Sunday, June 28, 2009

Free the Feet! A Shoe Experience of a 1st Season Barefooter.

Yesterday I made the (reluctant) decision to wear fully enclosed shoes. It was raining and usually when we go into town, I bring a pair of very loose, two flat-strapped sandals that would fall off if my feet weren't trained to hold them on with each step. I only wear them in stores. I walk and drive without shoes otherwise. I didn't bring my sandals because they have no tread and I can slide 20 feet on a good-balance day before landing on my posterior in public, when my sandals are wet.

Anyway, I haven't enclosed my feet since winter, and doing so produced some unexpected findings.

I expected that my feet would feel constricted relative to the way they are usually, and they did. I expected that they would feel too warm and they did. What surprised me though, was that I now use my feet so differently that the low, wide shoes I previously found comfortable caused me to have to completely change my gait to accommodate them! I found that I had to stiffen up my whole lower leg and foot in order to make my step conform to the shape and form of the shoe!!! And these shoes are considered, and really are by comparison, 'flexible!'

So, since that is ludicrous to me (and I am so glad that my body has adapted to moving in the way I didn't know it would or could, that actually suits its form rather than that of a shoe), I have endeavoured to make my own foot-coverings that will allow for natural motion so that when winter comes, I can still walk and not feel like I'm wearing casts on my legs and feet.

I'll post pictures of my creations when they are complete. :) So, this was news to me. Apparently, I now walk like a good-old-fashioned cave woman. :D

*ETA: I wanted to include- and have been consistently forgetting- that I was pleasantly surprised to find that my new leather-like-bottomed feet are not less sensitive, but in fact more than ever! BUT, I don't experience this heightened sensitivity as pain, and often have a need to walk on pebbly ground to relax my whole body and relieve my feet of too many hours on a smooth surface or sandals or minivan carpet. It is genuinely a delight so small and yet so delicious that in my desire to embrace the present, I am reluctant to express my sadness for having been without this experience for nearly 32 years. My feet are free; free at last!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Some clichés are true. I like those ones. Other clichés, thankfully, are not true. For example, the oft-quoted aphorism, "Respect is not given, it's earned." Not true.

But it sounds empowering, doesn't it? I mean, who wouldn't want to assume the position of control it implies on the part of the person who employs it? You can play banker with another's sincerity: John Doe deposits some effort, you let it gain some interest in your mind, and after his efforts clear the mandatory security time, you can allow John Doe a withdrawal -- a pittance of respect from the power that presides over the relationship.

It's an artful scenario, really. If you enjoy the insular security of narcissism, that is.

In reality, however -- that place where people (hopefully) think through trite platitudes -- respect is given, not earned. But how can we give respect if we're not receiving it? Legitimate question. Simplest answer? We're not playing follow-the-leader when it comes to respect. If you're willing to treat others with respect -- that is, give them respect -- that same respect will re-visit you. It's essentially a mechanical truism of the universe, and many historical, spiritual leaders have phrased it well: do as you'd be done by. Or, "do to others as you would have them do to you". Stated in negative form, "do not do to others what you would not like others to do to you."
Ethicists call this foundational rule for human interaction, "the ethic of reciprocity". Though Jesus is most often credited as the source of the statement, it is not unique to Christianity. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
But I digress.
One amelioration of the notion that respect has to be earned was offered me recently. Basically, the idea was put across that because respect is a thing to be earned, we should therefore strive to treat each other with respect.
This is far from true, and I cannot countenance such an idea, personally. Not least of why is because striving to treat each other with respect is a direct contradiction to making people earn respect. If respect cannot be given then we cannot treat each other with respect because we cannot treat each other to something we're not willing to give. And if the automatic moral assumption is that all people should be treated with respect, then that implies that all people are inherently worthy of respect. This would indicate then, that forcing others to earn from you (remember the banker?) what is naturally theirs to receive is a fundamental lack of respect for others.
Further to that, striving to do a thing is not at all the same as doing it. Striving is not attaining. In this sense, no-one should have to strive, or 'try' to give respect if they truly want to. Since respect is a recognition of the inherent dignity of yourself and others, it follows that placing your dignity in a vulnerable position with another is real respect. And that is something that can only be done; it cannot be strived for any more than a person can strive to be who they are. You either are who you are, or you're lying, or living under a lie somehow. You either meet the dignity of another person with your own personal dignity, or you don't. Striving to do so is kicking about on the fringes of actual respect, and is therefore disrespectful.
There is no sentiment that can acquit a person of the fact that respect absolutely must be given. No circumstance can alter this reality. Hanging your hat on the notion that respect has to be earned sets you in a position that no-one has the right to occupy: a dictate over others inherent dignity. What kind of respect is it to assume a place of control over another's personal dignity? It isn't. In reality, it's the ultimate form of disrespect.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Objective Perspective

There were sixty of us at the conference. The anticipation wasn't. No-one was visibly excited. Everyone seemed to have dragged themselves through the scree, and into the stiflingly dull meeting hall.

The muffins were nice. The coffee? Not so much. Too bitter.

I swear the thrumming murmurs of the crowd was blending into one oceanic ohm. I felt if I had to hear it much more than the 5 minutes I'd already been there, I'd fall asleep standing.

But then the classic microphone tap-cum-feedback shocked me out of my growing catatonia. I was grudgingly aware.

A speaker was introduced. I don't know who it was. I was too busy trying to recapture the ennui from a moment ago. It seemed a better course than the one I was barreling into, out of control and with an ever-increasing sense of nausea.

Why nausea? Because that's what happens when your dread anticipations of an event are confirmed in reality by the cackling laughter of a pep-talk speaker who can't seem to get her kindergaarten idioms out of her adult speech.

"Good attendence, people!" She beamed almost as loud as her metallic red and white striped blouse. "You really have shocked me today with how wonderfully happy, and aware you seem."

I think she was still sleeping, actually. She seemed to be in a private dreamworld. The crowd, with eyes at half-mast, seemed to provide an object lesson largely in opposition to the speaker's felicitous naivety.

Her topic? "The Objective Workplace". Wow. An electric excitement rippled through the crowd. Eyes went wide, and lips curved into interested smiles almost in unison.

I'm lying. Everybody stayed pretty much the way they were: disengaged, disinterested, and hoping for an out-of-body experience.

But then it happened. She made a comment that set my brain to thinking (which can sometimes be a good thing, believe it or not). She said, "We always have to keep an objective frame of mind."

I wondered, at first, what subjective layerings she had to go through to parrot that popular sentiment. But then I stopped wondering because it was having a negative impact on my ability to stay bored and disinterested. If I lost that much, I'd have an unwanted lack of cynicism to aide me in my festering disdain for these kinds of empty educational venues. And that just wouldn't do.

But it did.

And my mind started churning. My hand followed suit with a black-ink rapier. And against my better judgmentalism, I penned these words:

Objectivity is an ideal -- a common one. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible.

All people are subjective, biased, and prejudiced one way or another. We cannot, by dint of existential experience, lay aside personal investment to achieve pure, ultra-cognitive, or suprarational objectivity.

'Objectivity' is necessarily outside human capacity.

Once I had written that down, I was able to recapture my angst and continue feeling unreservedly disinterested in the presentation. Thank you, Philosophy, for rescuing me.

*Please make note that the preceding was an unbiased, even objective look at a subjectively motivated perspective, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the writer involved. Naturally. ;)

Benignly Deceived

Please, regulate me.

I'm a person; I'm a database priority.

Filter in your umbrella controls --

Binary virtue, policies extolled.

Administrate my conscious day

So I can doubt and question, nay,

'Believe' that I'm free

And watch the truth bleed away.

You Want One. You Know You Do.

Well, here's a product you don't see every day. Thank God.

Thanks go to TAG-photos for this oddity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Kernel of Truth: Lend Me Your Ear or I'd Rather Be Restrictive Than Corny

For many years, it has continued to perplex me that people who don't know me well (and some who think they do) have charged me with being a radical restrictivist, party-pooper, kill-joy, picky, a worshipper of food (lol!) and other like unfavourable judgments based in ignorance.

Since we moved out west, this has subsided substantially as we have met many more open-minded people in the ten months we've been here than I can recall in my whole life combined. Granted my desire for such people may not have been manifest then as it is now. Anyhow, in spite of the overwhelming majority of people we meet being quite open to how others live, we still have encountered some resistance and imposition of judgment here too. Why, when we've been successively unfettering ourselves, seeking and attaining to greater planes of freedom and consciousness, are we still accused of radical restrictiveness?

*Lest any one person think this is a backlash on you personally, it isn't. As I wrote above, you would just be joining the masses of people who've concluded on the same thing about me for decades, so not to worry, you're well-supported. :)

The answer came to me for the first time this evening. I'm going to use that word that has become the unnecessary recipient of the assumption of perjorative when others hear me use it... mainstream. It is invariably mainstreamers and mainstream-wannabes who make these judgments of us and the reason is now clear to me. A mainstreamer, being predicated in his/her actions on conformity, sees others in terms of what they don't do. They lack any aspiration to take full and utterly conscious responsibility for their thoughts, actions, and life, and view someone who does as a threat to the comfortable system that affords them this sloth. I am just such a person and I threaten just that.

So what about me? What is my role in inviting such criticism? Well, as far as I can tell, I am party to my own accusations in that I haven't severed my ties entirely with people lacking consciousness in their living, so I'm an easy target. Aside from that though, I am not so accomplished in the complete shedding of mainstream's influence that I have been able to ward off such attacks on my life, character, abilities and efforts. When I've matured to that point, my presence will no longer be permeable to low criticism as I've seen that trend already in other areas of my life. In a way, my whole person, being whole, won't have any holes or spaces for intrusive or demeaning commentary, much like the soil in a healthy garden doesn't allow pests to take up residence; the presence of beneficial beings is purposed and recognised, but the absence of harmful ones is only incidental to the health of the garden.

My own perspective regarding others is the precise reason why I continue to be taken aback and surprised by the accusation of being legalistically or radically restrictive in my life. Unlike mainstreamers, I view others for what they DO, not what they don't do, because I am not concerned with conformity or the perpetuity of sloth-enabling life systems. 

So when I think of people I know, I am affected and influenced and impressed with what they DO. I don't give any thought whatsoever to what they don't do unless it is obviously and insidiously negligent or dangerous. I'd notice if my friend didn't ever speak to her children, for instance, or if another didn't... I can't even think of another example because that sort of thinking is so unnecessary and unhelpful to me.

When I first began to question the mainstream, I also had a long list of what-I-don'ts. This was a natural progression from recognition of what I had previously been doing and what I wouldn't do anymore. In that transformation, it became necessary for me to switch paradigms though, to examining what I do and not focussing on what I don't do, which wouldn't allow for me to authentically change my life. Lifelong alcoholism in spite of a cessation in actually imbibing alcohol should make focus on the don't-do's an obviously ineffective strategy for change.

So initially, my list was full of what I don't do anymore, but that was years ago and I no longer even have such a list because my life is full of what I do, not what I don't. When my days and weeks and months are full of things I value, there simply isn't need or desire to consider what I don't do. The fact that upon being asked, I can answer that 'yes, we don't do that' is not a confirmation of an obsession with what I don't do. It is almost exclusively within the context of answering the mainstreamer's questions about what we don't do that I can even think of such things. In my own life and from my own perspective, I wouldn't even think of formulating such a question as that.

I want to examine some of the charges though, because this is all talk and no action so far:

Will the accused please stand. You have been charged with the worship of food and health and radical restrictivism of such of life's pleasures as edible oil whipped topping and pop tarts.

In my defense, I would like to propose a comparison and contrast of my diet and approach to health to that of the mainstream.

I will begin by introducing the foods and principles upon which my family bases decisions about what we DO eat.

We eat mostly a traditional European diet. By traditional, I mean that we use home-rendered fats from chicken, duck, bison, etc... and we cook with the bones in and use those bones to later make gelatin-rich broths that we use for gravies and sauces and stews and in place of water for cooking other foods.

We eat whole vegetables and fruits and only indulge in tropical fruits and vegetables as treats occasionally. We eat fatty unpasteurised yogurt and milk (can't find raw just yet, but hope to by next summer even if that means by having our own dairy goat or cow). We eat loads of butter. We eat whole grain breads in a very small proportion to the rest of our diet. We eat olives and home lacto-fermented sauerkraut, broccoli stems, garlic and hot peppers. I make my own cheese and we also buy some that is cultured and unpasteurised. We eat raw veggies dipped in garlic/yogurt/mustard/apple cider vinegar mixture.

We drink litres of herbal and green tea every day and eat a pound of raw, microbe-rich honey every day too. We eat this fresh-from-the-field and personally delivered from down the road  honey on our homemade baked home-ground whole oats, eggs, and raisins squares with butter served warm.

We eat eggs every morning on toast or in our oat squares. We use 6 dozen eggs each week.

Everything is as local as possible and almost always organic because there is no point in eating something that is so full of chemicals that it will take more nutrients to detoxify it than it will provide to the body. In this way, we could eat all day long and still starve, gaining lots of weight if we eat too much because our bodies are trying to conserve what little nutrition we are receiving ,or losing weight because we don't eat enough to fulfill our nutrient requirements.

So, we eat naturally cultivated, free-growing foods in their whole state, which also goes for our meat. It is all pastured (truly, not industrially) on naturally growing grasses and insects and given no antibiotics or vaccinations. The animals live according to their nature- chickens in flocks, ducks in pairs, bison in herds, etc...

To achieve this, we have to talk to a lot of people, go a lot of different places and try a lot of different ways of preparing our foods when items are not available or when there is a variation of what we expected (unlike boxed, processed foods, the earth doesn't produce cubic vegetables with uniform innards and outards by its own initiative, so we go with what we're given).

Diversity is an encompassing principle in our food acquisition. Not purposed in all ways, but definitely incidental, at least. We have a diverse experience in our eating, preparation, meeting and speaking to new and becoming familiar people, excursions we wouldn't otherwise experience to farms and homesteads along the highways of our territory, and abundantly healthy children whose ailments are healed with this diet and herbs, homoeopathy and home remedies as needed.

Now in contrast, the mainstream diet, which is the non-restricted one, remember?

Based upon my highly unscientific observations, I am going to generously presume that the average mainstreamer eats about 1-2% of his/her diet in whole, locally grown, industrial organic and truly organic foods, all being vegetable and none being from the meat category of the food pyramid.

I will generously then presume a 98% diet of variably 'value-added' (read: processed) foods that include various fruits and vegetables, raw and in boxed dinner-type meals; boneless and skinless meats along with some breaded, some seasoned, some fast-food, some in pies and burritos and other freezer 'meals.' They eat boxed crackers, cookies, confections and treats of all kinds, baked and fried and slathered with edible oil frosting and fried, flavoured, and candied nuts and cereals; breakfast cereals, jars of jams and nut butters and margarine and 'not-butter'; flavoured and sliced processed cheeses, low fat milk and fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt and canned soups and beans and 'whole wheat' and 'french' bread; 'vegetable/canola oil' for cooking. They eat cream puffs and potatoes baked and in bags for baking and frying, and salads made with mayonnaise and macaroni and coleslaw too. A package of pudding cups for the kids and a jar of baby dills and carrots sticks with dip for lunches. Who can live without a bag of Doritos and a pop on the way out of the self-check-out at the grocery store?

The meat came from animals living in deplorable conditions such that anyone witnessing this would quickly lose his or her appetite for them, but onto my point: eating corn. Cows, pigs, chicken, and even fish, all eating corn for their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

They are cut up into pieces and the 'value-added' ones are severed from the only hope that had in being nutritious- the bones, and variously prepared with CORN-DERIVED monosodium glutamate, malto-dextrine, glucose/fructose and high fructose corn syrup, regular old corn syrup and corm meal, modified corn starch and plain old corn starch, corn oil, di- and tri-glycerides, lecithin, leavening, etc... and is then wrapped in shiny corn-derived packaging with corn-based dyes emblazoned on reading 'healthy choice!'.

The chickens lay their corn-fed eggs and sometimes make new corn-developed chicks that make more corn-eating chickens to be cut up and covered by and marinated and fried in more corn.

The milk and milk products from the corn-eating cows are also corn-produced, bearing its trademark genetic C4, in case anyone doubted the presence of corn in milk.

Their veggies and fruits have been sprayed with corn-derived pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and waxed with corn-come-wax and boxed in corn-waxed boxes treated with more corn-derived chemical compounds for 'freshness'.

A quotation from The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (to whom all credit goes for the above list of corn-derived products, which is not exhaustive by any means): “There are some forty-five thousand items in the average American Supermarket and more than a quarter of them now contain corn. This goes for the non-food items as well-...” (page 19) And this does not account for the items which are produced via corn-dependence through spray fertilizers and 'cides' of all sorts. Almost everything edible in the grocery store is a product of the constituents of corn.

Now onto the experiential part. Mainstreamers are very open and diverse in their experiences of food, right? Well, once/week they jaunt to the grocery store staring mindlessly (who wouldn't? What's to ponder?) at the shelves upon shelves of flashy boxes and cans, knocking one of them every so often into the cart, cruising the produce section for bags of apples, lathed carrot sticks and some fruit and dip combination packages, the dairy section for eggs and milk and milk products, bread and bakery- grab and toss, meats in styrofoam with no bones and fat trimmed, and then the snack aisle on the way out (was going to skip that one... oh well, what's the harm?) and waiting in line for the self-check-out, putting groceries into bags (corn) and carting them to the trunk of the car, stopping for gas (more corn) on the way home, then to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions for the kids (and corn again), and then unloading at home only to do it again the following week.

But no matter, meal preparation is usually a snap, 20-30 minutes for dinner, tops, and lunches are packaged fruits and veggies and some cheese strings and a juice box. Breakfast, easy- cereal in low fat milk. WHY would anyone want to do more work than necessary to feed themselves and their family? So glad not to be a pioneer or in a tribe. Food preparation would take over life!

Please, PLEASE, share with me how my diet and outlook is restrictive when it consists of diversity in food, relationship, preparation, source, and health-giving qualities, when the mainstream diet consists mainly of CORN and requires pharmaceutical supplementation to allow the body to function, while no or nearly no attention is paid to the source of the food and no relationships or few are forged in the process- a complete lack of diversity- the very definition of restriction in this context?

We eat whole foods, meet the farmers who produce them, meet other conscientious eaters in little shops tucked away in the corners of the city and rural areas to obtain their wares, chat, make contacts and share common understandings, engage our children in understanding how their food comes to their plate and in the end, eat very rich, flavourful foods that few other than celebrities and the very rich enjoy nowadays as the old ways of preparing tasty food have been lost and forgotten in favour of spending more time at soccer games and eating micro-waved meals trays.

HOW, when my experience surrounding this aspect of life is so rich and diverse and open to new experiences on-going-ly, am I restrictive??? 

If refusing to be a giant walking manifestation of corn and cold-stranger-procured formed and flavoured food-like products called edible is being restrictive, then I guess I am.

I am also restrictive in my refusal to treat my children like ninny-heads who need adults to 'teach' them how to 'act' like children, and my rejection of chemical band-aids for ill-health, and general ignorance. 

I guess I am highly restrictive, but from my perspective, MY whole world is WIDE OPEN, free and full of possibilities and potential, unlimited and unhindered by fear and it's cousin: 'this is how it's done.' 

In my mind, the world (cosmically) is a gigantic sea of wondrous potential and loving possibilities and fulfillments and the mainstream exists as the tiniest speck outlying the boundary of that sea. 

If in refusing the limitations of that speck, I seem restrictive, having instead chosen the whole sea, then so be it, but I don't see myself that way. I never will. I cannot; I know too much and I'd have to kill myself if I did.

I am free, and conscious of that reality. If the manifestation of that reality in my life seems restrictive of options that fetter me with ideologies that would stand in my way to fulfilling who I am here to be, then I'll restrict with wild abandon!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

True. Sad. But True.

"The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments." - William E. Borah

Monday, June 8, 2009

Feeling A Little Like Mother Theresa

Do you ever feel like this?

"I call, I cling, I want ... and there is no One to answer ... no One on Whom I can cling ... no, No One. Alone ... Where is my Faith ... even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness ... My God ... how painful is this unknown pain ... I have no Faith ... I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart ... & make me suffer untold agony.

"So many unanswered questions live within me afraid to uncover them ... because of the blasphemy ... If there be God ... please forgive me ... When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives & hurt my very soul. I am told God loves me ... and yet the reality of darkness & coldness & emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul." (Mother Theresa of Calcutta)

I do. And there's no shortage of anxiety that comes with feeling that way.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Current Reads

It seems I've been a little shy on posting lately. After such an insightful article (Default to Real Life) from my wife, I thought it would be better to lay low and hand over centre stage. Admittedly, I did throw in a couple of small articles, but only because they were not likely to divert the attention away from my wife's writing.

In any case, I think I will start placing new material on the board again. Unfortunately, this time 'round I have nothing of the usual calibre I place on St. Cynic. So if you'll bear with me while I place another of my current reads on, I'll get to something meatier in a couple of days -- or less, hopefully.

Here is what I'm working on at the moment:

I like Onfrey's writing style -- somewhat postmodern and anecdotal, but eloquent and heady, too -- but his overall 'defense' is weak, so far.

One word: incredibly brilliant! Haha! Okay. Bad joke. Seriously, if you haven't turned your head to this book before, you are missing out on one of the truly classic novels of all time. Whatever good I can say about this book would never suffice for actually reading the novel itself. You simply must read this book.

There's no excuse for not reading this book. You have to, and that's all there is to it. Chesterton is sheer genius.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Monkeying Around

Well, okay.  They're not monkeys, but you have to admit they're innovative, and they get around.  And I can really sympathize with their desire for honey.