Food Matters

Hippocrates was a physician in ancient Greece, and is one of the fathers of western medicine. He suggested that our feelings rise from our brains (and not various other intestines as suggested by for instance Aristotle, and later on, the bible), and also supposedly said that food should be our medicine.

We need to be careful in our interpretation here, as it’s likely that we will interpret this statement in a different way than he intended. However, it’s relatively safe to deduce that he believed that nature can, and does, provide everything our bodies need to stay healthy. This should not be interpreted as a suggestion to abandon health systems; the progress we have made in the two millennia that has passed since Hippocrates utterance is certainly a positive thing, but it does not change the fact that many people are suffering from a plethora of ailments. Some of these simply come about as a result of us living longer, while others are a result of how we choose to live. Very central to this is the environment in which we are situated in, both physical and mental. These interact with each other; our physical surroundings (which includes the foods we consume) affect our mental state, and the latter influences our physical behavior, and choices.

It can be argued that we have little autonomy when it comes to options that relate to lifestyle and health (the system was in place before I was, I was raised in such and such a way, etc.), but those who provide services are very much responsive to the demands of the market. After all, if no-one bought a certain product or service, the provider would not be supplied with any means to continue their business. Thus, we do have an impact, and this is generally accepted. The second argument, and this is more complicated as it involves subjective values, is whether there is a general way in which we ought to conduct our lives – after all, you have individual rights, and freedom. All of a sudden autonomy is very much present, and important. This is the point that I think of as having “zoomed in so far that one has zoomed out”. It means that we are social creatures living in communities – be it a student dorm or the planet as a whole – and, the things that we value in life are many times products of the collaboration between parties and persons. Again, what one person does, matters. What is truly in favor for you is in favor for your surroundings, and what is in favor for your surroundings is ultimately in favor for you – mental/physical, personal/environmental.

This is such an all-encompassing topic that it’s almost impossible not to get lost in the spectrum, but I’d like to get back to the relationship between ourselves and the health system. I find, that we’ve become too dependent on it. We go to the doctor for maladies that are entirely negligible, and in the cases where we actually need treatment we could have easily prevented becoming ill in the first place. What I’m trying to say is, that the health system can be much more effective and progressive, if we (as in everyone) take individual responsibility for our own (and thus other peoples, beings, and the environments) well-being.

The modernization of the world has caused major upheavals in how we manage and spend our time; we can, in many cases, get straight to the end, without doing the work. But this is building castles made of sand, and we pay double in the end. The balance between using and abusing is extremely delicate, and this project is part of my own search for where that line is drawn. In all likelihood, there is no one line, just as there is no one god or one road to contentment. But the methods and actions involved need not be in opposition towards each other, they cannot be, if we are to accomodate everyone (everything).

The basic gist of this project is to explore what our physical (nutritional) needs are, and how we can supply ourselves with them in a way that leaves us content and at the same time does not trump on what other (people, beings, natural systems) need to do the same. Hippocrates statement (and the fact that we and the world have come into existence as a working system) says that the means needed to reach that end, are resources that are inherently found in nature – and just as we can use the health system to treat more important things than obesity and cardiovascular diseases, we can use industrialization, internationalization, liberalization, and so on and so forth, to do better things than produce and promote goods and services that serve no purpose other than to generate capital for a small group of people by appealing to our evolved preferences for fatty, salty, and sweet foods.

To be continued.

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