Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Waste Not, Want Not

  • This week had me thinking about food quite a bit. (See Prose below for some thoughts on Jane Goodall’s thought-provoking book). How it is mass produced, how it is wasted, how it is a series of whims for some and a desperate need for others. Here are some links in the spirit of making mindful food choices:

    -I missed the news flash and did a double take when I read that Wal-Mart went organic last year. This certainly doesn’t mean all organic, not by a mile, and there are plenty of critics. Still, it’s a hopeful sign that shows the market supports more thoughtful consumerism. If all of those organic Wal-Mart shoppers could start influencing what the giant carries in the “crunchy” aisle, we might begin some real progress.
    -It seems a lot of evolving vegetarians drop fish last (or keep the fish and call themselves pesco-vegetarians). One revelation is that even more “healthful” choices, including fish and veggies, can be rife with contamination (pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, genetic modification). Here’s a link to a pocket-sized guide to fish choices categorized as best, good, and “to avoid” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
    -Jane Goodall’s book is featured on a Web site by the same name. One appeal for me is the pragmatic (vs fanatic) approach by Dr. Goodall. The book does not scream you must be vegetarian, but initially suggests perhaps you want to consider eating less meat (the vegetarian chapter comes later, and doesn’t feel preachy). It doesn’t moan about the end of civilization, but actually suggests things you can do that might help diminish animal abuses and environmental waste. Her home page includes a list of What You Can Do.
    -It’s encouraging to see some thoughtful discussion of food waste by our government. Here’s the EPA’s Waste Not, Want Not page on food recovery (aka avoiding disposal of viable foods).
    - Many of us stock up on nonperishable items that gather dust even as we make new shopping lists. A simple tip I read in a women’s magazine: when money is tight, see how long you can be innovative with your pantry. Pull out that can of beans, that rice, that pasta, those stewed tomatoes, etc, and see what you can create. Simple choices like this, made regularly, have the potential to go beyond your pocketbook, to engender more mindful habits and lessen your personal contributions to wastefulness and its environmental effects.


Tomatoes, Psychosocial Theory, and a Second Chance

I found myself looking up Erik Erikson, a theorist I learned about in psychology class years ago. The way he set up his stages of life, from trust vs mistrust (infancy) through ego integrity vs despair (old age) captured for me how each stage of life carries a crisis, a conflict, a riddle to be solved.

I chuckled in recognition when I looked up my middle age stage: generativity vs stagnation. This means I am supposed to be productive and raising children, as well as thinking about my impact on future generations and the world at large. According to Wikipedia, my central task for this stage is creativity. That’s a relief, as I feel I am always struggling to express my creativity. I was reminded that every day, every work assignment, every parenting decision, every big thought about the environment or political injustices is creative, too. No wonder my writing pen sometimes runs dry.

I had a lot of big thoughts this week, beyond psychosocial theory to God and the afterlife. I rode out two medical tests, which turned out negative. I got to experience, almost literally, the swell of a joyous soundtrack playing just over my head when I found out I was in the clear. Before that moment of relief, all the while observing how melodramatic my life had become, I rethought what was important, and how I would live my life differently if given the chance.

All of that deep contemplation is a piece much larger than this blog will allow, but the book that kept me company as I scheduled my test, waited for it, and finally received results, was Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall. It lent new perspective on how essential it is to be thoughtful about not only what you put into your body but also how your habits of consumption mark the world. It was also a rather sickening confirmation of the waste, thoughtlessness, and greed that drives much of the food economy. In my effort to inch toward simplicity I may also be inching toward vegetarianism. I was reassured to learn that for many, including Dr. Goodall herself, this is a gradual process, as I am challenged by the thought of radically restructuring my diet.

Jane used a great quote that lightened things up for me: It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a home-grown tomato (Lewis Grizzard). The wise guy in me couldn’t resist piping in: Tomatoes, the new Prozac. But this simple remark carries, at first, the memory of succulent fresh tomato sandwiches from my first tomato garden. Then it makes me think about the joy derived from small moments and the satisfaction of small but wise decisions (the decision to stop and make that tomato sandwich, the decision to grow your own or shop organic at the local Farmer’s Market). Another great decision for me this week was the decision to play. I made sure Gavin and I had extra time before school yesterday, and helped him struggle into his snow pants and Power Ranger boots. We scooped up what little snow had accumulated off of his slide, the cars in the driveway and had a long-awaited snowball fight. Great as this moment was, I was far from disappointed to hear that the Groundhog finally predicted an early spring. Punxsutawny Phil (aka the Groundhog) had me thinking about Lyme Farmer’s Market (although more of a summer endeavor) and the absolutely requisite cup of Ashlawn Farm coffee (also organic) that every trip there entails. Perhaps this is the place where my budding vegetarianism will finally blossom.

Generativity vs stagnation: I can think of worse tasks to undertake. This is a good stage to stay in for a while.


At 2/04/2007 6:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thought provoking message. Gently put.


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