Mark Morford hits it on the head again. I can vouch for the changes he talks about in one's attitude towards food, from a few, very few, fasts I have undertaken in my lifetime. It is a good simile. Stan, I hope you like it.
Great American Detox Which is better: To be rich 'n' slothful, or lean 'n...
The stories just keep coming, a veritable flood of sad and harrowing tales of layoffs, shutdowns, rising unemployment, personal woe, sudden homelessness, savage poverty and all manner of fiscal trembling across the roiling global moneysphere.
It can seem as brutal as a kitten caught in a grain thresher: Lots of depression, anxiety, psychotic weeping on Fox News and talk of right-wing nutballs buying more guns as "recession porn" takes hold and we become morbidly fascinated with just how harshly the global meltdown is affecting, say, the elderly, or schools, hotels, florists, baristas, hookers, graduates, car salesmen, God -- all those shiny happy things we used to love but which now seem to hiss at us as we walk by in our scruffy, worn-out shoes.
But wait. Shift your lens a moment. Because at nearly every turn and almost every story, the vicious and the sad seem counterbalanced by rather astonishing tales of revolution and upheaval, opportunity and change, fresh seedlings of good birthed from the charred forests of bad.
From the ashes, multiple phoenix. From the Bush, the Obama. From the realization that we're long overdue for a wake-up call and a grand social emetic, the rare and precious chance to slap ourselves awake before it's too late, even though it probably is.
The delicious Rule of American Irony holds: When we are rich and pampered and living far beyond our means, we can get very stupid, very quickly. We waste, abuse, deny, ease watchdog efforts and spawn Bernie Madoffs, AIG and Dick Cheney. Addiction to inflated prosperity often breeds laziness and greed, a violent fear that someone is going to come along and take it all away.
Then again, as we are learning right now, forced reduction has its own foul drawbacks, breeding panic and sky-is-falling paranoia, savage loneliness and the fear that someone is going to come along and tell us we can never get any of it back.
And yet, even now, positivism flows. The New Austerity is awakening all manner of innovation and radical rethinking. We're suddenly scrambling to reinvent everything from cars to newspapers to banking systems, from how we draw energy to how we consider legal marijuana and how we treat the rest of the world. It's exactly as revolutionary and transformative as you're willing to allow it to be.
So, which is it? Are we better off -- karmically, energetically, spiritually -- in the former mode of wealth/waste, or the latter of lean/anxiety? Or is it simply a matter of recognizing, despite the harrowing news that accompanies each mode, the bizarre human requirement for both?
Reminds me of a rather unpleasant, first-person account I read somewhere recently, written by a sassy fashionista who decided to try out, with almost zero understanding of what she was actually getting into, the latest in fad diets -- which, as it turns out, is really no fad at all and has been around for millennia but is now having some sort of hollow Hollywood moment: The cleanse.
Now, as a yoga teacher, I've known dozens, if not hundreds of people over the years who've undergone intense detox regimens of every shape and approach and restriction, from quickie weekend juice fasts to lengthy, committed ordeals like the famous Master Cleanse (nothin' but lemonade and maple syrup and cayenne pepper, mmm), to all levels and approaches in between. Hell, I've done a few myself, to (mostly) excellent success.
Here's the fun part: Most Western docs and jaded, overfed Americans love to scoff at such practices. They point out the supposed danger of denying your body food for long periods, how flat-out hippie ridiculous it all seems. Western docs in particular love to decry the hugely popular Master Cleanse and its ilk, as they tighten their bogus stranglehold on how it's all supposed to be.
Which is, of course, complete bullshit.
See, a good cleanse works on multiple levels. It is far from merely a physical experience -- though as physical experiences go, it's pretty damn revelatory.
Here's the thing: A detox done right invites a dramatic reexamination of your relationship to food and nourishment, as you can't help but suddenly notice food's insane prevalence in our culture, our obsession with everything from planning meals to restaurants to food advertising to how much just thinking about your next meal controls and dominates your day. For first-time cleansers, this always comes as nothing short of a revelation.
It doesn't stop there. When you begin to reintroduce foods into your body after a lengthy period away, all sorts of fascinating reactions can come up. Foods you thought you loved repulse you, heavily processed foods will taste like garbage, tasty addictions you thought you could never live without suddenly seem ridiculous and pointless and you may never touch them again.
Conversely, things you thought you hated will feel nourishing and alive. Whole foods will feel invigorating and right. The power food once had over your everyday life might shift and subside.
If you really pay attention, you can, in short, actually rewire your body, upend your perspective and begin to see, maybe for the first time ever, the powerful forces at play in the culture and how they work to nudge and prod and slap you around, every single day.
Should you live in a permanent state of hardcore cleansing? Should you treat a serious detox as a silly fad diet with no actual understanding of the energies at play? Hell no. But after a lifetime of canned, prefab, overpampered crap you were told was food but is actually a subtle form of poison, understanding the difference can be like a dose of raw enlightenment.
The best part of all: Odds are very good you may never go back to your old, toxic ways.
You get the idea. You get the obvious parallel. You gotta keep peeling. Keep trying. Keep moving. Rich and comfortable and uninformed often leads straight to fat and numb and sick. But ritual cleansing to attain lean and agile can be equally stupid and unhealthy if you go too far and don't have a sense of humor and hope and copious amounts of wine.
And of course, locking down into either mode and thinking it's the one true way? Well, that's the same as it's always been. That's just death.