337: Why we feel miserable under lockdown

2020-05-09

I discuss the connection between perceiving lack of variety in food made from scratch and feeling miserable and bored under lockdown, despite having access to all the world's art, music, literature, and culture ever recorded and more material abundance than kings only a few generations ago, despite our material abundance being only slightly less than a few months ago. Here are the notes I read from for this episode: Yesterday recorded episode with Rob and my stepfather Talked about food variety, said mine lacked variety Only tried three times People always see theirs as varied, others as not People say I don't like Chinese or Indian, billions, huge variety I see McDonald's and Taco Bell as same Count Chocula versus Froot Loops I made something with broccoli versus zucchini or cauliflower as different I see industrial food as the salt, sugar, fat, convenience treatment Add sugar versus add salt, people see as different, but to me corn flakes and Fritos are basically the same Supermarket carries same things year-round. Seems like variety because at any given moment lots of choices But once the prime pleasure becomes salt, sugar, fat, convenience, same to me. Because there's the raw flavor, which can differ, but we've reduced that variety to monocrops so only a few varieties of mango here, despite abundance in nature, and zero radishes for most people To me variety among apples is huge, which I cherish German beer law -> abundance and just local ingredients is huge compared to their four People lived since dawn of our species on local ingredients When did we become so entitled that we should get anything we want whenever, wherever? What's so bad about not having berries every damn day? A farmer nearby wants to provide food for me and you Instead a large part of your money goes to Saudi Arabia for fuel, Madison Avenue for advertising, Wall Street for finance, and Venezuela for farmer now not feeding their people So my parents, who have lived here for over a decade, say there's nothing available local this time of year It's like someone who played loud music their whole lives to deaf saying there's no bird songs The human aspect is important to me. I would probably eat meat, which until just before this time of year would be our option, and we'd cherish it, not take it for granted and ship from all over the world Then treat with salt, sugar, fat, convenience So no, I don't consider Filet-o-Fish as different than a burger, nor Taco Bell as different from McDonald's, Olive Garden, etc They all treat the raw ingredients as commodities. I want to treat them as a painter treats paints on a palette or a musician treats notes on a scale. A piano has 88 keys. A trumpet three valves. No variety? Let's get to bigger picture. I've also come to see our educational system as equally tone deaf Some will see history as completely different subject than economics Or even humanities as different than science Even there, most humanities people will see math and physics similar Most science will see history and philosophy as similar To me, if they all teach the same skills of reading, listening, taking notes, analyzing how they teach to analyze, but not to learn their own values and create own skills, teaching the same compliance That most Americans or people in East and West, when confronted with new problem, can't help Mandela, in prison 27 years, lived more free in 10x10 foot cell with forced labor than people today. How do I know? Because he created his happiness despite few raw ingredients, yet people today with much more comfort, convenience, and variety feel depressed and bored. I learn from Thoreau, who lived off the land. Read Walden and Civil Disobedience. People today miss the point by saying he interacted with people. He found that being put in jail for not paying taxes to avoid supporting slavery and an unjust war made him more free. People who emerge from our educational system learn dependence, not independence. Rob complains about system and as best I can tell spends his time in solitude trying to find how someone is causing his problems rather than appreciating nature that no matter how we try to dominate it, will never go away nor be weaker than us. With zero evidence constructs a world view that Chinese labs were trying to hurt him. Mandela learned to relate with and help the people imprisoning him, realizing the problem wasn't the people, but the system People make themselves depressed, despondent, angry, and such unable to apply their compliance and analysis to understand a situation beyond what school taught. Victor Frankl lived a life of more happiness and bliss in Auschwitz, or Jean-Dominique Bauby, the guy from The Diving Bell and the Butterfly who suffured a stroke that led to him devoid of voluntary control of any muscles except his left eyelid and who wrote a book that became a bestseller and a movie that won awards, He did it by connecting with the people around him. They lived more variety and happiness than people today who want to riot when they only have access to all the food in the world, all the world's knowledge, video to anyone and everyone, all the art, music, literature, movies, ever recorded As well as the tools for themselves to recreate those works or even make their own So go ahead and call my bowl of cereal one day with a bartlett pear and the next with an anjou pear lacking variety while your Wheaties different than your Spaghetti-os, which I see as the same While you complain, plan to riot against people suggesting you live with slightly less material abundance than yesterday, by your own prideful boasting greater than kings of only a few generations ago, and sink into depression and rage Miss out on seeing that the same process happens with travel as with food. Just as they industrialize food to produce what superficially looks like variety but beneath the surface is monotony, people's actual experience of Italy versus China have become as different as different sections of Disney World, while they can't see the nuance between going on a bike camping trip versus spending a week to learn bike mechanics. Or they can't see that spending a week on a meditation retreat might change their lives more, despite probably less emissions, than crossing another item off a bucket list that is actually less photogenic than the million pictures on the net, that they degrade by going and also degrade where they came from. Or even as my stepfather describes meeting the people or the land in faraway places, while missing out that his very own childhood created the same results by going places on foot, miss out that the variety and diversity of people is everywhere. My greatest recent vacation was the day, just to see if I could, I got on my rowing machine and rowed a marathon---that is 26.2 miles. You would say I didn't leave my apartment and with disdain say I missed seeing Macchu Piccu or some other thing beyond my physical horizon, while I found myself, physically, emotionally, and made myself more able, more creative, less needy, physically, emotionally, intellectually. It wasn't just a day but a journey, since a month earlier I had rowed half a marathon for the first time, that feat a couple months after seeing people do it during the crossfit games, which I found researching a guest on my show who won the crossfit games after winning a gold medal in the Olympics, whom I met from another guest on the podcast from several months earlier who had won the Americas Cup, whom I met from learning to sail, which I learned to cross the Atlantic because I challenged myself not to pollute by not flying. While most Americans seem unable to put two and two together to see the opportunity to create the joy, happiness, bliss, community, and connection that someone the Nazis tortured, that Apartheid tortured, and whose stroke deprived of voluntary control created. You think they're dead. Some of you probably think they're dead white males, as one entitled student described my heroes including Mandela, MLK, and Gandhi. I find them more alive than probably you find alive most of your Facebook connections including possibly your spouse, as Rob tells me many people are looking to divorce as they meet their partners more. So go help bankrupt your local farmers, saying they can't provide you with food in the winter and help support despotic regimes and a system making more de3spotic regimes, lying to yourself that you aren't contributing to it And lament that after the vaccine everything will return to normal despite connecting with people around you more, as the guy I mentioned to Rob that my step-father and I talked to yesterday told of finally learning that his son was languishing in school, but flourished when his own father actually spent time with him. His father said he wouldn't go back to the old way. He could have learned about his son any time. Why didn't he? He was busy. He had time for things not his son but not his son. Compliance-based education may have resulted in a child getting an A, but not knowing his father, or rather knowing his father doesn't have time for him but does put him in a place that bores him. Teaching below him more likely led to him getting a low grade, not high, less factual understanding which nobody cares about anyway, and shoved down learning experientially value, meaning, and purpose, connection, family, ability, creativity, initiative, and what makes life abundant. Now he has less, but he's finding more, he's creating more. He says, as you have the capacity to, that he would have changed earlier, had he known. Reverting back to before means you are passively accepting the compliance and impotence that supports those regimes, keeps you stupid however vaunted your degrees and able to regurgitate information but not tell the difference between radish varieties to where you call salads with two different varieties lacking variety And you would have reacted as I would on mentioning putting pears in cereal, that I won't because pears' flavors are so nuanced and delicate that I would rather eat my oats plain in order to savor the pears Except when they're in peak season and so abundant and cheap that I feel richer than a king when I indulge in them, appreciating the abundance of nature, not the scarcity of soul in your supermarkets and convenience restaurants, however crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and your prepared restaurant meals full of pleasure bereft of feeling. Now watch your farmer sell his land and pay some Saudi prince while you make yourself powerless to love and spend time with your child when restrictions decrease and you can do what you want. Go complain and use your compliant, entitled dependence to turn greater material abundance and prosperity into emptiness of meaning and purpose and feel superior to my walking four miles to meet a guy in person who can tell me where my local farmers will sell me a rutabaga you wouldn't deign to eat as it lacks variety, while my life overflows with abundance of meaning, purpose, sensory delight, and even amid this tirade love. I have to admit as I write and speak the word love that I'm hit with humility, what little I have, that my poor rhetoric and reflection have led to a tone accusatory and condescending. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm fooling myself. But I'm sharing not to put down but to invite you to try, not sample or visit, but sincerely, authentically, and genuinely try to live this way for a while. Maybe start with food. For a week or two go for nothing packaged, no added salt, sugar, fat, nothing made extra convenient. Cook everything from scratch, maybe more than a week or two, until you master it, which may take months and will make you as sore as someone using muscles for the first time in their lives, but when strengthened will enable you to achieve more than ever. I predict you'll wish you had earlier, that you'll connect with your world, community, and family more than you thought possible, that you'll open yourself to learning, growing, and connecting. If after you master local foods you return to Cracker Barrel, please teach me why, because I'll have something to learn from you. I predict instead you'll want to share what you've learned with others, and you'll be able to do the greatest thing anyone can about our environmental problems, greater than not flying, greater than avoiding packaging, greatest of all: you can lead others---people, communities, corporations, and governments -- to love, honor, and steward nature, which includes us.

333: A racist with a heart of gold is still a racist

2020-04-29

This pandemic continues to reveal new aspects of relationships—or rather spending time with people does. I think we used to spend more time with people, not mediated by the internet or distracted by screens and other powered things. I shared a new analogy in my conversation with my mom that several people liked. I found that my stewardship contrasting with my mom and step-father's wanting to live like they always have reminded me of the 70s television show All in the Family. For those who don't remember it, the show garnered huge audiences and stellar reviews. From Wikipedia: All in the Family is an American television series that ran for nine seasons, from 1971 to 1979. The show revolves around the life of a working-class father and his family. It broke ground on issues previously considered unsuitable for a U.S. network television comedy, such as racism, antisemitism, infidelity, homosexuality, women's liberation, rape, religion, miscarriages, abortion, breast cancer, the Vietnam War, menopause, and impotence [note not the environment]. Through these controversial issues, the series became one of television's most influential comedies, bringing dramatic moments and realistic, topical conflicts. All in the Family is often regarded in the US as one of the greatest television series in history. Following a lackluster first season, it became the most watched show in the US during summer reruns and ranked number one in the ratings from 1971 to 1976. It became the first series to top the ratings for five consecutive years. One episode was ranked number 13 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. TV Guide ranked it as the number four comedy. Bravo named Archie Bunker TV's greatest character of all time. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked it the fourth-best written TV series ever. Characters: Archie Bunker: Frequently called a "lovable bigot", Archie was an assertively prejudiced blue-collar worker. A World War II veteran, Archie longs for better times when people sharing his viewpoint were in charge, as evidenced by the nostalgic theme song "Those Were the Days". Despite his bigotry, he is portrayed as loving and decent, a man simply struggling to adapt to a constantly changing world, rather than motivated by hateful racism or prejudice. His ignorance and stubbornness seem to cause his malapropism-filled arguments to self-destruct His foil was Michael "Meathead" Stivic: Gloria's Polish-American hippie husband is part of the counterculture of the 1960s. While good-hearted and well-meaning, he constantly spars with Archie and is equally stubborn, although his moral views are generally presented as being more ethical and his logic somewhat sounder. He is the most educated person in the household, which gives him a self-assured arrogance. He has intellectual belief in progressive social values. So a major part of America saw the clash between a racist, sexist, bigot and an intellectual, more considered egalitarian. It worked in part because the two lived in a house together, leading America to see the values of two generations clash. Looking back and even in that time, I think people recognized that Archie's views were unfair. He was racist and sexist, but you couldn't blame him. He was living values that made sense to him his whole life. A wife lived at home. He grew up in a white neighborhood. He fought to defend these ways and live in peace. Now these young people were undermining that peace. Why couldn't everyone just live how they used to when life worked? Those were the days. Listen to the episode for the rest.

332: How leaders choose better

2020-04-26

Leadership means choosing and deciding for yourself and for others. To lead effectively, it helps to know how you choose and what happens in your heart and mind when you choose---that is, how your intellect and emotions interact in the decision-making process. This episode refines and adds an element to a model by a guest of this podcast, Jonathan Haidt, for how we decide. I describe his model---you may know it, about the rider on the elephant, which contrasts with a common model of a charioteer with horses. Then I describe how our world differs from the world where his model applies. His model still works as long as we're in a benign environment. My model adds a different part of our minds from emotion and intellect. We live in a world where other people try to motivate us to do what they want, not always to help us. People get us to associate sugar-water with happiness or jeans with sex. They actively do it. The elephant isn't choosing among benign options as it did in our ancestors' world, little constructed by humans. I present a model where our emotions are like an ox with a ring through its nose with people around it tugging at the ring. That's the start of the model. I describe it more in the audio.

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