Are we fat enough yet?
They say if you want to know what's going on in your mind, look at your garage. The garage is the mind. Or at least the unconscious mind, which, like an iceberg, keeps 90 percent of its mass out of sight.
Putting off the inevitable cleanup can take months, years &
and makes you open the garage door with increasing dread and disgust for oneself as a person. How can I be a loveable person with a garage like this? So, I have to wait till the gf is out of town and I have a cold and am good for nothing else, then I turn off that part of the mind that dreads this loathsome Stygian task.
It takes two days. It's filthy. But the surrender is good. You have to anesthetize the ego (I'm above this! This can't be MY garage!) and most of the conscious mind. To accompany the labor, I put on a CD someone gave me three years ago and I've been putting off listening to that, too. It's edgey Lou Reed, his "Magic and Loss," which I also presumed was Stygian (meaning, from the river Styx, meaning hellish).
"I want some magic to sweep me away," he sings. "I'm sick of looking at me.
I hate this painful body that disease has slowly worn away." I realize he's singing about cancer. "Somebody please hear me, my fingers can't hold a coffee cup Inside, I'm young and pretty, too many things unfinished."
Wow. I put down the broom. You don't hear many people sing about this. And the next song, "The Sword of Damocles," is about how "radiation kills both bad and good." Then "Dreamin'," where he closes his eyes and can still see his friend, in the red chair, making jokes, in the final days.
He's cleaning out his "garage." Deep cleaning. After two friends die of cancer. He's not making nice about it. His songs, a journey, are subtitled, ashes, escape, regret, revenge, loss, magic.
I know someone now on that journey. Most of us do. I decided to make a list of all the people I knew well who had died before old age and it was 10 of cancer, seven of vehicle accidents, six of suicide, six of other illness, three of murder, three of drug-alcohol, two of random accidents not in a vehicle &
and most were residents of this valley.
A consciousness teacher once told me all death is suicide, which you can sorta understand, like saying all giving is selfish. There's a certain intention to staying alive and a huge amount of intention to really living.
We Americans devote all our might, will and money to preventing terrorists from killing 3,000 of us again, but we intend, because we love our private transportation, to kill 42,000 of us a year, which is the annual traffic toll, a number that has remained at least this high for decades. That's 14 World Trade Centers every 12 months. That's a lot of family members sitting at home crying and trying to put lives back together for months, years.
The there's French fries, pizza, burgers and tv, which are emerging as the number one killer, not just in the U.S. but across the planet. I'm at the Y doing a story on their very cool Fit Trail, and exercise director John Sousa drags me inside to look at the CDC maps of the U.S. showing numbers of people x percent over normal weight, year by year.
Talk about all death being suicide, man, it starts out 20 years ago with only people 5 and 10 percent overweight, but after a few years, they have to add colors for 15 percent, then 20, then 25 percent over and it spreads, well, like some cancer, which it is. Along with diabetes and heart disease. It's heaviest in the Midwest and South, btw, but Oregon has now firmly weighed in.
"It's natural selection, don't you think?" John turned around, his eyebrows up. You could say that, he laughs. It's self-selection.
I surf a lot of internet news and one day, there's this story about how obesity, at present rates, will overwhelm the health care systems of, not just rich, chow-down U.S., but Africa, Latin America, Asia, all of it. This younger generation, it says, will be the first to be outlived by its parents.
Later, I read New York City is getting ready to outlaw the serving of trans-fat crap, like donuts and French fries. We're going to see the day, can you believe it, when the boys in blue will be out there cuffing people in possession of trans-fat goodies.
It IS overwhelming the health care system now, not soon, and you only have to look at the bills from hospitals, docs and insurers to know it. These costs get spread around the same as the costs from not wearing seatbelts or drunk driving"" and we cracked down on those.
I recently took a look up and down the aisles at Costco, the bastion of bulk and counted them, some 60 percent clearly overweight and a fourth morbidly so. Morbid means disease-causing. And the day will come when other people in line will speak up, "Scuse me! What do you think you're doing with that 40-pound bag of Oreos, chubby?"
Of course, if you go in the Ashland Food Coop, you may see — percent of people obese. They don't sell much, if any trans-fat junk there. You also have a hard time getting a parking space there, any time of day.
So, what's happening here, folks? When a species gets the upper hand and has an oversupply of food, it will overeat, become sedentary, forget how to hunt or forage, become more vulnerable to disease and lose the survival traits which made it the best adapted to its ecological niche. It will have a die-back. Always happens. If the species is really smart, (like us?) it will postpone that date, but the date will eventually come.
So, think about that as we Americans this week pass the 300 million mark (twice our numbers half a century ago) and let's welcome and support the first politician who dares to say the sentence, "I know we all love babies, but there are too many of us and we need to do something about it." You'll notice no one running for office says that. Ever. But the day is coming when we will ask them to say it.
is an Ashland writer and counselor.