An Appropriated Diet for a Full Life

My Dad’s favourite book of the year is Tim Ferriss’, The 4-Hour Body. At his insistence I had to check out the website where I found a bonus chapter, written by Dr. Seth Roberts, that really sent my mind on a tangent. I’ll explain it from the beginning…

“Louise and Brody build the Eiffel tower” by Gedidiah McCaughey

Dr. Roberts is a professor of psychology and a member of the editorial board of the journal, Nutrition. His work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine and The Scientist. He’s legit. The theory that captured my imagination is the basis for what he calls The Shangri-La Diet and springs from Pavlov’s psychological framework of associative learning. The idea is that our brains are hard wired from the days of hunting and gathering to stock up on calories when they detect that there is an abundance of good food.  The brain detects that abundance when it registers familiar flavours or smells. The first time we taste something, our brain has not yet made the connection between the associated flavours and the calories that are derived from their consumption. Because no association exists yet, the impulse to stock up on calories is not triggered and we feel satisfied with less. The next time we have that same thing, we subconsciously remember we like it and want more! Essentially, flavours are addictive and make us crave progressively more and more in order to feel that same initial feeling of satisfaction that a new taste experience elicits. The stronger the smell or flavour, the stronger this effect is. This is the same theory that industrial food brands capitalize on by striving to make their products taste identical each time and therefore making us crave their products at the first familiar whiff of grease or sugar.

This theory about appetite seems to me to be a very apt analogy for many human conditions. Particularly, it seems to me that our experience of time is affected very similarly. It is well recognized that as we grow older time seems to speed up. In the beginning of our lives when everything is unfamiliar and new, a few days can seem like an eternity. As we grow older and more familiar with what it is to experience the passage of time and as our daily experiences become well-worn routine, the months seem to fly by before we have the chance to even flip the calendar page and satisfaction doesn’t come as easily. The weekends seem to get shorter and shorter, and vacations are never long enough. We crave more and more time for the things that really nourish our lives but we are restricted to our standard time tables and schedules.

In this context it is logical that humans strive to perpetuate the feeling of satisfaction that a first experience produces.  Drugs have been used throughout history as a tool to do this. The desired effect being to alter human perceptions, arguably in order to experience the familiar in a new way and ultimately recreate the initial satisfaction of what was once new and novel.

Another tool we can use to break us out of the monotony of our daily experiences and alter our perceptions of the world is art. Consider how a new song can make a routine commute seem fresh again, or an unexpected piece of public art can transform a familiar city or landscape. Art has the power to make us reassess our surroundings and experience them like new again. It can also be the stimulus that makes us reassess our assumptions and see the familiar in a new light. This is why art is such an essential part of a full life experience. It alters and enriches daily experiences and offers an alternative to monotony. In a Big Mac world Art provides the nourishment that makes your life feel fuller longer.

So, there you have it. That is one insightful diet book. Thanks Dad!

 

Our Transformational Community Well-Being

[Editor’s Note: readers, from October 12 until November 9 I will be taking an amazing UBC Continuing Studies course called Sustainability Leadership: From Strategy to Transformation. My first assignment is to outline how this transformational shift is (or could be) helpful to my situation – my mission is to take the assignment  from me-to-we and provide some examples of how we can use some cool “emerging qualities” to create community in a chaotic world.]

Here we are. I’m not gonna lie, it’s a bit bleak out there. I mean, “scientists” and “business leaders” and “David Suzuki” will tell you that melting glaciers, rising seas, catastrophic earthquakes, desertification, staggering poverty, and the decline of the honeybee present some serious reasons for us to fear for – or just plain fear – the future. So, in the spirit of positivity and community-building, the Daily Gumboot is pleased to provide you, the people, with some fantastic options that you, the people, can consider as we lurch forward. Feel free to apply one, some or all of the options to your life and, most importantly, have fun with all of them!

Option 1. Our Well-Being…in Chaos.

THE IDEA: A few weeks ago I read the New Economics Foundation’s Well-Being Manifesto, which puts meaningful work and healthy human capital development at the centre of what it takes to create and sustain a flourishing society. Our Common Future supports the need to “create new values to help individuals and nations cope with rapidly changing social, environmental, and developmental realities.” Career Development Phenom Jim Bright argues that there is no linear career path, as where we work has more to do with chaotically interconnected random events – both lucky and tragic – than with education, training, self-assessment, counselling, research, and/or the cultural landscape of our home town (though all these things are important). Our careers – like life – exist in chaos and we need to prepare ourselves for it.

OUR ACTION: We need to create both personal and community-based “adaptability toolkits” that allow ourselves and our neighbourhoods to roll with the punches that life throws our way. After all, every neighbourhood needs food-growers/makers, artists, leaders, accountants, builders, designers, fixers, and creators to collaboratively thrive within chaos. So begin preparing your “adaptability toolkit” today! Being eternally adaptable will make you a transformational leader within a complex social – and global – network. Not to mention ecological ones, too.

Option 2. In the Business of Community.

THE IDEA: Henry Mintzberg’s article, “Rebuilding Companies as Communities” outlines a from-me-to-we solution for the many wrongly-worshipped CEOs out there. “We are social animals who cannot function effectively without a social system that is larger than ourselves,” says Mintsberg. “This is what is meant by ‘community’ – the social glue that binds us together for the greater good.” Mintzberg cites several examples of forward-thinking, people-firsting companies who ‘get it’ – one such organization, federation of Basque super-cooperatives, Mondragon, definitely jives with a les Nordiques as co-operative notion, as told by Gumbooteer Martin Renauld. As it turns out, putting people first is really good for business!

OUR ACTION: All around the world – in business, education or non-profit and with volunteerism, neighbourhoods, families, and politics – the simple, age-old concept of “community” is being re-applied everywhere. So, whether you’re sitting at your work-desk, sipping coffee in your ‘hood, or chatting with your mouth full during family dinner, reflect on this very important question: “how is this activity- this one I’m doing right now – positively contributing to my community?”

Option 3. Hug a Natural Capitalist.

THE IDEA: Termed by entrepreneur and world-changer Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism seeks to solve the dirty, dirty problems being created by our outdated global system that is driven by Industrial Capitalism. Hawken argues that this can be done in four key ways: Radical Resource Productivity, Biomimicry, Service and Flow Economy, and Investing in Natural Capital.

OUR ACTION: Let’s start incorporating this stuff called “nature” into our economic formula, which currently employs a ridiculous equation that seems to assume our planet’s resources will keep pace with the exponential consumption of industrial capitalism. Be the change, people!

Option 4. Become a Radical Homemaker.

THE IDEA: Wency Leung presented the notion of Radical Homemakers in a recent edition of an up-and-coming print newspaper called the Globe and Mail. Again, a simple idea: give up the rat race and take care of your families and communities by growing local, organic and, more than likely, healthy food. After all, Our Common Future recommends that the Industrialized World strongly re-examine our relationships with money, food, fuel, people, and time.

OUR ACTION: “In pursuit of a more personally fulfilling and ecologically sustainable lifestyle, these so-called ‘radical homemakers’ are relying less on monetary income and are, instead, picking up domestic skills such as vegetable gardening and cooking to help meet their basic needs,” says Leung. Accept the honest fact that a reduction in income does not necessarily equal a drop in your standard of living. If you need a place to start, check out a recent post by Correspondent Katie Burns.

Option 5. When all else fails, become a Pirate!

THE IDEA: Somali pirates aren’t really “Somali pirates.” According to over 70% of Somalians, they’re actually a necessary component of a patch-work coastal defense structure! Forget the global community. Heck, forget everyone outside of your neighbourhood! This option is all about you and your closest shareholders. Sure, people outside your immediate circle might vilify you. But, remember, it’s not about them, it’s about you and your very local community.

OUR ACTION: Find some friends. Secure a boat, truck, web server, and/or multinational corporation. Pillage things from people and places without asking and, if necessary, use force, coercion and, possibly, the Internet to do it. Sure, pirate ships were and are bastions of democracy at its truest, but they’re also pretty violent. So, any action taken by us, I hope, is conceptual and only literal if necessary.

Masthead photo courtesy of Ahava Shira