By Kim Cooper | July 18, 2012
Once upon a time we find our brave hero, Prince Charming, saving his fair damsel from the forces of chaos and attempting to carry her away to the privileged life of her dreams …
One leg into their journey, alas, chaos has enchanted the forest and our once brave prince has now lost his way.
Unless the prince admits his predicament and our maiden realises that her’s is the challenge to lead the pair back to safety, the wilderness they are now lost in will soon make way for dry desert, filled with loneliness and loss of all hope…
How we got lost
It took human beings thousands of years to develop traditions and rituals adapted to their local environment, to best produce and protect physical, emotional and mental health.
For instance when Christopher Columbus first introduced corn to Spain and Europe from the Americas, he failed to bring along with it the preparation process of nixtamalization. This process of soaking the corn overnight in water filled limestone containers made nutrients in the corn bioavailable. Nixtamalization was vital to making the grain suitable as a dietary staple.
The result was catastrophic. Widespread consumption of corn that had not undergone this process produced a deficiency known as Pellegra, causing dementia, dermatitis and diarrhea and a very slow and agonizing death. When the cultivation of corn was introduced to the Southern states of the US the Pellegra epidemic spread with it, spanning 4 decades with 3 million cases and 100,000 deaths. Pellegra remained such a scourge in Europe that it has even been cited as the cause of the vampire legends in that part of the world.
Vitamin B deficiency is a still a big problem and even today in western society is a very probable cause of our poor mental health.
Throughout the ages nearly every culture had traditions of fermenting food making beer or staple dishes such as sauerkraut, kim chi, miso, fermented cod livers or pickled fish. These foods are all good sources of B vitamins (and other nutrients) that would otherwise be lacking in these cultures diets. The word culture itself may have been derived from the practice of ‘culturing’ food. These traditional dishes were not only eaten for their flavor, but for the vitality and good health they produced, and to prevent the torment caused by deficiencies in these nutrients. The practice of growing and preparing food in these traditional ways prevented these populations from wandering off into ‘the wilderness’ of sickness and despair caused by nutritional deficiencies.
In our modern culture food is consumed primarily for its taste and easy availability while pasteurization and irradiation processes kill vital live cultures and nutrients whose presence in the traditional recipes were the whole point of producing the food.
So again we have found ourselves lost in the wilderness with ‘deficiency vampires’ perhaps sneaking up on us unawares.
But this story is not just about Pellegra. With so many people displaced by war and political unrest and with big corporations taking over our food production and influencing our lifestyle choices, many of our life enhancing cultural traditions are being lost.
One size doesn’t fit all
Examples of this are countless and include people whose racial origin and skin color make them unsuitable for their current line of work.
Being of Irish heritage with fair skin that burns easily I would be most ill suited to work in the sun in Australia for many hours of the day. On the other hand I worry about the beautiful black Somalians now moving to our area and presumably into indoor work. How will they get enough sunshine and vitamin D to flourish, in this their new home? Likewise vitamin D deficiency is now being recognised as a big problem for African Americans, particularly in the northern states of the US.
And much as we all love the romance of the Mediterranean diet of red wine, pasta, salad, bread and meat – for many people not from that part of the world, wine is not something they should drink.
The percentage of alcoholism in the population of France, Italy and Greece (who have consumed wine for thousands of years) is much lower than other populations who have not developed this same tolerance. But regardless, a plate of pasta with a glass of red wine is now promoted to people right around the world as a normal and even health promoting meal.
What are we learning from the messages we see everyday?
Likewise rites and passages of initiation into man and womanhood have been lost, while everyday on the TV we see advertising and programs encouraging immature behavior, rather than men and women being guided to become responsible members of their family and community.
Fashionable ‘lifestyle options’, promoted nearly everywhere we turn, often encourage poor health and mental health choices.
Pornography is pushed on men at every turn, yet the book The Brain That Changes Itself describes how pornography literally changes the wiring in men’s brain causing impotence (with all the accompanying anxiety and destruction of family relationships) with decreased sexual pleasure and emotional attachment with their partners. This affects themselves and their whole family as much as it affects their spouse.
Meanwhile women, many of whom still aspire to motherhood and homemaking are now encouraged to study for high powered careers, while learning homemaking skills in any serious capacity is usually not even suggested as an option for girls at school.
And the list goes on …
Women are being conned by the consumer system that we can live like royalty having every need taken care of by servants who vie for our attention (business) – when royalty we are not. What little girl these days is not encouraged in the idea that she is a princess? But who will these young girls’ princes be when the young boys’ role models are all business tycoons, gangsters and pimps?
In this charade of women as royal princesses – their royal servants have been replaced by corporate and public servants who, only weeks after we deliver our babies, stand waiting for us to let them take over their care.
But is this what is best for our children and family life? Do strangers really care about our kids more than we do? Can childcare and TV really replace the attachment and education that a child’s real parents would normally provide?
Send me a hero
So we eat too much but remain malnourished and starving. Men are seduced day and night by impersonal sexual images which in the end leave them impotent and all alone. Meanwhile women are conned (by advertising) that we are royal, yet expected to spend every waking hour slaving or spending, while our partners and children have been taken from us and in reality we too have been left all on our own.
Is it any wonder that we feel vulnerable and lost in this wilderness of our modern life?
Left in this condition it is natural we should want our partner to ‘save us’ and be confident and strong in leading the way to emotional security and a better life.
But does our partner really have any idea about how to lead us out of this wilderness? Do they really know what daily habits, customs and traditions are needed for our health and emotional stability?
My guess is that they do not.
A human lost in this wilderness is bound by layers of emotion; worry and anxiety on the outside, fueled by feelings of unworthiness just beneath. A layer deeper we then find anger, with its partner, fear, under it and giving it all of its steam. And then at our very core, hiding on its own, we will find (if we are brave enough to look) the shameful wound that all these other layers try to protect: our deep seated feelings of personal inadequacy.
And covering all of this, like icing on a big emotional cake, our ego or false pride says to us; “I’ve got it all sorted out (if it wasn’t for ——- messing things up for me, or if I could just get time to get —– sorted out), there is nothing I need to change, everyone just needs to stop wrecking my plans, none of this mess is my fault, just look how much better I AM than THAT PERSON over there!”
So even worse than being hopelessly lost, is that we cannot even admit this fact to ourselves.
Watch out for these words
So as hard as it may be to accept it when your partner tells you they are scared and don’t know what to do – this is probably the closest to their inner truth you are ever going to get.
If they are off track in their life, this moment is actually the point of truth you need to wait for…
But what to do when this moment arrives?
Will you jump in and blame or judge?
Will you try and force them into therapy?
Will you lecture and try and become the ‘foreman’ of their life?
If so and you are insensitive to your partner’s feelings of self worth and self respect — their walls of defensiveness will be likely to come right back up.
Do you know what is best for yourself and your family, without becoming lost in the wilderness of fashion, ego and a society that has lost its way?
Are you wanting a life that looks impressive to others, or do you take time considering and planning what steps you will take and responses you will make — putting new habits in place based on principles of integrity and good health?
Because your daily habits need to be about more than just food and exercise. How you greet your partner, how you build connection and rapport and where to lead and how to respond are all areas that need healthy habits in place as well.
Do you know how to take the lead with wisdom when your partner is feeling lost?
Because only then will you be able to say it’s okay and with love and patience take their hand and one small step at a time guide them gently to a happier and more loving way of life.
Because the hero in this story needs to be you …
Lost and tired, the prince at last climbed down from his horse and admitted his fear and defeat. Patiently she listened and then gently touched his hair.
“Come now I will stand by you”, she said softly but with strength and kindness in her voice.
She then took the prince and led him to a nearby stream where they each knelt to drink. When their thirst was quenched she encouraged him to stay silent and let his breathing settle. She then prepared a small meal which included wild fungus, young leaf tendrils and other strange ingredients she combined from an ancient recipe she had learned from a local wise woman – and with their energy and spirit restored – side by side the young couple began tracing their long journey home.
Note: Steve and I just got back from a weekend away that was one of the most enjoyable in my life. We took most of our own food, stayed in a beautiful old hotel (we got onto a great special on a room) and did very little except meet with family both days for breakfast (at the hotel), visit a beautiful old church and walk through Melbourne’s magnificent parks. We also spent a little time lying on our backs on the grass looking at the trees and clouds. Our holiday cost very little, but in my eyes brought heaven just that much closer to earth.
Some steps on the journey to health …