Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Health Mania

Now there can be no arguing that many Americans are not healthy but I cannot say that I have ever met with a group of people more concerned about their health. Obsessed I believe could be a better term. I am bombarded at the store on how to better increase my sex drive by eating chocolate, or increasing my life span for 5 years if I decide to run in place thirty minutes a day, to even drink booze (the more, unfortunately, is not better according to the modern incantations). What is left unsaid is that health, by itself, whether we attain it or not, is good.

It is this the root of this oddity that we are so obsessed with health and not attain it that is agitating me. A reasonable examination of what this premise reveals shows that it does not hold up. The gross example being Pol Pot was healthy until his dotage and it is inarguable, I think, to say that it would have been better if he was not so healthy. Oh we can go into the matrix of identifying what causes what but up to a 3rd of the Cambodian population was killed. Fuck any intellectualizing of that. So why is it that we are trying so hard to identify it as good while not doing very well in attaining it?

It lay in the desolation that has become the meaning drive of Americans. We gave up our transcendence for a 4 bedroom home and all that that means. We gave up the practice for transcendence for the practice of material comfort; happiness lost out to pleasure. If we identify the mid to late fifties to the mid sixties or so as the halcyon days of economic activity we find the subsequent following years as a tottering tower of illusions. We reached our Elysian fields and found that they were wanting. We found the larger and larger homes but strangely they came with more and more anti-depressants and substance abuse. Erich Fromm points this out in his book The Sane Society where he has this chart that shows some of the richest countries as being the most melancholy (he identifies this by suicide and substance abuse demographics). Yes, even the liberal bastions of hope, the Nordic countries, fare poorly in his measures as they rank very high on this list of the blues.

Once we, as culture (sorta), climbed that alternative ladder that started with our decision to use material gain as our goal, we found a desert of existence. We peeked over the last barrier and saw that there was nothing stretched out except a dessicated world. The meaning dried out of and left to wither like some sort of once wet rag strangled and left to burn. We have come so far down this pathway that it is hard to destroy it and start anew. Or even to build toward a different trajectory. All we have is willful ignorance, if we are too scared to jump, or rebuild, we turn from the truth that we have found and go down the same ladder. Then we pretend that we are climbing a new ladder and refuse to look over the final barrier. We fall in love with the act of agitated motion, in my mind’s eye it is very similar to the running these health focused individuals do on a treadmill, or a track, or on their memorized routes; an act of locomotion that has been elevated to a reason unto itself. I see this as the reason that I have experience many middle to upper middle class children identifying and acting out the struggles of poverty e.g. gangs. I have experienced them shooting each other, speaking as they do, expressing themselves in these manners. It seems that they have chosen to take on the actions/reactions of those lower on the ladder in order to be further from the awful truth this pathway leads. If there is no transcendence then there is only pointless toil which really was the punishment for Sisyphus. If the hill and the rock were new to him each time and he thought that it was not pointless then I could see his punishment as, at the least, pleasure inducing as he would have, at least, a material meaning to attack. But once the cat is out of the bag there is no going back. We have reached that stage. We are only now sad but skilled sacks of shit trying to forget what we saw. We are Sysyphus with the knowledge of the futility of our work but with such attachment and desire (which must be cultivated in the material drive) that we fear to let the silly action die and seek another more fulfilling one.

Healthy for what? I asked a woman I was speaking to. Perhaps a bit too roughly. She was talking about jogging.


“Healthy for what? Even in a very basic material understanding, in an exchange mentality, we are born into debt-another suffered for us to be born, the earth groans under the demands to keep us (a gluttonous American) in the life we deem necessary, and what do we give back? Nothing? Healthy for what?”

“Well it isn’t just cost. There is a benefit even to an American’s life.”

“Of course, and that is the question one must ask, what is this benefit. What can we give? Who will we serve? Why do you want to be health?”

“I guess some would be scared to explore that because they are scared that they will see it is hopeless.”

“Do not mistake pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is body oriented and we have already elevated that to the purpose instead of medicine that keep us sane enough to try happiness. Happiness is mind focused and requires that one suffer. Just in the small sense of learning math, lets say, one cannot learn without frustration and suffering. It is not necessarily bad to suffer, just ask any good mother.

One must be willing to risk hopelessness in order to gain happiness and meaning. Its just that we have sacrificed so much for pleasure that we haven’t practiced sacrificing the goal of that sacrifice e.g. pleasure.

And, really, if we examine it, the leap is not that great. The risk is not that great. There is meaning to be had in even the mundane relationships we have. Biased Love is the root of unbiased love. Most if not all of us have biased love. Extend it outward by using your reasoning, logic, what separates, truly, those we biasedly love and do not...not much.”

“You seem angry.”

“The unnecessary suffering of humans bothers me especially when I am convinced it is an error that lay at the heart of it. If it was something that seem inevitable I would bear it and grin, and take my pleasure where I could find it. But it is not this way.”

“Im going to finish my jog now.”

She said and sauntered off. I hoped that she would find what she was being healthy for, to know that we are in debt, and that knowing this is a key to happiness.