Tuesday, May 14, 2013

To hell with good intentions: I used to think that Ivan Illich was a douche, but I was wrong

Garbage is funny.  One man's garbage is another man's... garbage.  It's garbage.  Nobody likes garbage.  It's gross.  Likewise, one man's poison?  It's most likely poison to the other man, too.  Poison is like that.  There are certain things in our culture that have a universally denigrating and stifling effect.  Ideas should be the servants of people and not rule over them.  But I see a disheartening habit in just about everyone -including myself- to use ideas to gag our own inner promptings.  In the circles that I frequent, I see it mostly manifested in health obsession.  And I say "health" obsession because it isn't just diet and fitness.  I don't think that listening to one's body will make one healthier.  Health is for chumps.  Health is an invented concept intended to sell our corrupt consumerist culture via a fear of life; a fear of struggle; a fear of death.  After all, you can't be healthy without the miracles of modern science.  And what have we traded for freedom from the ills that previously plagued us?  Most of us will no longer die from tuberculosis in old age.  And our children do not die so often in their infancy.  Unless you happen to live in the US, of course, which has a staggeringly high infant mortality rate for a so called "developed country."  But we have traded a life where dying from infectious disease was considered a natural death.  We have traded a life that had meaning.  We have turned struggles into nuisances, where before they had rich spiritual meaning.  The Dance of Death has become a commercial caricature.  When we removed -or more precisely, redefined- suffering from our lives, we also removed everything that made us humans.  In biological terms, we didn't just change the biome, we sterilized it.  And it has been recolonized with pestilence.
So what bug crawled up my ass?  To be frank, I'm fed up with ideas.  I'm fed up with ignoring my own natural inclinations at the expense of someone else's ideas that I have forced onto myself out of fear of the consequences.  And I have it just as bad as everyone else.  In the past, I have taken supplements, taken up exercise regimens, taken up dietary prescriptions, all in the name of some nebulous health that never really brought me happiness.  It was all to fill a hole that was left gaping by our unhealthy, disordered society that values television over social interaction.  Pre-recorded music over musical jam sessions.  People used to know how to play instruments.  They'd get together and drink, dance and play just for the hell of it.  They worked hard and they played hard.  And they were happy because the fruits of their labors were tangible.  There was a life before Sports games and prime time television shows.

So I say renounce health.  Renounce nutrition.  Renounce exercise science.  Instead, use the time to actively and passionately pursue things that bring happiness, not just the negation of bad feelings.  The farther and farther you get away from yourself and your own efforts and your own input, the farther you get from a satisfying life.

Don't ever think that when you blog on nutrition or health, you blog on just what you are saying.  When you say anything, you say your whole self at the same time.  You transmit the context that contributed to those words.  You transmit the damaged culture that poisons our hedonistic impulses.  They are our True North.  They may lead us astray, but they will lead us there whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.  Sure, you can bring addictive substances and drugs into the equation.  What about these things that make us feel good but ruin our lives?  What of them?  You can't help it.  Addicts don't usually "quit" their addiction.  They stop when they grow out of it.  Dietary changes are about as successful as drug rehab.  Ever notice that?  About 5% of people will be successful.  And that number is quite generous.  Stop trying to swim upstream against a current that is far more powerful than you.

So give up.  Stop listening to the sales people and gurus and pundits and armchair nutritionists.  Work with your impulses instead of struggling in vain to work against them.  There's no guarantee of health or youthful appearance.  But maybe, just maybe, you'll gain a little dignity.

Edit:  There's a line in Solaris that really encapsulates this for me.  We say that we want grand things, but in reality we just want community.  Link