Get Rich Slowly linked to a site named "No Impact Man" a week or two ago. I have since become a fascinated, but highly critical reader of the blog. However his latest entry is one that I resonate with deeply.
No Impact Man labels himself as, "a guilty liberal [who] finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut, turns off his power, composts his poop, and while living in New York City generally turns into a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons-loving wife along for the ride."
Well, clearly this is a man with whom I do not see eye-to-eye with on most anything. However, the experiment is a fascinating one. I disagree entirely with his world view, yet we share common ground, it seems.
In his most recent entry he writes:
In my imagination, people used to live like this: you had most of the bare necessities but then every so often a relative managed to get hold of, say, some coffee or some salt and pepper or a guava fruit. That day that it came would be special. These things were called “luxuries” or “delicacies.” If guests came over you’d say, “Hey, you know, cousin John sent us some coffee beans. Shall we have some for a treat?”
This is one of the perspectives on life that I have gained in recent years as a result of closely examining my diet and realizing that it is not possible to live a healthy and satisfying life eating in the way I had been. We in America, and surely throughout the West have been so transformed by instant gratification and abundance that we have fallen into the trap of decadence and over indulgence.
Treats like cakes, cookies, candies, chocolate, pastries, and even sugar itself were not always such integral parts of the human diet. With their abundance in the late 20th century we have integrated them too much into our diets and of course we are fattening up as a result.
There are scenes in westerns (two off the top of my head) in which white cane sugar--the same kind that sits untouched in our kitchens today until used for baking is a rare commodity and itself a treat. I can't help but think this kind of ethic today would result in fitter bodies for us all.
Of course this principle can be extended beyond culinary pursuits, as No Impact Man himself argues. I'm not a Luddite, and perhaps No Impact Man isn't either, but I do believe in technological progress. However, it is not something we should take uncritically. Much has been lost as a result of the way our lives are changed by progress.
In fact while we "progress" much is lost, and we do even regress in many ways. Community is lost when our entertainment is recorded and rebroadcast over multiple mediums such as television, movies, and the Internet. Community is lost when the television is the thing around which the family gathers.
So No Impact Man has made a valid point, one which we need to hear more often in our culture.