to modern ways, despite our best intentions. We need to adhere more closely to our primal tendencies in the way we think, eat and move and stop trying to rush the evolutionary process.
By being reacquainted with natural movement (literally smelling the flowers and getting down on the ground and dirty, all in gracefully efficient ways) we re-establish an AWARENESS of the past that allows us to take full advantage of our place in modern history and the benefits it provides. Think about cause and effect in an independent manner, and if something makes no sense, then don’t accept it, challenge that process. We can be happy, healthy, relaxed and feel a sense of ´being alive´, all whilst working away at our various professions, learning new skills, appreciating food, company, relationships and imported Brazilian espresso beans.
Illness, idleness, stress, depression, conflict, political ignorance and so on, all can be avoided to a large extent through awareness and being able to take action to break cycles of decay and stagnation. There is a super fine line between complexity and simplicity in the way we live, eat, move and think. Too often, people that make things appear complex have hidden agendas. Learn to be aware of what contributing factors lie behind your choices, don’t hide behind the mask of ignorance and let society become swamped by normality. Sleep well, get outside into the sun, rain and fresh air, think differently, move smoothly, learn to balance, love one another, eat natural food and start to enjoy your place in the great evolutionary trail.