5.28.2017

Wonder Woman won't give you any power, ladies.

With great amusement I've watched a little saga unfold on Twitter.

In New York, you are not allowed to restrict access or refer to people or, perhaps, even think about people wrongly, according to various gender and personal specifications.



Stephen Miller made note of this on Twitter, and then set about testing the veracity of the law and of the people who previously, as long as the laws worked in their favor, thought they were progress and a step in the right direction. He bought tickets to a women's-only screening of the movie "Wonder Woman" and, for the rest of the day and following day, had a great deal of fun watching the reaction. I can't possibly link to all of the tweets and conversations, but you can visit his timeline from May 26 and 27 of 2017 and see it all for yourself.

Everyone keeps talking about "the resistance". I would say Miller is snarkily resisting the resistance in this case.

For fun, I hopped in. The usual suspects were there, the usual name-calling. But then I started having a conversation with someone with the Twitter handle "Tawni" (I assume a woman, but in New York, it would be illegal for me to assume that gender, I suppose).

In-depth conversations on Twitter are usually frustrating, and Tawni kept hitting on the usual tired arguments that I hear young women pushing forth as some twisted form of feminism and progress. And so I thought I'd dump a few ideas here, a kind of "Top Ten List Of Advice For Young Women Who Think Wonder Woman Will Save Feminism Or Whatever":

1. You aren't going to be empowered by seeing a movie about an Amazonian superhero, particularly if you can't see it with men in the room.


I get that it's fun to have an all girls night. You can whoop it up at the theater, joke about kicking ass, and generally feel that, as a group, you're as awesome as what you saw on the screen.

But guess what?

When you get home at night you're going to be as alone and unempowered as you were when you left. You get emotional highs from a movie, but you don't get an actual power. Power doesn't come from emotional highs, but it does get hurt by them. You build muscles when the strain is tough, not when you're walking down hill. Emotional highs mean a nice fall back to reality.

And if you can't see a movie about a female superhero with men in the room, you might as well put your cards face up on the table and say "here you go, guys, here's my hand, I'm still an emotional kindergartener" because it's clear where you really stand.


2. You aren't empowered if you let people push your buttons.


Having your butt in a movie theater seat with a bunch of other women won't give you any power if you freak out on social media because some big bad white man is being mean by legally purchasing a ticket.

The biggest injustice this current generation of "feminists" is promoting is obsessing over being safe and not being triggered or offended, because they are giving their power away.

I've always said that if someone says something that offends you, the problem is yours to deal with. Offense is an emotion you are creating. The same things said to another person might not offend them at all.

When you choose to be offended, you give power to the person who offended you. You let their words or actions have an effect on your response. When you choose to grab onto concepts of safe spaces and being triggered and fear of "hate speech", you also let someone else have control over you.

That's not an empowered person.

Remember this: E + R = O (event plus response equals outcome). You can't control the event (i.e. the person or what they say or do), but you can control your response. It is your response that helps determine the outcome. If you are constantly talking in terms of what happened to you or what someone did to you, you are choosing to be a victim and not take control over your response. Therefore, you let the other person determine the outcome, i.e. you give them the power.

Stop doing that. It's stupid.

Learn to get a grasp on your emotions and respond better. Figure it out through practice. People can't push your buttons if they aren't readily visible. When you let people know things bother you, or that you won't let things go and will hold onto them and let them fester, that they can push your buttons and manipulate your emotions a certain way by saying or doing certain things, you have embraced weakness.

3. Quit your bitching and talking and hashtagging, and just go do something.


Women, sometimes you just need to shutup and do the thing you think men aren't going to let you do. I'm a pilot. That's a world populated mostly by men. Type A controlling types, to be accurate, so much so that they have to have "hazardous attitudes" training to deal with personalities that make dumb decisions because they think they're invincible. I could cry and whine about how there aren't enough women pilots. I could start a GoFundMe and an awareness program of the problem. I could pontificate about why more women don't fly. Or I could just shut my mouth and go get my pilot's license because there is no law stopping me from doing the thing.

That last part is crucial. Women fought for serious rights in the past centuries, overturning laws that kept them from voting, owning property, receiving property upon death of family members -- actual laws that made it impossible to be equals.

Fight against unjust laws, if you must, if that is what is stopping you, but stop your crying and fighting because the path is hard and life isn't fair. Stop demanding that people on the ladder you want to climb aren't nice. You embarrass me, and you are celebrating your weakness, not your strength. Anyone who demands the path be made easier isn't empowered. They're weak.

4. Dump the male acolytes.


Those sensitive feminist men who are so busy defending your right to safe spaces and not being triggered and offended, who go after other white men and denounce their own white manhood (if that be the case)? They aren't your friends. They are feeding your weakness.

You don't need a bunch of guys as cheerleaders for your whining. You don't need a bunch of guys pleading your case to other guys. You don't need a bunch of guys talking for you, standing up for you, or making it OK to be you.

And if you do?

I feel sorry for you.

You say you're against the "patriarchy" but you should be against what I call the "patronizing patriarchy" where guys swear up and down they're all about the feminism and then go and fight women's battles as proof that they're good guys. I'm not going to let some guy get a free virtue signalling ride off of my real life; why are you letting them do it to you?

If I'm at the gym and want to bulk up, I don't want some guy lifting my weights for me. That won't make me strong. Just because some dude bro agrees with you doesn't mean it's helping you. You'd be better off surrounded by unfriendlies so you grow a spine.

5. You keep using the word empowerment. I don't think you know what it means.


One guy responded to Miller by saying that it was a mean thing for him to butt into an event that would give women empowerment.

I responded a bit differently.


Power means that you have an ability to do something in a certain extent in a particular situation. When I leave a movie screening, after having had a soda and a popcorn, I mainly have power to hit the restroom before I go. Over the long-term, however, movies have had a power over me in that they make me think about things in a particular way.

There are scenes from Happy Gilmore that still bring me to tears. (kidding)

Movies can make you think about yourself and others and historical events differently. For example, consider how many people have a warped sense of history because movies tweaked the facts? Consider the fact that there is a Klingon Bible. Consider how many people came to Fargo, North Dakota looking for the buried briefcase from the movie "Fargo."

Sure, movies have a power over people. But do I actually get power from a movie? After I watch "Kill Bill", do I have the power to fight with a sword or defend myself like a ninja? After I watch the movie "Hidden Figures" do I suddenly have greater power over the maths?

No.

I don't get actual power from a movie, particularly one as far-fetched as Wonder Woman. If, after watching the movie, I am mugged, am I going to whip out a golden lasso and keep my wallet to myself?

If I think I get empowerment from a movie, I have problems. If I need such a far-fetched version of a woman to make me realize that women can be strong in many ways, that they can stand up against evil, or any other tidy thought packages such as that, I have had a regretful upbringing.

My parents instilled that in me. My church instilled that in me. I don't need some movie to tell me that I can be strong, and can go out and accomplish things. I don't need some movie to entangle me in fetishizing Wonder Woman's costume so that I start wearing clothes that resemble it. I don't need the image of a barely dressed woman that men are ogling so that I schizophrenicly say "I am against men, but I'm going to dress in a super uncomfortable corset and outfit that is completely ridiculous for any actual fighting in the real world and only serves the purpose of making me look sexy and I'm going to say it's about female power even while I sort of like the fact that men are checking out my goodies because that's power since I can't have power as a woman if it isn't power over men."

(That last bit, by the way, is its own book, this need for women to have a power as defined by who it is in conflict with or tantalizes over rather than the simple presence of power to live well and courageously. Women can be powerful when there is no one else around, but that is not how current feminism is going, which seems to be that we are powerful in comparison to, or against what.)

Even the power of an escape-type movie doesn't empower you. You don't get stronger and more powerful by constantly escaping reality. You get weaker.

Movies can have a power over you, but they don't give you actual power. Best case scenario is that they give you knowledge about a subject you did not previously know, or instill ideas in you that change how you go about life for the better. But this is Wonder Woman. It. Didn't. Happen. There are no golden lasso secrets that you can take from the film into the workplace.


6. Stop making it about the feelings.


Women, get over your feelings. Feelings lie. Feelings lead you to stupid places. Feelings are a terrible interpreter of reality. How you feel about something will change in five minutes so stop making stupid decisions based on feelings.

Tawni dragged feelings into the conversation, and I couldn't help but roll my eyes.



Why did she think Miller was doing this because he "felt excluded"? I'm pretty sure he felt little at all, except mirth.

Obviously he was pushing the very easy buttons that a bunch of people had foolishly chosen to display, and then sat back and watched the machine light up. That's what buttons do: start up the machine. And, when it comes to the current progressive machine regarding politics, speech, and gender, it is a Rube Goldberg machine, making it all the more fun to observe.

Feelings are not irrelevant if you can control them--they are a tiny portion of the situation--but if you can't control them, they will destroy you. So stop phrasing your verbal battles (and live ones) against alleged oppression through the lens of how you feel.

No one cares how you feel.

You don't make good laws on feelings. Your feelings don't translate well. Your feelings aren't particularly special. And if your feelings matter so much, then you'd better be prepared for the laws and response that comes from your opponent's feelings because if your feelings are valid, so are his.

If some guy is trying to put you down, control you, or dominate you into a lesser state of being out of sheer disrespect or despising your personhood, you don't win by whining or crying. You push back or you leave the d-bag in the dust and do what it is you're going to do. You may have mixed feelings about it, but your feelings aren't in charge.

7. Quite abusing the word "rape."


Imagine a guy walks into a room full of women. He wasn't invited or expected.

In previous generations, the women would probably have thought "some guy just walked in, who invited him here?" but now it seems it's "OMG! This is like rape! You're inserting yourself into our safe space so it's rape! Call the college administrator to get this guy kicked out! He's triggering people! This is emotional rape!"

Real rape is a serious and horrible thing. When you toss the word around to mean any situation where you don't like what a guy is doing, you lessen the power of the word and make it more difficult to find the words to use to talk about the real, actual act of horrifying rape.

Both C. S. Lewis and George Orwell spoke about the abuse of the English language. Go read up on it and stop using the word "rape" as some careless metaphor when you could use other words.

If you go look at some of the comments on this Wonder Woman Twitter hubbub, you even see guys saying that for Miller to go into the theater is like rape (see point #4).

8. Men are not the enemy. Laws that oppress are.


Men are not the enemy. They're just half the human race. They're human beings. Some are jerks, some aren't, some are bad news, others are average decent people. Whatever they are, they aren't the enemy.

They do tend to die the most on the job, because they generally take the more dangerous jobs. They do tend to die more in war, too. They aren't the enemy, because the enemy doesn't die for you so you can have a nice bridge to drive on or a country with a Bill of Rights.

Stop seeing the destruction of men and their activities as the definition of feminist success. It isn't. Feminist success is building our own world out of our own strengths. Only the weak see progress in terms of tearing others down to build themselves up.

Men are not the enemy. The enemy is codified laws that keep you from doing things you are fully capable of doing, things that should be available to humanity without exclusion.

9. Stop manufacturing oppression. You aren't oppressed in America.


As a woman, you aren't oppressed in this country unless you want to be, unless you choose to be. You are legally able to do everything a man does (except be forced to register for selective service for the draft). The only thing holding you back is fear.

Maybe you feel guilty that you don't have a lot of big battles to fight like the women in the previous generations did for you, but be thankful instead of guilty, and don't turn around and spit on what they did by acting like an infant and demanding safe spaces.

The women who fought for our rights didn't demand safe spaces. They were desperate to get out of those "safe spaces" because they knew that safe spaces are cages. Safe spaces are where the weak go, or where people who think you are weak put you. Why do you want to go back into the cage they worked so hard to get out of?

10. Be a trailblazer instead of a trailbitcher.


If you find yourself surrounded by hundreds of thousands of women holding signs about oppression and screaming and dressed as female genitalia and marching the paved streets, you are not a trailblazer. Trailblazers are off on their own, cutting a path where no one has gone before.

If, for example, actress Jennifer Lawrence is correct that female leads get paid less then men, she is in the position, as a Hollywood star, to trail blaze and demand more pay. Whether she wanted to be that or not is irrelevant; she's in the position to trail blaze.

How many of you are in a trail blaze position but instead run back to where the group is and scream that you don't have the same opportunities?

(Hint: having a women-only movie screening is not trailblazing; back in my day it was called a "slumber party.")

Think of all the trailblazing women who went before you and became pilots, astronauts, physicists, artists, landowners, farmers, ranchers, novelists, explorers, linguists, missionaries, doctors, CEOs -- the list is endless. They put up with serious hardship and obstacles to cut the path for the women that followed. How dare you substitute that daring action, that hard fought path, for social media hashtags or cheering because no men can come to your movie?

That's an embarrassment.

---

What Miller did with the tickets to the movie is purposefully antagonistic, I don't disagree. I also think it was an ideal play that puts the stupidity of these progressive laws that penalize the wrong use of a pronoun or forbid anyone to be selective in who or how they serve or do business in a new light. It is a way to show the contradiction of saying that bathrooms should be open to anyone while saying a theater should exclude men. There is a problem when the women's bathroom is available to men and a theater is not.

It is time the people who these laws seemed to have benefited feel the pinch of them, and with a simple ticket purchase, Miller is bringing out all the usual suspects.

I think women should have the right to have women-only meetings. I think men should, too. If you are a girl who wants to be in Boy Scouts instead of Girl Scouts, I think you should just make the changes in Girl Scouts that you seem to think are lacking and let the boys have their own club and girls have their own club. I think if women see that men have a club or organization that they want, they should make their own. None of these things are hurting anyone else. None of these actions make it impossible for the other person to access the same services or enjoyment of life. None of these means you are less. Again, we all like to be with people who are like us from time to time. Why are we forcing the removal of that simple life pleasure? I am not made less if guys want to hang out without women, and vice versa, because my power and value doesn't come from who I am or am not with. I doubt Miller would disagree, but he's certainly going to press the issue to try to get others to acknowledge it.

Be a builder, instead of a demolisher. Women should push forward, and shouldn't be afraid of the hard path, but they should stop trying to antagonize men because of anger over history and, frankly, assumed emotions.

"But Julie, women in the past were excluded!"

So?

Yes, in the past women were excluded from many things. But we don't live in the past and if we keep trying to, we have no future. You don't fix a problem from the past by flipping it on its head and revisiting it the same way on the opposing side. You don't fix the problem of women being excluded by saying "now we get to exclude men but they can't exclude us!" because that isn't a fix of the problem -- it's the same problem reborn.

Let's be honest: when you say egalitarian and equality, what you really mean is "equality some day but for about 20 or so years we'd like to really stick it to white men because of the past and then when we feel they've been properly subjugated, we'll get around to equality."

Anyone who thinks it is OK to exclude men, but that women should be allowed to run wild into any men's group or organization, is a hypocrite with a small mind geared towards petty payback but trying to disguise it with rhetoric that seems noble. Such people, as I was reminded in my conversation with Tawni on Twitter, have a lofty view of themselves that justifies their contradictory ideologies because, as Tawni told me, "you conservatives lack nuance, intelligence, and are obsessed with gay wedding cakes." Nuance, indeed.

[And for the record, once again, I did not vote for Trump. I have to put that in to stop a round of stupid conversation rejoinders that are the intellectual equivalent of verbal rabies.]

So these rules that New York has? You wanted them, and you got them.

You wanted to enforce a kind of ideology, a way of controlling how people think and speak and what kind of decisions they can make based on a continually growing list of minorities. So you live with them. And if it seems wrong to you that you can't have an event for women only, then maybe you need to rethink your ideology. Maybe you should learn to understand that the freedoms we have mean you can't always have your way so that other people can have freedoms that you yourself treasure. You might not like people on the "other side" but don't act so surprised if they turn the laws back on you that you thought would be a nice little method of pushing them down and controlling them.

Young women, stop being so offended and triggered and bitchy about everything. Some men are jerks. So are some women. Big deal. Choose what hills are important to die on. I'm pretty sure an argument on Twitter isn't one of them, nor is a movie screening. Get on with the thing you're going to accomplish in life and disregard the white noise around you. If someone says something that makes you feel uncomfortable, walk away. Don't waste your time donning a pink knit hat and getting a bunch of other women together for "empowerment" and screaming that you need a law so that they can never say it again.

In other words, stop giving away your power by chasing after emotionally-fed "empowerment".

---

Here are some of the threads where you can read Tawni's enlightening engagement. I should thank her; I got quite a few chuckles out of her predictable responses.

https://twitter.com/julesvern97/status/868582108863889409
https://twitter.com/julesvern97/status/868559362519965698
https://twitter.com/TheTawniest/status/868484555623112704
https://twitter.com/julesvern97/status/868585002702950402
https://twitter.com/julesvern97/status/868585398662033410
https://twitter.com/julesvern97/status/868585884874158080
https://twitter.com/TheTawniest/status/868586897802526720

5.24.2017

Not every day.

So this might be heaven, telling the dental hygienist that you don't floss every day, telling the chiropractor that you don't do the three pages of stretches every day or the neck roll every other day, telling the dietitian that you don't start every day with warm lemon water and take a pro-biotic and a fish oil pill, telling your doctor that you don't get vigorous exercise every day...

...the day is so full of ways I should be taking care of my physical body for optimal health that I fear I'm going to live quite long in this joyless state of concerned maintenance. Ever step or non-step, ever fork of food or skipped meal, every moment seated or walking -- they all come with a price tag of pride or guilt. There is no agnostic eating or moving these days; it's all quite religious in one form or another.

It is hard to be still and know that He is God, to rest in his presence, to meditate on His word, when my FitBit keeps sending me cheerful reminders on my wrist that it's time to move again if I want to hit my step goal for the day.

In the middle of reading my Bible I find myself stretching my leg so I don't remain motionless too long, or getting up for a glass of water because I haven't had enough today.

Our physical bodies matter. This isn't about Gnosticism, or some way of pretending that I can do what I want with my body and it has no effect on the spirit, that the sins of the body are acceptable in the service of my emotional needs. When I read Colossians 1:22 and see that Jesus' physical body mattered, I have to acknowledge that mine does, too.

But no, I don't do all those things daily, and I wish to not fall into bed weary, tabulating all of the health failures I stacked up during the day.

5.09.2017

Revisited: The undeniable facts about the safety of Diet Coke.

On June 5, 2013, I published a blog post to my then WordPress blog about Diet Coke. It was sort of about Diet Coke, but more about the food police. The post sat there with a few comments from my regulars until the July 4th weekend, when it exploded and went viral and got about a half million or more hits.

I could talk a lot about being on the receiving end of virality (it's not so great), and maybe someday I will, but in general the responses I received (in the comments section of the post and via social media) tended to break out like this:

  • 65% "Thank you thank you, I get so tired of the food police."
  • 25% "I can't believe how ignorant you are, let me school you in all of the unhealthy things you shouldn't be consuming."
  • 5% "You must work for Coca Cola."
  • 3% "Ha ha you're an idiot."
  • 2% "Check out my sex toys website" (for reals) or some variant of "I have a great business opportunity that you can make hundreds of thousands a year"

I got about 500 comments on the blog before I turned the comments off. I got nearly 1000 new followers on Twitter (I went and removed them back down to a more manageable 100 or so). I got requests from radio stations on the east coast to take part in their talk show because the post was getting so much buzz and they thought it was a hot topic. I didn't respond. But I kid you not, I still get emails from people telling me how much they loved my Diet Coke post and wondering where they could go back and read it.

The post disappeared (and all its stats) when I pulled down my website a few years back. Let me reassure you that the frustration that prompted it still periodically raises its head, but for the most part I'd forgotten about it. A couple of incidents in recent weeks, both in person and online, prompted a conversation with a friend about how people now seem to not only feel no shame in approaching people and correcting them about food and nutritional beliefs, but almost feel it is their duty. After four years, the culture has become more insistent on policing the behavior of others, not less.

"You should run that Diet Coke post on your blog again," my friend said, shaking his head after I told him about the most recent such incident I'd seen.

"I don't know. It seems to really set people off."

"You should run it."

"People are religious about their health and food and lifestyle beliefs," I said.

"I think you should publish it again."

So here it is. I'd probably have written it differently now, maybe with a little less edge and sarcasm. Maybe I'll revisit some of the ideas later, because I do think they are important.

----

I sat down at the table with friends, enjoying our get-together at the diner. The waitress took my order for a Diet Coke. She left. A friend spoke up.

“They say that Diet Coke increases your chance of getting diabetes by a factor of seven.”

“I heard people were getting seizures from the aspartame in it.”

“Today the news said a lady died after drinking 10 liters of Coke.”

“That’s nice. Enjoy your glass of city water filled with chemicals like fluoride,” I replied.

Are you kidding me?

Not much for alcohol. Never smoked. Don’t do drugs, and barely take aspirin. I exercise at the gym three times a week. I walk to work briskly every day, which comes to around 3/4 of a mile daily. When I get home, I try to avoid sitting and work at a standing desk. I go for walks when weather allows. I don’t eat much red meat at all, mainly poultry if any. I drink plenty of water, and often it is in the form of green, white, or herbal teas. I don’t drink coffee. In other words, I’m not health-obsessed, but I do alright.

My two vices?

An occasional Diet Coke as a treat a couple of times a week (and not even full cans!) and chocolate.

There are two important facts about life:

  1. I am going to die.
  2. You are going to die.

Let’s just be honest: people who point out the inadequacies in my eating and health regimen are merely quibbling over the bet they’re placing that I’ll die first. You’re telling me I’m killing myself and it’s my fault. You almost hint that I can take the blame for any physical ailment coming my way. I propose that cellular degeneration and the natural order of things might get some blame, and not just that Snickers I ate yesterday.

Snow White’s poisoned apple is a metaphor for supermarkets.


“Oh, but it’s a quality of life thing.”

The fact that I’m not fixating on the perfect purity of my food and not doing it to those around me means I have a pretty good quality of life.

When I eat a burger, I am thankful I have food, and that I don’t have to go out and gut the cow myself.

As I’m standing in the grocery store, I think of some of the poorest people in Nicaragua I’ve seen living and scrounging for food near the garbage dump. I get a bit upset at the arrogance that says the strawberries or apples or oranges stacked in heaping piles before me are “not good enough” because they are not organic.

I am repulsed by the idolatry that my body is so precious that I must find something more healthy and pure, that these non-organic fruits lack enough nutritional value for the little god that is me.

How does it work, that having a bountiful supply of food before me is seen as the enemy instead of a blessing?

Do I think I’m better than those people in poverty, so I deserve optimal “natural” food? Or, do I think that everyone deserves it, but because not everyone is in a place to access it, rice and corn mash are good enough for their kids but definitely not mine? When you donate food to the food pantry, do you donate the expensive organic carefully-sourced food that you insist is the only acceptable thing to put in your body and that you feed yourself and your family, or do you get the cheapest canned and boxed food at the store?

If your diet requires it, great. If you prefer it, fine. If you think it’s the only way to go, have at it. But don’t lecture me especially while we’re in the process of eating. I shouldn’t have to defend my digestive history.

The fear industry is the strongest industry at work today.


Out of the fear industry, many things have developed. Like being afraid of our food.

It ends up being an us-against-them battle waged against supermarkets, farmers, and anyone not making that gross runny organic yogurt that makes me throw up in my mouth (true story). It says the hell with “everything in moderation.” It implies that moms who let their kids eat Lucky Charms are basically evil beings inserting a Pixie Stix IV in their arm and laughing maniacally.

It creates Perfect Parent Food Guardian whose kids must not have a drop of corn syrup in their body, ever, until they’re 18. No hint of chemical or artificial anything must touch their lips. The child will glow with good health and surely be a better citizen and thinker because no malnourished human in the history of mankind has ever achieved greatness.

Go ahead. Create a different kind of eating disorder which associates food with fear and danger, and disease solely with choices people make so when someone gets sick you can gently suggest they deserved it because they’d eaten Oreos that one time four years ago.

The jogger still dies young of the heart attack. The vegetarian still gets cancer. The butter-eater and wine-drinker and cigar-smoker lives to be 98. You can’t predict.

Typhus wasn’t much fun.


We had a discussion about a similar topic at work, while on break, and a coworker came up with probably the best summation I could say in response to those who are hardcore anti-any kind of modern food, anti-vaccine, back-to-the-pioneer-times ideology: Typhus wasn’t fun.

Here’s a list of other things that aren’t fun:


  • Diptheria
  • Whooping Cough
  • Polio
  • Measles
  • Tetanus
  • Malaria
  • Scurvy
  • E. coli and other gut ripping illnesses
  • Hand-washing clothes and hanging them on the line even in the dead of winter
  • Living on the northern plains without fruits like oranges and bananas (among other delicious foods) technically not being in the “locally sourced” category
  • Living in the "goiter belt" before salt was iodized.
  • Killing a buffalo and using its guts for string, making pemmican, and creating a house out of its hide
  • Starvation
  • Trichinosis
  • Using ice-boxes instead of modern chemical-supported refrigeration
  • Non-electric sewing machines for all of your clothing needs
  • Butcher a pig, cure the meat, make your own lard
  • Chinking your cabin walls with animal dung and mud, and twisting prairie grass for heat because hey, let’s be honest, your home has a lot of toxicity built into it.


It’s easy to decry technology and its evils from your comfortable and healthy perch in the midst of it.

FYI: Honeybees were introduced to North America by Europeans, and tomatoes introduced to Europe by explorers. Do you really wish the Italians hadn’t gotten their hands on tomatoes? I love marinara. I love honey. I’m glad food hasn’t remained locally sourced only. I live on the Northern plains. I would sure miss citrus fruits if I was only allowed to eat the food that grows here naturally.

I don’t know if you’ve ever bothered to talk to someone who’s really old and had to do some of that live-off-the-land stuff, but you ask them if they want to go back to doing things by hand and they, like my grandma told me once when I asked if she missed the “good old days”, are probably going to come out in favor of automatic dishwashers, cake mixes, and Crisco. It wasn’t an alt-lifestyle option, but the only option, and given the chance at modernity, they leapt for it.

It’s called progress, because it is.

Yes, we have some diseases that are a result of the excess of our modern diet low exercise levels — that’s not the argument I’m making here — but the lack of progress had its own diseases and they were really ugly, too, with shortened lifespans overall.

Is it possible that I might make small choices and choose some chemical-free home products and eat more vegetables and try to buy locally and avoid GMO here and there when viable and still dig into a bowl of mac and cheese or douse the bathroom with Febreze when times call for it? That I might enjoy making my own bread but once in awhile, buy a loaf from the store or order a pizza? That having a Diet Coke once in awhile when I go out is a treat? Or is this just an all-or-nothing proposition? It seems that every moment is a lecture moment for the food and health police, whose forgiveness and grace policies are non-existent.

What goes in your head?


Maybe people ought to be more concerned about what they’re allowing in their head, rather than just their mouth. Shall I get after you for what you do and don’t read? Shall I lecture you on the shallow life of pursuing bodily health and not a robust mental existence?

Turn the TV off, unplug the internet, and shut out the voices convincing you that a world of unimaginable plenty isn’t good enough, isn’t healthy enough. Eat the food you have in moderation. The quality of my life, and my health, is fine. Someday it might not be. The same is true for you. Whether I drop over dead tomorrow or live to be 104, I’m not going to enjoy it any more by skipping the Diet Coke or excessive chocolate consumption. Keep your own guilt.

If I’m not in need of a drug-abuse intervention or confined to my bed because I weigh 900 pounds, it’s not necessary to say something about what I should or should not be eating, unless I ask you. Just about anyone eating overtly unhealthily isn’t doing so from a lack of knowledge, but other reasons. You’re not helping with those other reasons, I promise you. You might even be making them very much worse.

Enjoy the food you enjoy. Don’t enforce that on anyone else but yourself, especially when you’re sitting down to eat with them.

5.08.2017

When wind fans the flames in your head.

I don't know if this is the case for anyone else, but there are days when it feels like my head is on fire. It is bursting with so many things.

Ideas.

Things almost forgotten that I'm trying to desperately to remember.

Things I've freshly forgotten that have left just enough of a wake that I know they were there a moment ago.

Things that are hidden but are throwing out peripheral information to hint at what they are without actually revealing themselves.

To do lists.

The long and winding tail of philosophical crises that have stretched for years, unanswered, thoroughly chewed on, not going anywhere.

Information pollution, such as advertisements or social media drama.

Desperate prayers.

Replaying incidents and moments annoyed that I came up with the perfect response an hour after the fact.

And so on.

So all of that is in there, buzzing around like gnats trapped in white noise. My friends have had the patience, on occasion, to wait for me to finish frantic scribbling in the notebook I carry with me before we can get on with our social day out. My phone is filled with random audio recordings that I made while driving that, at the time I recorded them, probably made sense but since there seems to be a problem with the translator between my head and my mouth, the jerking mutterings that are recorded don't at all resemble the elegant thought I tried to capture. The notebook and the recording are the way I try to free up space and lessen the fire in my head.

Some days, just driving to and from work is frenetic.

If you were to ask me which of the things in my head bother me the most, I would say it is the years-long philosophical debates that have bounced around in my head to no resolution. There are some troubling ones in there, deep spiritual questions that have no answer (yet).

"Just talk to someone, Julie!" says Happy Joe Simpleton.

Imagine you've been hiking for years. You've traveled through forest and across plateau, journeying a long way from the place you started. Most of the time you're alone in your hike, but on occasion you come across people at various way stops. You connect with them at the time and place, but they do not understand the ground you've covered, nor do they understand the context of the hike that stems from the place you started.

For me to talk to someone about this hike I've been on for decades, I have to start at the beginning. I have to tell them about the place I started, how the hike became necessary, and then I have to tell them about every crook and bend and backtrack and mountain that I've encountered on the hike.

That's a heck of a lot of backstory, and I don't trust my mouth to get it right.

The beauty of having someone close to you for great swaths of your life is that they at least understand great swaths of the hike. You only have to say a few words and they know. They might not have been there at the very start, but at least they were there for a while.

But here's the beauty of God: He knows. He knows it all, from start to finish. I don't even know the finish. He made the hike, he directed the pathway.

Lest you think I'm copping out with a Sunday School answer, remember that I'm telling you the actual walk isn't easy and that there is genuine solace in another physical person who travels with you and that sometimes, during the hike, you want some audible answers to important questions and all you hear is the wind bouncing overhead in the trees and at the time you think that's super frustrating but you forget about time.

Time (another one of those things that twist about in my head as I try to understand it) stretches out answers, like a tape recording slowed down and made unintelligible. Once I'm past a time, or someday, when I am no longer trapped in it, I can speed up, fast forward, and rewind. There was the answer all along, drawling along in the wind of the hike, not decipherable until later.

But for now, it's wind and there are days when it seems to fan the fire in my head.