This last week I have been listening on audio to a book by John Taylor Gatto entitled, Weapons of Mass Instruction. Having this book in hand in an audio format has been a blessing as I am dealing with a bit more of a juggling act in my life situation for a couple of months.
This situation and the truly wonderful blogs of my fellow students reminds me of what Gatto, the former New York city and New York State teacher of the year, informed us about a life well lived. He said that life out to be like a helix sport. I am still trying to penetrate more deeply what he means by that, actually, but I think that it’s clear by the image that at the very least, life is not meant to be lived as a straight line.
Using this paradigm, which Gatto suggests runs absolutely contrary to the inflexible yard stick that forced public schooling attempts to affix to our lives, gives us an interesting set of issues to consider. For instance, were any one of us ever given a road map to navigate life if it has a more complex structure? Or, is there one comprehensive road map that could ever more than approximate how to navigate it?
When it comes to the point of what this course we are embarking on is concerned it is obvious already that there is no super structure and certainly not a straight and narrow one that would offer us any absolute guidance at least not if it’s the health of our minds and bodies that are concerned.
I still remember how it was when I was 19 and 20 and 21. I am quite an introspective person (I prefer this word to the more pathologized ‘introversion’) and at that time I really had to face the fact that merely retiring to my own inner world was enough to understand the various experiences that I was confronted with and the many hues of feeling (and emotion) that coloured my responses to them.
I had exactly zero knowledge of what constituted health. Someone was trying to sell Shaklee vitamins to me and I had heard from a salesman, while I was employed as a stocker of produce shelves that New Zealand apples, because they were grown in volcanic soil were healthier for you. I think I just wanted to help the fellow who was selling the Shaklee vitamins to feed his family and I certainly could not have done the soil tests personally to know if what that salesman was saying was true. Yet there it was, I garnered from these specs of information and a few others that there were qualities to food and that there were nutrients that humans needed and the spirit of search and discovery was born in me.
I was lucky, because despite being socially quite inept being perceived as more than a bit eccentric I managed to escape most diagnosing and therefore most psychiatric drugs. My MD, when I was 20, I think, put me on Paxil (or something else in that class) for dysthymia. I’m not sure what long term damage those pills did to me. I only used them for about 2 months feeling that they did nothing.
Through a series of intuitions, half cooked ideas and flukes (okay perhaps there was some synchronicity to them) I landed in Vancouver. And the day before applying to work at an organic food store, an acquaintance had been fired and I took his job. None of this could conceivably have been planned in any way by me.
These days, I certainly have some structure to my diet on most days and I appreciate this. At the same time I am aware of the fact that things change and it’s flexibility (another quality inherent in the helix design) that will enable me to keep up what I need to do. My diet looks like a mad synthesis of raw vegan with macrobiotic and bone broth consumption. It’s a synthesis that came out of personal investigation, trial and error and associating, through videos, articles books with knowledgeable folks No one can really give this to us. That’s the point.
Health is a deeply personal adventure. Whether we are working with our own situation or helping another, I recommend that we follow Gatto’s suggestion and recognize at every turn the sophisticated way that things unfold and the supremacy of personal experience. I believe that this will help us to be the approachable and caring people that we wish to be.