After suicide, survivors exchange hushed words. Disbelief and curiosity and ineffable sadness mingle. How can I understand such blackness? I certainly have no wisdom to offer. All I can do is construct my own light from my own bricks of meaning.
More energy than mine! (David Whittaker’s photo on Pexels, cropped)
The switch from 2017 – a certain routine of working and living – to 2018 has wrenched more than I anticipated, so I can’t express full delight at progress. But much is on track and, best of all, I’m back at Bar Ristretto for this morning of Monday, January 15.
Distracted, I shout (silently!) at the blue sky
In Timothy Ferris’s Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks opines:
[Question: “When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?”] What did I key into the sat-nav system of my life [where do I want to be 10, 20 years from now]? What is my ultimate destination? You have to look at that every time you feel overwhelmed. Remembering that destination will help you make the single most important distinction in life, which is to distinguish between an opportunity to be seized and a temptation to be resisted.
What a fine image, the Garmin GPS of your life!
See how I balance on one leg. Not such a big deal for you, eh? Me, I include in my daily stretches the torture of teetering on my right leg, then my left leg, each for 30 seconds. Considering that I rarely miss a day of stretching, considering that a physio prescribed one-leg balancing a decade ago, I estimate I’ve tried 3,000 times. I’m extremely flat footed, which makes it tough, but surely it’s not that tough? Well, until today I’ve sometimes managed 50 seconds out of the 60 but never conquered both legs. Until today: I did it!
The secret was something my wife told me a few months back. You’re meant to use your core, advice from an osteo. I’ve always focused on my feet or my knees or my legs, and I wobble and collapse. Until today: I imagined having a core that could keep my legs steady, and lo and behold, my core snapped into action.
You can teach an old dog new tricks. I’m living proof.
For five days in a row, mostly in the second half of the afternoon, I’ve plonked myself in this chair or that, and done my 10 minutes of meditation using the superb Headspace app. I managed a greater number of days in a row a couple of times last year, but this time is different. I feel committed and that spirit of involvement finds me looking forward to my 360 seconds of stillness. If the next 360 Headspace experiences is as good as my first five, I’ve stumbled onto something most enjoyable.
Something I’ve puzzled over, so here’s a book to tackle: Marta Zaraska’s “Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat.” I was drawn in by this long paragraph in her introduction:
As we approach the modern era, this book turns to biochemistry. Is there something in meat’s chemical composition that keeps us hooked? Is it the 2-methyl-3-furanthiol or one of the other one thousand volatile compounds that together make up the specific, mouthwatering scent of cooked meat? Is it the umami taste (Japanese for “delicious”) that is found mostly in meat, mushrooms, and milk? Or is meat actually necessary for staying healthy? Despite the risks of cancer and heart disease, what if the human race would be even worse off without meat, a planet full of small, immune-deficient weaklings? Are some people, those with a gene mutation that makes them dislike the scent of androstenone (a mammalian pheromone), destined to be vegetarians, while others, those who are particularly sensitive to bitter compounds in fruits and vegetables, more likely to love meat? Is it the skillful marketing and lobbying of the powerful meat industry, with its $186 billion worth of annual sales in the US alone, that keep us hooked on animal protein against our best interests? Or maybe, just maybe, do we eat meat simply out of habit, because it got so engrained in our culture and history that we just cannot let go of it? After all, what would Thanksgiving look like without a turkey or a summer grill without a burger? Do we eat meat because over the centuries it has come to symbolize masculinity, power over the poor, power over nature, and power over other nations? Is our love of meat a kind of addiction—psychological, chemical, or maybe a little of both? And if it is, will we ever be able to break it? Is telling people to “cut down on meat” no different from telling a chain-smoker to go cold turkey?