Throughout my life as an athlete, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of many winning teams. My earliest memories of triumph are of the four goals I scored in a single game as a 9 year old soccer player. … Continue reading
Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve witnessed some game-changing rulings in the sports world. Just within the 2012 Olympic games we’ve witnessed athletes get disqualified from competition for their tweets, entire teams sent home for “throwing” their matches … Continue reading
The following is my essay submitted to the New York Times for their contest on the ethics of eating meat:
There are few acts more intimate to a person than eating. That which we choose to build our most recent versions of our selves needs to be carefully selected and responsibly cultivated. We must consider, as all civilizations have before ours, not only what our meal will do for our bodies but also how to ensure sustainability of the process for the generations to come. In the end, it all comes down to transferring the harnessed solar energy on your plate in to the powerhouses of our 7 trillion cells.
At this point in the history of the world, humans have been able to run every type of dietary social experiment imaginable. We have managed to draw enough energy from nearly every terrestrial habitat to allow for generations to thrive on every corner of this planet. We not only know how to survive on the natural resources of any given region but we can do it without sacrificing our human desire for gustatory diversity. Modern medicine has confirmed what vegetarian cultures before us have exhibited; that humans do not need to eat meat to survive.
But are we as humans meant only to survive?
All spirituality aside, we are still more than just more highly evolved apes. Whether they are products of man-made constructs or divine inspiration, human beings have exhibited virtues, ideals and abstractions either absent or unarticulated in the rest of the animal kingdom. There certainly is something unique to being a member of the homo sapiens sapiens species.
Enter the carnivore. Anthropologist Leslie Aiello points out that, “You can’t have a large brain and big guts at the same time.” Many scientists like her say that it is our discovery of fire and, consequently, more widespread consumption of meat that served as the evolutionary catalyst to the creation of what we now call a human being. The premise is based on our study of the GI tracts of our vegetarian cousins in the simian family. Gorillas and other mostly-plant-eaters have massive intestinal tracts. This is obviously necessary to breakdown all the tough cellulose in their diet. This means the Gorilla evolved to be able to sustain itself on the ever-present plants around them. Food scarcity is now pretty much eliminated as a threat of extinction amongst the Gorillas, but all that energy used in the digestion and absorption of their food left the Gorillas with relatively small brains. It’s too bad too because since the Gorilla must remain sedentary most of the time to allow his leafy meals to digest, he could be doing some serious thinking; if only he had a larger brain.
The accepted theory is that our very division from that branch came about largely due to the diversion of nutritional capitol towards cognition (our brains) rather than absorption (our intestines). The brain is incredibly expensive to run from a biochemical perspective. It needs a supply of certain macronutrients (mostly fat) that a plant-based diet cannot easily provide. In other words, one of our early ancestors decided to spend more time thinking up a clever plan to ensure her next meal rather than sit around all day and wait for her body to breakdown and absorb the ubiquitous grasses below her. Our evolutionary advantage is our ability to reason, feel nuanced emotions and have the capacity to even make ethical decisions. If not for the consumption of meat, we would eventually render ourselves physiologically unable to even think in terms of ethics and justice.
What or whom would you say has a substantial amount of authority over you? Sure the government and police have authority over us all (We are 10 days away from Tax Day…) but aside from that, we really don’t have much else to hold us accountable.
Although Liberty is an ideal I hold very dearly to, I question whether or not it is a good thing to have such freedom from scrutiny. We as humans crave security and guidance and until recently, we have maintained at least some semblance of respect for our elders and cultural hierarchy to make us feel like we are never “out there” all by ourselves. The baby boomers learned to “question authority” and “never trust anybody over 30″ during the 60′s and 70′s. In my lifetime, I have seen elementary teachers go from Mrs. Stevens and Mr. Brown to Sally and Bill. Children are constantly told by adults to call them by their first names and give them a high-five rather than a handshake lest they make them feel old. Since when did being old become something ugly?
How does this relate to the life of a mover you ask?…
Sports can provide a person, young or old, a sense of healthy respect for authority. Even the professionals who can buy and sell their coaches and referees ten times over maintain respect (for the most part) and operate under a hierarchical system to perform at an optimal level. So too does a perpetual dieter know the authority that scale has over them if they fail to make their temporary healthy diet a lifestyle change. We all lose that performance potential as the everyday athletes that we are as we eliminate the authority figure in our lives.
Authority need not come from a person. You don’t have to pay someone to scream at you when you come up short. If you are religious, you are accountable to your deity and your religious community. If you are involved in a book club, you are committed to the others for the sake of rich participation at your next meeting. I won’t even mention the work dynamic in this post because work is just that….work. The sad truth is that the majority of us are not doing something we love or would otherwise do for free.
This is where the opposite side of the authority coin comes in; Autonomy. Autonomy is central to your very human experience. It is the subjective enjoyment you get out of doing whatever it is you want to do. This is seemingly paradoxical to authority, but it is not. Authority and autonomy actually co-exist in the healthy psyche of a healthy human being. We need a sense of authority for the aforementioned reasons. We also need autonomy as a way to keep us motivated to practice our trade, stick to that diet, er…ahem…lifestyle change and to keep us curious. Autonomy fosters engagement and does not undermine authority, rather it internalizes it and insulates it from our ethereal social environment.