Tuesday, November 1, 2016

We're All Going to Die

A large bowl (a sieve, actually) of leftover candy is sitting by the front door, taunting me.

For we, alas, did not encounter the expected hordes of Trick-of-Treaters.
There will be some happy college students this evening, though.

I’m fairly certain there is no diet in which Tootsie Rolls and Smarties are part of the suggested balance.  Then again, most of the diets that become popular enough to sift down to the level of my attention don’t seem to be especially “balanced”.  One either cuts out fats, or grains, or meats; one always cuts out sugar.

Sometimes I wonder what poor sugar did to anyone …
Aside from being saccharine, that is.

Supposedly one of the secrets to such diets is that a reduction of variety in the options available nearly always translates into a reduction in calories consumed overall, a notion which makes sense intuitively, though it never worked for me.  It is a far, far butter thing (or for me, at least an easier thing) to place butter on one’s white bread, and develop temperance with said item, than to eat ALL the gluten-free fiber-rich toast, or ALL the saturated fats.  Perhaps I am simply more tempted by the same sort of gluttony as the Patient’s Mother, than by the more recognizable kind?

At any rate, many people do seem to find Special Secret Food Groups diets helpful.  But an additional reason for their adoption is that such diets nearly always come armed with a fascinating theory about body chemistry, in which familiar words like “gut” partner with exotic foreigners like “lipid” or “alkaline”.  And I had always imagined that these explanations were mostly, well, bunk.  After all, it can’t be true that the Paleo diet and the Mediterranean diet are BOTH good for you …

Except that it seems that they are both good for you.  Also, they are both bad for you.  At least, that is the news from a recent (so you know it’s true) study.  We can eat Paleo, and lose weight and look amazing …

Emaciated, beautiful Frenchwoman who enjoys steak and bacon every day.

… or, we can eat Mediterranean, be sort of chubby, and live longer.

Happy old Italian lady who has been eating pasta her entire life.
Also, apparently, eggs.  (Oh, and she's probably Dutch.  But anyways ...)

As if eating healthily weren’t already hard enough, now we have choices, and choices to which there is no right answer.  It’s not the poison but the dose!  What makes you stronger kills you!  We’re all going to die!

Which is actually true, and a very useful consideration, on this feast of All Saints and this eve of All Souls.  We are, in fact, all going to die; and in the grand scheme of things it probably doesn’t matter much whether we go to heaven having satisfied our vanity or our carb cravings.  Neither will really be “satisfied” anyway, if heaven is the only real, the ultimate satisfaction.  And it would indeed be not simply a useful, but also an amusing consideration if the human search for The Perfect System to nurture the body should turn out, in the end (as this latest fallible study suggests) to have no solution.  Bodies, all bodies, and indeed all matter—as Aquinas warned us a several hundred ago—are doomed to wear out sooner or later; and any purportedly scientific system which tantalizes us as if we could avoid the fatal day is at best a distraction and at worst a temptation to Be Like Gods.

I don’t mean to say that we shouldn’t be prudent and temperate and good stewards of our bodies.  But I do think that it is ironic and appropriate that an age absorbed with physical satisfaction and perfection might ultimately have to face up to the realization that these are unobtainable—not merely obtainable at an unacceptable price, as our nightmarish dystopian movies love to remind us, but unobtainable simply speaking.  The physical is not the sort of thing that is perfectable.  Glorifiable, someday, God willing.  But not perfectable.  And at some point everyone has to face up to the this reality that he not only isn’t a perfect specimen, but also he can’t be, and, in fact, no one can.

Now, to check up on that bowl of smarties …

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