Friday, October 31, 2014

Climbing Mental Mountains

When is the last time you were challenged by something? I don’t mean a challenge the way that climbing a mountain or completing is a crossword is a challenge, but having your beliefs challenged. This month my beliefs and values, as well as the habits I’ve made of expressing those, were completely challenged. I learned a lot that I tried to express in blog several times, but it never came out right.

I gained a lot of perspective this month, as a result of these challenges. So often in my life I have been the one promoting eco-consciousness, environmental literacy and sustainable practices, that I had forgotten what it feels like to be confronted with those big, heavy ideas, when in a place of self-sustainability. I have become more conscious lately of how slow, though powerful education and knowledge are. I remember when I was growing up and we ran out of milk. As a cereal addict, I would obviously throw a tantrum if there wasn’t any milk to accompany my favored breakfast, usually resulting in someone taking me to the store. Often before my parents would concede the calmness of their morning and get the keys to drive me to the gas station, my mom would try to bargain with me. “But we have almond milk, and soy milk,” she would entice, showing me the cartons of shelf-stable milk, kept in the same cabinet as the cat food. “Yuck!” I would exclaim, trying not to imagine bean or nut juice being poured over my beloved Crackling Oat Bran. Although it took about a decade, the complete opposite is now true. After pouring some homemade granola at a friends house, I perused the fridge, looking right past the two cartons of cow-milk before deducing that there was "nothing" to pour on my granola. The thought of drinking milk from an animal is as stomach-turning to me now as bean juice was a decade ago, but it has taken almost half my life for that transformation to take place.
Nutrition is simply not something that is taught in schools, not successfully, anyway (in my opinion). After talking to several teachers about changes being made and programs offered to students, it seems that being taught how to eat is just not a priority. I was 20 before I started scrutinizing the food I put into my body. When I slip back to eating a Kit Kat or craving a donut, I have to remind myself that it took 20 years for me to learn and connect with these non-nutritious things and become familiar with them, and it's going to take me a long time to wean off of them and appreciate real wholesome foods that I didn't grow up acquainted with, like Kale.
Food is essentially trigger for my challenges this month. As a close friend started on Arnold Ehret's "the mucusless diet," which consisted of two meals a day of stewed veggies or stewed fruits, lots of fasting and frequent enemas to detox, I became increasingly torn with my own diet decisions. As he preached about the decadence of our American diets, informed by decades worth of research, I started feeling guilty for eating my Cliff Protein bar, a locally made burrito, or even a homemade salad. I felt like people probably do when I berate  them for driving a 4 door dodge ram 3500 as a commuter car. Its hard to give up vices for ethics. Especially when our vices are an engrained part of our everyday lives.
For weeks I struggled to defend my beliefs and actions. I realized that although their may be social, economical and health benefits to fasting more and eating less (but more nutrient-full), that adopting such a diet, and therefore a lifestyle would pull me out of social situations and circles where I could potentially benefit in other ways. I thought back to the days that I abhorred almond milk, when now I make my own, and considered how slow but permanent that change was. I started thinking about to the numerous changes that I have slowly made in the last 6 years. I haven't purchased a plastic water bottle since 2007. I have adopted a policy to not buy anything new unless absolutely necessary. I consolidate my travel plans and extrapolate my errands to reduce carbon emissions. I have made an abundance of changes to my everyday actions for causes other than my own interest, but they have taken time.
"It's too late to be a pessimist," Glenn Close's voice repeated at the end of the powerful documentary Home, but one thing that has been nagging at me is the juxtaposition between the permanence and speed of things like species extinction versus the permanence and slow speed of knowledge. I have dedicated my career to teaching people to think of our world as a system, and to analyze their involvement in the system, but so much of what I do, mostly because of limited time I have with students, is introduce them to the possibilities of the world around them. I can't in one week, or one day or one hour as is sometimes the case, present to them everything I have learned and understood to inform my decisions toward a more sustainable life. In the midst of our world being torn apart, I can simply encourage them to come on a hike and hope that the experiences we share will inspire a life of learning, that will maybe, over a decade, translate into some Earth-saving actions.
It's scary to think about that juxtaposition, but it IS too late to be a pessimist. All I can do is hope that if I reach enough people, act as a role model and myself continue to strive to make more sustainable changes, that this we can sustain life on this world, and live in harmony.
So that's my Halloween thought for the day. It may be scary but if you want a GOOD fright- you should watch a REAL horror flick like The Corporation or Home. Jason's got nothing on Monsanto.

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