Fifth Wednesday Post

The Dream of a Perfect Diet

I’d meant to spend the last couple of days writing an essay about the astral plane, because this is the fifth Wednesday of the month, and we’ve established an informal tradition on this blog that my readers get to suggest topics for fifth Wednesday posts. My muse, though, is an opinionated lady; she inspires what she wants to inspire, whether or not that’s what I planned to write. That’s why I spent most of my free time over the last four months or so writing a 105,000-word novel about Baroque music and shoggoths, and it’s why this week’s post has gone veering away from its intended subject, chasing after one of the spiritual enthusiasms of my youth.

Now part of that’s because I recently heard that one of the teachers with whom I studied in my teen years, artist and trance medium Guenn Eona Nimue, has passed away; another part is because a couple of months ago I read W. Somerset Maugham’s novel The Razor’s Edge, which is about the dawn of the era of spiritual search that met so ugly an end, at the hands of a brutally vulgarized faux-spirituality, around the time I reached adulthood; another part is because, when you’re as well ensconced in middle age as I am, winter nights are conducive to such reflections—but there’s another factor, and it fills a shelf within easy reach of the desk where I write these weekly posts.

I’ve kept most of the books that were really important to me in my younger years. That’s apparently quite rare these days. I’ve met any number of people in my generation who spent the 1970s just as deeply into ecology, appropriate tech, alternative spirituality or what have you as I was, but you’ll rarely find books by Gregory Bateson or Ivan Illich or Michio Kushi or John Michell on their shelves any more. By and large, they shed those right about the time they shed their tie-dyed shirts and their youthful ideals, and decided that accepting a privileged place in a corrupt and failing society was a better bet than trying to change anything that matters.

Me, I always was the odd duck, and that’s why you’ll find books by all those authors, and many more, weighing down the bookshelf referred to a few lines back. It’s a humbling experience, at least for me, to page back through the books on that shelf, and remember the soaring dreams and well-intentioned follies of an era when it really did seem as though the world could change for the better. Of all those dreams and follies, though, the one that I’ve been brooding over most just now is the conviction—still remarkably common these days—that it’s possible to create a perfect world by getting everyone to eat the right diet.

I encountered that at the time via the then-thriving macrobiotic movement. I don’t imagine many of my younger readers know much of anything about macrobiotics, and many of my older readers may know of it only via biased (if often richly earned) media coverage. It was founded by a self-taught Japanese healer named Nyoichi Sakurazawa, who observed the problematic effects of the Western diet when this was introduced to Japan, moved to Paris, took the pen name “George Ohsawa,” and launched a movement to teach Westerners to eat something like a traditional Japanese peasant diet. In the usual way of such movements, he and his students developed a complex philosophy of diet—in this case, based on the East Asian concepts of yin and yang—and billed the resulting system as the key to universal health and happiness.

Of course this also involved sweeping claims about the diet’s health benefits, which brought the macrobiotic movement into a head-on collision with the medical industry. Those of my readers who know their way around the history of alternative health care in twentieth-century America already know that neither side displayed any notable grace or honesty in the resulting squabble over market share. As it turned out, the macrobiotic diet’s most loudly promoted claim—that it would prevent and cure cancer—turned out to be its Achilles’ heel; when several prominent macrobiotic teachers up and died of cancer, despite decades of strict adherence to the macrobiotic diet and its related practices, the movement went into a death spiral from which it shows no signs of recovering any time soon.

Back in the late 1970s, when I started studying macrobiotics, this was all in the future. At that time you could find plenty of enthusiastic macrobiotic teachers all over the Seattle area, where I lived then, eager to pass on their enthusiasm for a diet that seemed to promise perfect health and inner peace. I was young, uncritical, and passionately interested in anything that looked like an alternative to the practically necromantic deadness of the suburban, er, “lifestyles” I saw around me. So I flung myself into the pleasures of a vegan diet that focused on lots of brown rice and other whole grains, with steamed vegetables, fermented soybean products, seaweed, and a narrow range of other foods on the side.

The thing to remember here is that macrobiotics was a diet, but it wasn’t just a diet. What made the macrobiotic movement so attractive to me, and to many other people around the same time, is that it aimed at transforming the entire world, one meal at a time. The idea was that macrobiotics would make you so radiantly healthy and happy that the people you met would be motivated to try it, too, and the expected spiritual effects of macrobiotics were such that as the diet and its related practices spread, world peace and universal enlightenment would duly follow.

That was the theory. The practice had one noticeable problem with it, in my case, which was that the diet didn’t make me radiantly healthy. It made me thin, pale, and susceptible to every cold that came through town. All the macrobiotic authorities insisted that this was a temporary state caused by the body’s efforts to cleanse itself of toxins, and radiant health would show up in due time. What happened instead was my health just got worse, and I started having vivid dreams of bacon cheeseburgers. Finally one day, when I was reading a macrobiotic book, I ran across a passage that talked about how the body communicates its needs to the mind, and realized that my body had been yelling at the top of its lungs, trying to get my attention. One bacon cheeseburger later, I was on my way to a complete recovery.

Does that mean that the macrobiotic diet is a bad diet that nobody should eat? Not at all. I knew people who thrived on it. It so happens that some people can metabolize vegetable protein better than others. If you’re one of the ones who can, a diet of the standard macrobiotic sort will very likely keep you in fine fettle—well, as long as you watch your vitamin C levels; the standard macrobiotic diet is so low in vitamin C, due to its theories about the extremely yin nature of fruit, that people using the diet can come down with scurvy. If you’re one of the ones who can’t, you need to eat animal protein, or you’re not going to be healthy. It really is that simple.

I’ve been thinking about this experience quite a bit recently, while watching the trajectories of some of the current crop of dietary movements. One of them, the vegan movement, has very nearly duplicated the course of the macrobiotic movement, from the first luminous proclamations of the perfect diet straight through to the final descent into confusion and failure. Most of the evangelists for the vegan diet have had the common sense to avoid making the kind of health claims that landed macrobiotics in so much trouble, to be sure, but the vegan movement is facing an equally awkward comeuppance for a different reason.

It’s the same situation I ran into: a great many people who’ve publicly adopted the vegan diet have discovered that their bodies just don’t thrive without animal protein. The difficulty here is that the strident moral rhetoric of the vegan movement makes it very difficult for people to back away from it once they’ve committed themselves to it—those who publicly renounce a vegan diet can expect to face torrents of abuse from their fellow vegans, and a diet rich in crow catered by the omnivores they know who are sick and tired of the self-righteous posturing and bullying that the vegan movement unfortunately made central to its attempts at evangelism.

It’s thus become a very poorly kept secret that a very large number of public vegans these days regularly sneak off to the next town or the next county for a big meal of meat. The next time you eat at a steakhouse close to a freeway interchange—the kind of place that has no windows and relatively low lighting—keep an eye out for somebody with the classic unhealthy-vegan look, thin, pale, and rigid, sitting nervously by himself or herself at a back table, and chowing down on a 16 ounce porterhouse steak. It’s probably a prominent vegan from a community just far enough away that he or she doesn’t expect to get caught.

This takes place in exactly the same spirit in which so many fine, upstanding, Bible-believing, supposedly heterosexual married men in America’s Southern states slip off to gay bars the next county over for the purpose, as their wives indelicately put it, of getting shot by the bun gun. It’s not just a matter of simple hypocrisy. In both cases, the people heading shamefacedly across county lines to do something that contradicts their public personas believe with all their hearts that the ideals they uphold in public are right and true and good; it’s just that they themselves can’t live up to those ideals. So they live divided lives, earnestly praising the virtues they themselves can’t bear to uphold, wallowing in guilt and shame at their failings, and by and large reacting with frantic savagery when someone does in public what they do in private.

Such exercises in contradiction can go very far indeed. It’s quite possible to imagine a future, and not a particularly distant one, in which every figure of any public importance in the vegan movement is running off to a steakhouse a couple of times a month, because he or she can’t stay healthy on the diet he or she is certain is the right one for everyone else. (To judge from the rate at which gay-bashing Christian ministers get caught with boyfriends these days, the situation with evangelical Christianity and gay sex has just about hit this point.) Eventually, to judge by older examples of the same phenomenon, the younger generation will stop propping up the double lives of their elders, and the whole thing will come crashing down of its own weight, but a great deal of pointless suffering and public nastiness will likely happen before then.

Most of the other popular diets just now—the Paleo diet, the various ketogenic diets, the whole-30 diet, and so on—are at earlier points along the life cycle that leads from the bright enthusiasm of dawn to the confusion and failure of sunset. One thing nearly all of them have in common is a core feature of the macrobiotic and vegan diets, too: the notion that some class of foods or other is evilly evil evilness with a double helping of evil sauce on the side, and if you simply omit that class of foods from your diet, you’ll be healthy forever. For the vegan diet, it’s animal products; for the macrobiotic diet, it was a laundry list of foods considered “too yang” or “too yin” for human consumption; for the Paleo diet, it’s anything the inventors of that diet thought (on the basis of inaccurate science) that human beings didn’t eat in the Paleolithic era, and so on.

This sort of thinking has deep cultural roots in our society, and they reach down into the same damp and sticky soil as the frantic conviction, on the part of certain religious traditions, that certain kinds of sexual activity between consenting adults are evilly evil evilness with the same double helping of evil sauce on the side. At the root of these and a great many more dysfunctional attitudes is the notion that the mind is superior to the body and ought to tell the body what to do, on the basis of some abstract and arbitrary set of rules, and that the body will be fine if it just shuts up and does as it’s told. That’s where you get the pervasive notion that perfect health and happiness can be yours if only you follow some rigidly defined set of rules, which are always supposed to apply to all human beings everywhere…

…and which ultimately never work as advertised.

Your body, dear reader, has never read a book by John Robbins or George Ohsawa or any of the dietary pundits who’ve filled whole libraries telling you what you ought to eat, all the way back to Antonio Cocchi, who published the first diet book in modern history, The Pythagorean Diet, or Vegetables Only, Conducive to the Preservation of Health, and the Cure of Diseases, back in 1743. Your body doesn’t know what they say about its needs, and it doesn’t care. All it knows is what it needs. If you give it what it needs, it will be healthy. If you don’t, it won’t. How do you know what it needs? Well, don’t ask Antonio Cocchi et al., because they may know something about their own bodies, but they don’t know anything about yours.

That’s the secret weakness behind all the grand claims about the one true and perfect diet: no two human bodies have exactly the same dietary needs. Pick a diet, any diet, and if it insists (as so many do) that some group of common foods is unfit for human consumption, you’ll find that there are some people who thrive on the diet, some who get by on it, and some who get sicker and sicker until they give it up and go eat whatever the forbidden food is, because that food contains something their bodies need in order to be healthy.

Your body, by the way, doesn’t know anything about ethics, either. It doesn’t care if your mind has decided that a vegan diet is the only morally acceptable diet; all your body knows is what it needs, and if you can’t metabolize vegetable protein well enough, and you insist on following a vegan diet anyway, you’ll become sicker and sicker until you break down and eat that bacon cheeseburger. The fallacy at the heart of the vegan movement is the claim that if a diet is morally good, that’s all there is to the question. Your body begs to differ; it’s never heard of ethics, and all it knows is what it needs. If your ethics conflict with your body’s needs, your body isn’t going to change its needs to suit the ethical notions you happen to have adopted.

What’s more, if your body can’t metabolize vegetable proteins well enough, it won’t just sit there and starve virtuously; remember, it’s never heard of ethics.  It will remind you that it needs a bacon cheeseburger, over and over again, with increasing intensity, until you give it one. Those of my readers who aren’t vegans may have wondered from time to time where the shrill and frantic tone so often struck by vegan evangelists comes from. Now you know:  either they’re tormented to madness by dreams of bacon cheeseburgers, or they’re full of guilt and shame because they know perfectly well that once they finish screaming at you they’re going to drive to the next county to eat steak.

I’d like to propose, in fact, a general rule, which I’ve modestly titled Greer’s Law of Evangelism: the more forcefully someone insists that you have to adopt some behavior or belief—be it a diet, a religion, a political stance, or what have you—the less satisfactory that behavior or belief is to the person who’s pushing it on you. You’ve seen this in action, dear reader, and so have I. When I was doing macrobiotics, the people who were obviously thriving on the diet were never pushy about it, though they’d happily teach you if you wanted to learn, and the people who were pushy about it were obviously not thriving on it.  The same is true of religion; I’ve met quite a few people who clearly find their Christian faith profoundly meaningful and satisfying, and I’ve met quite a few people who filled the air with gobbets of saliva as they shrieked about how everyone has to fall on their knees before Jesus or fry in hell forever, and you know, they’re never the same people.

Out of any group of people, some will be well suited to any behavior or belief you care to name, and some won’t be. That’s simply part of the diversity—or, if you wish, the cussedness—that’s hardwired into our species. The belief that some arbitrary scheme can replace that diversity, or cussedness, with one perfect diet, or one perfect religion, or one perfect anything else is, as mentioned earlier, very deeply rooted in the cultures of the contemporary industrial West. It takes a certain amount of hard work to get past that belief, and the process is made no easier by the way that so many people use their diet, or their religion, or what have you as an excuse to feel morally superior to everyone else. Self-righteousness is an addictive drug, and a lot of people use it very heavily to get through the day.

All this may sound as though I’ve come through my youthful experiences with an implacable hostility to dietary schemes. Quite the contrary, I think it’s an excellent idea to give a wide range of diets a try. It’s always possible that you’ll turn out to be one of the people who thrives on a vegan diet, or a macrobiotic diet, or a Paleo diet, or what have you. It’s equally possible that you won’t be, but that you’ll come through the experience knowing a lot more about food and your body’s needs than you once did, and you may pick up some habits and some recipes that will serve you well even after you’ve let the evilly evil food group back into your diet.

I’d go so far as to say that pretty much every diet scheme has some value, and that you can learn useful things from even the most restrictive diet. My macrobiotic days are many decades in the past now, but I still eat a lot of rice, steamed vegetables, fermented soybean products, and seaweed—along with bacon cheeseburgers, to be sure, and those horribly yin fruits that we were never supposed to touch but that keep you nicely supplied with vitamin C—and the little tricks I learned of balancing yang foods with yin condiments and vice versa, and treating ordinary health issues by varying the overall balance of the diet to counter the illness, are still things I use today.

I’ve occasionally daydreamed of writing a book on what I call “the new macrobiotics”—that is to say, macrobiotic theory pruned of the overblown claims, and reworked to make room for bacon cheeseburgers (very yang), beer (very yin—thus you should always have a beer with your bacon cheeseburger for the sake of balance, unless you’re underage, in which case a milkshake, also very yin, will do the same job nicely), and so on. I once worked out in detail an explanation, entirely in terms of macrobiotic theory, of why macrobiotics couldn’t accomplish what it was supposed to accomplish—the details probably won’t be of interest to anybody who wasn’t there at the time, so I’ll skip them here, but it amounts to a subtle but pervasive yang imbalance in the entire system that guaranteed certain kinds of catastrophic yin blowback.

I doubt there would be a market for it, though. Much of what made macrobiotics so enticing at the time, and feeds the passion that drives extreme diets more generally, is precisely that they shoot for the moon, making grand claims that appeal to our dreams of a better world.  Even when the claims don’t work and the dreams are doomed to fail, there’s something noble in the attempt, a grandeur of intention that shines through the more than occasional absurdity in practice, and that needs to be remembered—especially when looking back from middle age at the enthusiasms of one’s youth.


Speaking of youthful enthusiasms, I’m delighted to report that the most recent writing contest — the Old Solar System Writing Contest — has just closed, and coeditor Zendexor and I have received enough submissions to make a very solid anthology. It’ll take us a little while to dig our way out from under the final rush of submissions, but we should be ready to post a list of the stories we’ve selected in a few weeks, and get going on the rest of the labor that will turn out another must-read anthology from Founders House Publishing.

We’re also talking about doing another anthology down the road a bit, so those of you who didn’t make it to the spaceport before the big rocket with the fins on it blasted off for Mars needn’t despair. Get to work on those Old Solar System stories…

…and in the meantime, I’m mulling over a somewhat different writing contest to keep everyone’s imaginations moving. More on this in a bit.


  1. I immediately recognized “Greer’s Law of Evangelism” from what I too have observed in the real world: to wit; “Failure Doubles Down” and “Lions Don’t Need to Roar”.

  2. Personally, I ascribe to the Bourdain diet – eat whatever pleases you while avoiding ‘fast food’ at all costs, of course. If I want a bacon cheeseburger or similar food I go to Jasper’s over in Central Point. (The latter is an inside comment.)

  3. Dear Mr Greer,

    I will use the freshness of this post to submit a request.
    I’m French, and I would really like to start an amateur translation team of some of your works here, on archdruid report and the well of galabes.

    Would you permit us to conduct such actions?

    These translations would be posted on a blog, and a Facebook page, like the former French translator did (he sadly died in 2014, and we want to continue his work).

    We think Francophone people should really understand and discover your works!

    (I think I submitted my email address in the details to post this comment, if not, tell me!)

    Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frigg!

    Thomas Gaudaire-Thor.

    PS : just erase this comment if it’s not accurate here.

  4. Prima! Back in my misspent youth in the Thatcherite 80s, two anarchist acquaintances in the north of England tried feeding their dog on a vegan diet. One day they were taking it for a walk in the park, when it leapt up at a passing stranger, grabbed his takeaway curry in its jaws, bounded off across the moor and was never seen again. The dog clearly knew nothing of anarcho-vegan ethics…

  5. Thanks for this. I often thought the parallels between people’s thoughts on food and thoughts on sex were fairly startling, especially when you consider the number of times you can find the word “guilt” in association with a food or a food fantasy.

    What I sometimes wonder is whether food is in some sense “the body of a god/goddess” (I’m referring to the polytheist sensibility you described several posts ago, where the gods are physically present in the actual “matter” of the material world around us). Certainly there is no shortage of myths detailing the origin of a food (say Corn) as the offering given by a god or goddess of their very body, to feed the myth-making community. And holy acts of eating, that involve consuming a god’s body are not uncommon.

    If we believed that to eat was to commune with a god or goddess, it would certainly make more sense of people’s vague feeling of guilt for eating THIS or THAT.

  6. Jeff, well, I never said I was original! 😉 Both your phrasings of the principle are good and memorable, too.

    Martin, and that’s a very suitable diet also. Central Point in which state, btw? If it’s the one in Oregon, I seem to have missed Jaspers when I was living in Ashland, and that’s a pity; a good bacon cheeseburger from time to time is strictly required by my diet. 😉

    Thomas, I’ll also respond to your email, but it’s helpful to say this in public now and again: yes, you may certainly translate and post online anything I put on this blog, provided that each post is translated in its entirety, and includes a link back to the original. Thank you for asking!

  7. I had a very similar experience when I tried going vegan about ten years ago. I gave it a shot, but my body was not having it. I have seen some people thrive on these diets, but I got way too thin. I have heard vegans mention animals that get all their protein from plants. My veterinarian wife points out their digestive systems vary a bit from ours. I know many women who are vegetarians until they become pregnant and they find they are not getting enough iron and B12. At this point their doctors suggests some red meat and they feel so much better they put it back in their diet permanently. I know a yogi who sneaks off to get burgers if she knows her husband is not around.

    In any case, I agree that experimenting with diet is a very good idea no matter the diet. I learned a lot from my vegan months. I still won’t buy factory farmed meat and only eat it if it is served to me. Except for pork. Pastured pork is much harder to come by and more expensive, so I generally skip it because it does not agree with me. Here is a place where the ethics and my body’s response overlap (your mileage may vary). When I eat pork I often have trouble sleeping and I find it agitates my body. I have my own speculations on why this is.

    Outside of vegans who think nobody should consume meat, I hear little discussion of a diet that would benefit both the land and the people. I do think the average american eats too much meat to be considered sustainable, but given the benefits of manure I don’t think the hardcore vegans have a case for not raising livestock.

  8. Pogret, do you happen to remember the name of the dog? I’m inspired to create an occasional award for those who do the common-sense thing in the face of ideological nonsense, and I’d like to name it after so sensible a dog.

    Scotlyn, that’s a fascinating supposition. Of course bread and wine in general had that significance in early Christianity — it’s not accidental that Jesus is said to have been born in a town whose name literally means “house of bread,” and died at what in ancient Judea was the time of the grain harvest — but the various churches have gone out of their way to restrict that old robust symbolism to the little pieces of tasteless paste the priest blesses. I’d put the parallelism between food and sex down to the fact that both relate to powerful biological drives that differ irreducibly from person to person, and thus inevitably build up massive emotional conflicts when subjected to some rigid universal set of rules — but the possibility of a religious dimension deserves reflection.

  9. Hi JMG,

    Another fine post. Yes, I’ve observed Greer’s Law of Evangelism at work, mostly with religion. I always suspected the dissatisfied evangelist was attempting some sort of transference of their issue to another warm body, but there could be other forces at work.

    I suppose some of the regulars will be bummed about the astral plane post taking a back seat to dietary musings, but thems the breaks. Diets, like spiritual satisfaction, require significant individual effort to dial in what works, which is perhaps why so many just want to copy others. I struggling with that right now myself (diet, that is).

    Having no clue on how your muse influences your writing, do you find the process of a “flush” or “brain dump” rejuvenating for the creative side of things? You’ve posted bits and pieces of the essay above over the last six months in your writings and replies to comments, but apparently this week it demanded to get bundled and presented in a coherent lump. Something tells me we’ll get a couple of cool posts next month as a favorable side effect.

  10. This comment may or may not be exactly on-topic, but one section of your post struck a chord with something that I noted in my mid-day meditation just a bit earlier today.

    “…the notion that the mind is superior to the body and ought to tell the body what to do, on the basis of some abstract and arbitrary set of rules…”

    I was working a theme based on my last comment from last post, on correspondences between the pillars of form, force, and consciousness on the one hand and the three elements of calas, gwyar, and nwyfre, respectively, also arranging the three triads in a similar vertical order (excluding Malkuth, as the conjunction of the three axes). Anyway, I noticed that I tended to “go for” the “higher” components of each taxonomy (nwyfre/consciousness, for example, or the Chokmah-Binah-Kether triad). A not-quite-voice in my head said, “do not dismiss calas/form.” And I observed that I did, in fact, have a tendency to favor “higher” aspects and to disregard “lower” aspects. Even the notion of “higher” and “lower” is itself a rather biased terminology, is it not?

    Like I said, not directly applicable to the topic, but I thought the parallel was interesting. I’m going to spend some time contemplating the form/calas aspect, as I feel that I was directed to do so. And gwyar/force will follow in due course. In all things, balance…

  11. Snrk… I remember well trying to adopt a vegetarian diet many years ago… and at the same time a low-fat diet [celery poached in water flavored with…water…]. We bought a pantry’s worth of food we decided we were ‘supposed’ to eat [nutritional yeast-blech]. When my partner was at work on the weekend I would sneak over to the grocery store to buy a pound of ground beef and eat the whole thing. Funny thing was I would never get indigestion. Never did go the evilgelical route though. Now it’s just something to laugh about like bell-bottoms or 80’s haircuts-yeah, I remember both… If someone does want to try it though may I highly recommend Indian cuisine [and no nutritional yeast…].

  12. Oh boy… Well, this was a very fun essay to read.

    You’re articulating something that I feel a lot of people don’t get. No one diet exists in a perfect ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Some people are better at digesting cow milk than others, others can digest vegetable matter better than others.

    Well, I used to be a vegan, was one for about 2 years. I felt sluggish, unmotivated, nearly depressed, and generally uninterested in everything around me.

    I’ve been doing a ketogenic diet for about two years now, and I plan on continuing it for the rest of my life. (You may have noticed at The Morrigan retreat, where I ate an unseemly amount of bacon, lol).

    But the thing with being a vegan was… I wasn’t eating many vegetables. I was eating tofu, and all sorts of crud that was imitation food. Now, as a primary ketogenic eater, I bet I still eat more vegetables than the average vegetarian. It’s just that now I’m actually eating salads and cooked veggies (with olive oil, and butter, and lard and tallow) and not imitation foods.

  13. I would be interested in this diet, and how I could modify it to fit the tastes of someone who’s only ever really liked one kind of beer. Would rum and cherry Coke be equally yin?

    When I was a kid in SoCal, the boogeyman was processed sugar: I think I previously mentioned the strange sad kids whose parents served carob cake at their birthday parties, and the horrible adults who gave out either fruit or carob muffins on Halloween (I could write a small treatise on the importance of rule suspension and carnival days in culture, but instead I would probably just give the information and a carton of eggs to the neighborhood kids, were I my current age in that place and time). Then it became red meat and/or eggs, and now carbs in general.

    One of the things I’ve noticed in my experiences with dieting (usually the tedious counting of calories, but still) is that, for most of us, contrary to what the dietary gurus say and as you point out, the body never *stops* wanting what’s forbidden. One learns to ignore it long enough to accomplish a certain goal (fitting into the jeans I wore in college, for example), but long-term, if you actually like meat or sugar or whatever, the best strategy does indeed seem to be finding a compromise that keeps you from going around the bend.*

    Which is similar to what I’ve read about practicing monogamy/celibacy/poverty/ecologically-sound living for those who aren’t inclined: the sacrifices may well be worth it, for you or the world or whatever, but they’re still sacrifices, and any philosophy that pretends they’re going to be easy for everyone is setting its adherents up for failure in just a vast percent of cases. Much better, IMO, to set out the rewards and drawbacks frankly, and know that everyone will bring their own criteria re: what’s worth it to the bargaining table.

    On a more general note, I very much like the idea of “try some stuff, you’ll probably learn things of value” as a philosophy.

    * I’m in the last month of the post-holiday attempt to revert to form, and there have been days when I would probably have committed murder if it meant the ability to eat a cinnamon roll without consequences to my figure. Nobody innocent–I wouldn’t have kicked puppies into traffic–but, like, if Satan manifested and offered me a contract, I’d have taken up a shiv and headed in the direction of my friend’s ex-husband or someone similar.

    Sadly, or perhaps fortunately for the world, neither my religion nor my gaming habits have summoned demons with anywhere near the efficacy Jack Chick and Tipper Gore seemed to think they would.

  14. Interesting to hear where you’re coming from with your comments on diet over the years.

    I’ve never really done much with different diets, although I have experimented with lowering or cutting out wheat and refined sugar, and I eat little meat. Such experiments never seem to last, except the low meat. I have enough trouble persuading myself to eat when I’m especially down or tired, and avoiding sugary junk crowding out proper food. I seem to be wired to really, really like sugar, though I fortunately don’t like soft drinks. I doubt that I need more refined sugar than I eat, even if I crave it.

  15. JMG, this brings back memories of the early 80’s when my wife and I attempted a macrobiotic diet, as this was all the rage in the otherwise wonderful vegan/hippie coop food store we frequented in Salem OR. It seemed to work fine until my wife became pregnant with our first child and then it went out the window as her body demanded other things, Loudly. Now, our only real connection to those days is our copy of the Moosewood Cookbook ( not macrobiotic ) which remains a fountain of sensible and delicious vegetarian cooking and is still our mainstay all these years later.

  16. Excellent post JMG. I was close to an evangelical Paleo guy for a few years. I didn’t preach but I believed that if I was disciplined enough with Paleo and strength training the pounds would roll off and be replaced with lean muscle that could be shown off everywhere. I took plenty of before photo’s but alas there is no after photo. I started eating healthy grains a couple of months ago and I love them. One surprising side effect is that the grains satisfy me enough that I’ve naturally cut down on junk food and sugar by ~ 90%. No effort. It just happened. I feel better and my food costs have gone down by a decent amount too. Paleo can be pretty expensive so I’m doubly relieved to be incorporating grains into my diet.

  17. @JMG,

    My life is such that every so often I need a really good laugh. Indeed, you have provided many such in the past. I trust many of your readers appreciate your pawky sense of humor – I sure do! Anyway, thank you three times for a good one today! Hoo boy, over the decades I have encountered, and indeed lived with, some real diet proselytizers of all ilks. This post was a real breath of fresh air, and common sense.

    I was chuckling along as it was, but then came to this: “I’ve occasionally daydreamed of writing a book on what I call “the new macrobiotics”—that is to say, macrobiotic theory pruned of the overblown claims, and reworked to make room for bacon cheeseburgers (very yang), beer (very yin—thus you should always have a beer with your bacon cheeseburger for the sake of balance.”

    I knew it! I am the very model of dietary balance! 😉

    Thanks again!

  18. Michael Pollan seems to have nailed this one with “eat food, mostly plants, not too much”.

  19. Great post. My jaw dropped at this:

    “Those of my readers who aren’t vegans may have wondered from time to time where the shrill and frantic tone so often struck by vegan evangelists comes from. Now you know: either they’re tormented to madness by dreams of bacon cheeseburgers, or they’re full of guilt and shame because they know perfectly well that once they finish screaming at you they’re going to drive to the next county to eat steak.”

    Though now I feel the need to duck and hide under my desk, as my shrieking tantrum warning siren just went off. On another note, I have a friend who just completed an Iron Man competition who is 100% vegan and seems to thrive on the diet. The overwhelming majority of people I know who’ve tried it, though, turn pale and sallow and their eyes turn yellow and pop out of their heads. What is strange, though, is that even though this is unbelievably obvious, I’ve had people deny it to my face. “You can tell most vegans by looking at them,” says I, a very obvious statement of very obvious fact. “What are you talking about I have no idea what he’s talking about that’s ridiculous” says they. Uh… huh.

    My own dietary adventure went like this…

    When I was living in Boulder, Colorado everyone around me was going “gluten-free.” I thought that this was the stupidest thing I had ever heard of and continued to live off of bagels and pizza. Later I moved back to the West Coast, and, for the first time in my life, developed horrible allergies. There were days when I couldn’t get out of bed because I was sneezing constantly, to the point where I experienced every sneeze as a convulsion that seemed like it would tear out all the tendons in my body. Another thing that happened during this time is that I started working out regularly for the first time in years. One-two hours a day of running and calisthenics demanded a diet that was both larger and heavier in protein, and I had very little money. So I hit on the idea of peanut butter and nutella sandwiches. I’d buy organic, high-protein bread, organic peanut butter, and regular old chocolatey-delicious nutella and make a sandwich that delivered about 500 calories and 20+ grams of protein. I ate about 5 of these a day, every day, until one day I took a bite out of one and my body said to me “I am never eating another one of these horrible things as long as we both shall live.” So I stopped eating them and started relying on smoothies instead.

    And my allergies went away.

    The thing was though, I didn’t notice it, and certainly didn’t make the connection. Until one day I’d been sneeze-free for a month or so, and, due to circumstances, found myself eating nothing that day but bagels and cream cheese. Or, to say it another way, gluten and dairy. The sort of sneezing fit that I’d been rid of since quitting my peanut butter and nutella sandwiches came roaring back, and by that evening I was doubled over. That was when I realized what the problem was. I cut both gluten and dairy out of my diet, and remained untroubled by allergies afterward.

    The thing about it is, though… I’m not now and never will be an evangelist for the way I eat. When people ask me why I don’t eat bread, I tell them. Sometimes they will become defensive, assuming a criticism of their own dietary habits that simply isn’t there; this is one of the side-effects of the dietary evangelism that you describe in this post. People think they’re experiencing it even when they’re not. Sometimes, hearing about my experience, people will tell me that I ought to have gone to a doctor to be tested for allergies. I tell them that I performed my own test, which cost nothing and gave useful results. I try not to talk about it at all, though, unless asked– I literally don’t care how you eat. I just hate sneezing.

    The point about explicitly religious evangelism is also well taken. I remember a time a few years ago when I was talking with some commentators on a predominantly Christian blog. In response to my saying that the doctrine of eternal Hell– for anybody– was a dealbreaker for me, one commentator mentioned that universalism was a common belief among many church fathers and was still considered a viable option in the Eastern Orthodox church. Another commentator, also Orthodox, objected– If that were the case, he said, why would we “waste our time going to church” when we could just “live like the devil” and get away with it? The choice of words made his real feelings about his church and his god painfully clear to me. My religious life is… complicated, but I’ve never regretted a moment deliberately spent in the presence of a god that I believe in and care about, and certainly never needed a threat of torment without end– or a belief in the torment of others– in order to do so.

  20. Hi, I have been reading your posts for some time and have been enjoying the conversation thoroughly. I have never thought to reply but today you mentioned Guenn Eona and that is just such a crazy coincidence. She must be the same Guenn I knew as a child. She lived on Cap Hill on 15th? My family was friends with Will Nye, a crazy, power hungry, angry man as observed through the eyes of a child. But he was friends with Guenn, who was a regular fixture of my childhood, growing up on Cap Hill in the 70’s and 80’s. I knew she was a Druid but never connected her to you. So interesting to see how life connects to itself. Sorry to hear about her death and your loss.

  21. i think it’s worth noting that trendy diets are the product of affluence. hungry people eat whatever they can get and are glad to have it. just ask anyone who lived through the depression and wartime rationing. the paleo diet, the various iterations of peasant diets and veganism were originally the product of necessity not choice. as modern society slides down the seneca slope, people will return to eating happily whatever they can get.

  22. “Self-righteousness is an addictive drug …” Now if I could only find the appropriate archway or plinth on which to inscribe that.

  23. My younger sister, 23, has worked out that Veganism is The Diet That Will Demolish Capitalism, and bombards me with propaganda, lots of pics of tempting Vegan recipes and cakes, soya trying to look like meat, etc.

    I suspect she is semi-starved, as she readily admits that 80% of her conversations are about food, (the other 20% one supposes are about the elimination of Capitalism and the Dawn of the New Age) and that she thinks about it all the time.

    Nor are her attentions directed solely at our species: her group is trying to stop hunting with dogs, which are proving strangely resistant to the idea that wanting to sink their teeth into bunnies is morally reprehensible. For some reason, they love it. Dreadful capitalists, dogs…….

  24. When my daughter was four-years-old, she decided–out of the blue, without prompting of any kind–to stop eating meat. My wife and I will never forget her exact words to explain her decision: “The animals, they love theirselves.” Now in her mid-30s and a mother of two who balances family life with a professional job, she has stuck to her guns all this time and has thrived on a vegetarian (not vegan) diet. Several years ago, my wife and I joined her in this personal stance and have never regretted it nor looked back. That said, no one in our family is an evangelist for vegetarianism or looks down in the slightest at those who eat meat, a category that includes my adult son, other family members, and the vast majority of my friends. The decision of my wife and I was to adhere a bit more closely to the reverence for life philosophy of Albert Schweitzer, who himself only stopped eating meat during his final years. While my family does not preach to others about vegetarianism, we do abhor and speak out against the ugly abuse of animals in factory farming, albeit realizing that our continued consumption of dairy products makes us complicit in that brutal system and the environmental degradation to which it contributes. But such are the complexities and contradictions inherent in Schweitzer’s subtle and sophisticated ethical thought. In closing this comment, I have to echo your “humbling experience…to page back through the books on (my) shelf, and remember the soaring dreams and well-intentioned follies of an era when it really did seem as though the world could change for the better.” Those were the days to be young and idealistic, in which the very air we breathed seemed permeated by existential possibility. As an old man nearing 70, I still can become emotional when I hear a song from my youth and recall the feeling that the Age of Aquarius was just around the corner.

  25. I think this quest for perfection by removing parts from the whole (be that foods, culture or even human body) has been around for a long time, at least in the western civilization. Your post made me think of the rigid structure of Plato’s republic that would banish all poets. I am really struggling to understand what drives this? Is it the desire for simplicity, just seeing things in black and white? I know that a lot of religious thinking is like that and it might be psychologically helpful for some people.

    Another thing that your post reminded me of is my shock when I first encounter American politics where everybody has to pretend to be perfect (perfect family, looks etc).
    In Europe the saying was that everybody has at least one sin out of the usual three (drunkenness, adultery or lying/stealing) and if any politician looks like it has none, he probably is doing something much worse in secret. I see this in US again and again, do you know why people here have not learned the lesson yet?

  26. @Steve T: I’ve encountered those sorts too. Also the “well God has told us His will so defying it naturally sends us to Hell that’s totally reasonable” sorts, at which point I realize that I’m dealing with someone who basically worships Darkseid and/or that computer from I Have No Mouth, and that there is nothing further to be gained from the conversation, so I go have a drink.

    Also, my sympathies re: food allergies, particularly those developing late in life. For me it was oysters, and a series of Exorcist-style events in my twenties, when I’d been eating them fine up until then–and likewise, I don’t judge anyone for eating them, it’s certainly not a moral issue, my body just decided that I don’t get to do that any more. (There are several reasons I’ve never been into the whole “love your body” aspect of feminist/pagan thought, one of which is that my body randomly decides that I can’t have nice things, like cats or oysters or more than three cocktails of an evening. It’s like living inside a less-cute three-year-old.)

    @sgage: Ha! Reminds me of high school con-going diets, where the important thing was to balance the caffeine and sugar with plenty of cheddar-cheese flavored Combos, “as a foundation.” I had nutritional theories back then, oh yes.

    As a general rule: I am less sympathetic toward the “X diet/lifestyle/thing will Save the World” than our gracious host, but naked idealism makes me uncomfortable in general. (I love Bowie and Mercury dearly, may they enjoy whatever plane they’ve clearly transcended to, but I cannot listen to “Under Pressure” without my eyes rolling out of my head.) Maybe because I grew up exposed to it from too many well-meaning adults (raised in the 1980s/1990s–and thus by people who came of age in the sixties and seventies–in SoCal) but likely because I’m WASP/Bostonian and that sort of thing can only lead to people having emotions right out in public, in front of God and everyone. 😛

  27. JMG, a couple of things. I don’t propose to try to talk you out of your feelings about food because you’re entitled to them. But this essay has an atypical whiff of shoggoth about it. You describe “self-righteous posturing and bullying” vegans as though there are no self-righteous posturing and bullying omnivores, and as if unpleasant or ugly vegans invalidate the idea of veganism. You describe “the classic unhealthy-vegan look, thin, pale, and rigid,” as well as vegans sneaking off to steak-houses. I’ve been a vegan for 30 years, as has my 83 year old mother. I know loads of vegans. We’re all perfectly normal looking, neither fat nor skinny, generally quite healthy, and — I can only speak for the two of us — we don’t sneak off to steak houses. In fact when new vegans lapse it’s almost always cheese. We do go to steak houses with friends, but order vegan pasta and it’s never a problem. That said, there are two things worth noting. One is that, as you point out, veganism is a philosophy that focuses on not exploiting animals, rather than on promoting human health. The diet is the child of that philosophy and so, theoretically, is undertaken regardless of health outcomes. In that way it’s like fasting for religious purposes. It may or may not make you healthy but that’s not the point. The point is to honor a religious obligation or in some fashion strengthen the spirit. For vegans its to avoid animal suffering.

    The second item is that the poor health attending a western diet that inspired George Ohsawa to invent macrobiotics is not imaginary. Much of it is due to consumption of junk food — which can be perfectly vegan — and a diet too narrowly focused on animal products. It’s not an accident that people who eat like Henry the 8th end up looking and feeling like Henry the 8th. Or that the British were healthier when meat was rationed than they were before or have been since. Careful studies over the past 50 years have established that a plant-based diet can reverse heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and large population studies bear out that these are diseases of lifestyle. So it’s not simply anecdotes and conjecture.

    Finally, I don’t think veganism — or plant-based eating, which is more specifically what we’re discussing — is going away any time soon. In 2014, 1% of the American public was plant-based. It’s now 6% and climbing. 49% of Americans use plant milks, so omnivores are changing their dietary choices in response to health and environmental concerns, and for me that’s where our arguments meet. The animal agriculture we currently practice is the biggest driver of deforestation, plummeting fish stocks, water consumption and pollution, as well a a huge contributor of greenhouses gases. It violates the economics of our ecosystem that you write about so eloquently in The Wealth of Nature. Just as our bodies don’t care about our philosophy, the environment doesn’t care about our appetites. All of us (vegans too) need to find a way to eat that sustains both our health and the environment.

  28. A bit off-topic but I don’t know any other place where I could ask this.

    How necessary is it to set up an altar when giving offerings to a god?

  29. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Thank you for another thought-provoking essay.

    I was extra amused, for I am old enough to recall the days when it seemed that everyone on the cutting edge of modernity cooked with glops of margarine and avoided eggs and shrimp.

    PS Perhaps of interest to you and your readers– should you all not already be aware of them, and/or have a yen for a shiver of horror or three– are Rose Rosetree’s several blog posts on her readings of the auras of certain diet experts / vegans / vegetarians.

  30. Shall we all strike up a chorus of Larry Groce’s classic “Junk Food Junkie.”

    Jay Moses– I recently read _Daily Show_ host, Trevor Noah’s autobiography _Born a Crime_ about growing up in S. Africa. He tells of a period when his family was so poor they ate cooked native greens with a kind of caterpillar. As he put it, “there’s poor and there’s ‘I’m eating worms’ poor.”

    I also gave macrobiotics a try. Before I started I was in the habit of drinking about a quart of milk a day. It was an easy way to feel nourished when too busy to cook. I was also nursing my third child. She had eczema on her cheeks, but was otherwise healthy. She was the only one of my kids to have any formula because my milk hadn’t come in and the doctor insisted. Anyhow, when I went on macrobiotic diet, eliminating milk, the baby’s eczema disappeared and I noticed that I had less morning congestion. Even after I quit the diet, I didn’t return to drinking milk, although I do eat cheese, butter, ice cream, etc. and I am no longer sneezing around cats, dogs and horses. I think the baby had a slight allergy to cow’s milk and somehow whatever produced it was managing to make it’s way through my system into my milk and affect her. Later in life she had no problem with milk.

    But I also had some philosophical problems with the macrobiotic claims. If you are supposed to refrain from oranges or tomatoes because they are not native to Seattle or Chicago, why refrain if you live in California or Florida where they grow? Likewise, rice is not native to Boston, nor seaweed to Kansas. Secondly, the literature claimed that the diet was based on that of Buddhist monks, however monks who accept food as alms have to take what is given and can’t adhere to a strict diet. A third question I had was that certain foods were banned because they caused “mucus.” But this was described as occurring in organs that have no mucus production, such as the kidneys. The whole thing just oozed pseudo science.

  31. JMG,

    aren’t there a lot of 5-Thursday months of late? I’m chuffed you got round to one of my suggestions from the first ‘vote’ and, as ever, you have excelled yourself, going way beyond your omnivory into something altogether more enlightening.

    (Incidentally, one of the crazy aspects of the detestable Universal Credit system in the UK is that many workers who get paid weekly lose their benefits in a 5-payday month because they suddenly look they are paid ‘too much’. They have to reapply from scratch in the following month, facing the policy-mandated 6 week wait before they get any more benefits. Incredibly, all of this is done with the explicit intent of training workers to manage on a monthly salary. You might think the intent is rather to drive people mad.)

    Back in the room… yes, macrobiotics. I went through that phase in the ’80s, and had almost forgotten about it. But I still love miso, still benefit from the lessons I learned in getting flavour out of (or in to) unpromising ingredients, and still find myself chopping carrots diagonally – so each piece contains a bit of the yin and a bit of the yang! Those were the days.

    All the best,


  32. You should see the vegans in our house hover around the kitchen when someone cooks bacon. Former vegetarian, now light meat eater myself. I have a song about this, of course. One of the lines is, “I don’t eat meat … except when I do.”

  33. I don’t disagree. However, I would claim that

    1. The vast majority of humans who ever existed have lived on a diet which was considerably less meat-heavy than the diet of typical modern Western people;

    2. The vast majority of these people (myself included) could benefit from drastically reducing their consuption of meat, especially pork and beef;

    3.The diet typical of modern Western people is ecologically grossly unsuistanable, even by the rather lax standards of that culture.

    Listening to one’s body is certainly good advice, but sometimes the mind has also something valuable to contribute (I’m not disagreeing with you, just musing on the topic). Right now, for example, my body is telling me that the chicken wings and the two beers I had to celebrate finishing writing a paper were nice enough, but I could do with more wings and more beer. My mind, on the other hand, is telling me that I need to lose weight and today I already ate too much. I think I’ll probably suggest a compromise between body and get one more beer, but no more meat 🙂

  34. My brother had gout and said goodbye to red meat and booze. I never touch booze, so I have plenty of tolerance left for steak pizza.

  35. The actual nature of one’s diet is only half the story here. Do you prepare your own meals in the kitchen with good tools and inspiring music and a glass of something to celebrate the joy of abundance? Or do you swing through the drive-thru and inhale your happy meal behind the wheel? Do you eat with family and friends at the table or perhaps outdoors under a tree, enjoying conversation and sharing stories, or do you shovel in your food while sitting in front of the tv? What we eat does matter. How we grow, shop, prepare, and enjoy that food determines more accurately whether we thrive or flounder. As a friend often reminds me, a home-cooked meal celebrated with loved ones is a revolutionary act. Best wishes.

  36. John, your comments really resonated with me, particularly the notion: “’have occasionally daydreamed of writing a book on what I call “the new macrobiotics”—that is to say, macrobiotic theory…..(but no one will buy it)……”
    I studied and mastered (got masters degree in Molecular Biology, taught biochemistry in college for a couple years before turning that knowledge into extreme study of nutrition, wherein I studied the detailed mechanisms of how our bodies breakdown and use food, by intense study of research 10 hours a day 6 days a week, leading to my PhD degree in Nutrition after 3 years. I could understand the molecular logic of why certain foods do certain things and realized why certain aspects of Japanese food work so well and why certain aspects of American work so well (for example the stomach cancers of Japanese are prevented by American citrus habit of combining vitamin C sources with weird nitrate salt sources, to prevent their conversion into mutagenic forms). Many things became clear such as the enzymes and binding factors that scavenge particular amino acids due to 100s of thousands of years of low animal protein diet. I used to teach the molecular logic of why different sugars and fatty acids were invented and adopted by certain plants and animals in order to survive. For example milk is very high in sugar, I forget now something like 4% but the type (lactose) is not sweet and does not react (not reducing like glucose) with amino acids for great molecular reasons (think of ants crawling over breasts and babies faces at night due to the sweetness of another sugar in milk instead of lactose).Fish and temperate plants adopted polyunsaturated fats to maintain fluidity (cant metabolize or move around a molecule that freezes out (basically precipitates) at lower (below body temp) temperatures.
    John I cant talk about Nutrition with anyone because they start screaming advertising slogans at me and call me stupid, so I have not written a book that explains the molecular logic why certain things are good and certain are bad (so to speak).
    I live in a traditional village on a small island in Japan. Most people in their 70s and even 80s are working and more healthy than Americans and live longer, and more active lives. I follow an old fashioned Japanese diet but with American additions but keep my mouth shut because I cant stand the religious arguments from others about their diets. Instead I am focused on replacing the 100 year old electric grid technology with superior more efficient and much cheaper investment-equipment type of electricity and even with that improvement, have to build my grids in farm villages of Japan, and in the rain forest (Africa) or poor area of China because everyone in the city and in America is too sophisticated or invested in the past to make a real change.
    I conclude that a true collapse can be followed more easily by a more intelligent life style and physical infrastructure. Collapse is a way to wake up and think/decide more objectively. In the same way, we hope to establish sustainable intelligent next paradigm life in our rural area. Cant talk about this with most people. Thank you for your thoughtful essay this months. best

  37. Nicholas Nassim Taleb has comments about diet in his books (Collection entitled “Incerto”); He believes that diets should be cyclical, based on the seasonal availability of different foods in ancient times, with occasional fasting to mimic ancient periods when food was not available for days at a time.
    Most of Nature seems to be cyclical. Taleb believes that is the basis for the feasts and fasts scheduled by the Eastern Orthodox church in which he was raised.
    I tried cycling my foods based on that idea. I got to skipping breakfast and lunch 3 days a week. After 3 months of this, my cholesterol went down into the normal range. I lost 10 pounds (not too dramatic, I know). And I also lost my taste for sugary foods, preferring savory instead.
    When I moved cross-continent, I stopped that diet, gained 20 lb. I plan to try it again.

    Take home for me is that the idea of a “balanced diet” = every day the same thing, same portions, goes against the cycling we see everywhere in Nature. Feast sometimes, and fast sometimes!

  38. Dear John Michael, veganism, as defined by the person who coined the word, Donald Watson, is not a diet. Vegan is for the animals. No true vegan does it for health; a person who does that is called a plant-based dieter.

    It’s not perfect. Many (if not most) vegans are hypocrites. There are even vegan Nazis, seriously. Nevertheless, it’s not a diet.

    What’s wild about Mystery Teachings of the Living Earth is how intensely it reflects the illumination it takes to stop eating and using animals. I would love to drop specific examples here, and perhaps I will be able to do so later, but ironically I am up against the clock because I have over-scheduled my foolish over-functioning self into doing a vegan cheese & dairy class in a couple of days. I find this sort of thing is the best method of saving actual animals, even if it is indirect and soft, even though it almost always involves me breaking my a&$.

    I will be forever indebted to you for the wisdom you have shared with me and I am certain many of your readers feel the same. I think I have said before that you were the number one inspiration it took for me to change my life for the better. I am radically different now, having chosen a path of magic (which has odd similarities to being a musician) that I abandoned a long time ago. I looked to magic again because I saw how wise you were and decided to stand on the shoulders of giants. You are usually right as rain. I think you’ve got a bit of a blind spot where the animals are concerned. OK, gotta go now.

  39. JMG – I know nothing about macrobiotics, nor the yin and yang of foods. I did flirt with the Paleo diet, until I made the mistake of researching the claims. Alas, not all flirtation leads to greater things…

    Question: how much of the Asian peasant diet was influenced not by the yin and yang of food, but by what foods were available to Asian peasants?

  40. Geez, what’s the old saying, “scratch under the surface of every American, and you’ll find a Puritan underneath.” I remember my parents telling me about people who would go to Frankfort to the liquor store to avoid buying it in our town, and when the law was changed to allow full bars in restaurants in small towns saying,”people will still go to Lexington to eat, no one wants to be seen ordering a drink in (our town)” That’s a new one JMG, I’ve never heard “shot by the bun gun”–that’s a keeper. BTW, here in the Bible Belt, evangelicals are quickly and quietly backing away from their homophobia, gay acceptance seems to have reached critical mass.
    The new taboo that people seem to indulge on the down low involves political correctness inspired by social justice warriors. You don’t know how many fine, upstanding men find guys that they can call f*ggot on the down low, behind closed doors, as part of a scene. As well as the number of black men into “raceplay”, which usually involves a lily white guy willing to call them the n-word and otherwise recreate Jim Crow behind closed doors. The forbidden is indeed irresistible.

  41. I knew this post was going to be funny simply on the basis of the subject matter.
    Back in the early ’80s, when I got interested in Macrobiotics, the poster child for a failed diet was the Atkins Diet. Everybody got a big bang over how dumb it was, and what a failure it have proven to be.
    So I was astounded in the early 2000s when the Atkins Diet made a big comeback, made fortunes for a few people, got on the cover of Time Magazine, before the corporation went bankrupt.
    It showed me that a bad idea, in America, will never die forever as long as there is a nickel to be made from it. No matter how idiotic it turns out to be, you can count on it turning up again, though maybe after a generation (if it is really bad).
    Think of it; in the early 80s we believed nuclear power was dead, gone, with a stake through its heart. We thought the CIA was finally bridled. We thought there would never be another Viet Nam. We thought the gasoline engine was done for. We even thought that Nixon had finished the Republican Party.
    I might be wrong, but it seems to me that Veganism is in its second incarnation too. I could be wrong, but I seem to recall people being warned off of it decades back.

  42. Michael Pollan outlined a few years ago: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (copied via google, but I read his books way back).

    I think this is it. The problem is: Which plants? I can pay now a visit to my nearest Migros and find local apples and from South Africa and Chile, as well as Berries from god knows whencesoever and pay a fortune, because our median income obfuscates the costs of silly lifestyles. They put salads from Spain into our sandwiches, cucumbers into those salads right in the deepest winter, when I am sure nobody would mind seasonality with winter legumes and vegetables. It probably would take five years and most consumers find it perfectly normal to eat different throughout the year. There are moral considerations, but I guess that pales in front of those who constantly eat or are being fed harmful meals.
    I could eat lentils, amaranth, quinoa or simply wheaty, conventional egg pasta. All plants. But it gets political. Lentils from Egypt, Amaranth from mountain farmers in South America, quinoa, hm, no idea and pasta from the Ukraine. The devil is in the detail and details are fractal. The devil is everywhere.
    The quote also misses variety. I’d add “And not only a dozen of things, but of those a handful a week.” Where I live, one can eat mostly or at least more local, climate friendly, evade a meat heavy diet, but still eat each day for a whole month not the same two things by which I mean the same two species which provided their body to be eaten by me. It is deeply marvelous how anybody above the working poor can nourish themselves into unhealthiness – and those who go vegan in spite are doubly a marvel to me.
    Just a few thoughts.

  43. (Sort of related to what Jay Moses said about necessity and rich vs. poor)

    Are there any considerations with respect to sustainability that you believe should be addressed on any level, or eating practices which people can or should try to observe?

    I think there are pretty obvious problems with the American food system – it’s wasteful, both because it uses up a lot of resources and because so much food gets thrown out; there are issues with both environmental damage and with animal cruelty that have to do not with killing per se, but rather with the manner in which animals are raised, treated, and slaughtered; food is transported long distances using fossil fuels; agricultural workers are often treated dismally (sprayed with pesticides, injured in slaughterhouses); there is a lot of pesticide and other residue in foods and organic food is often out of the price range of many people; etc. And even people who believe in eating a wide variety of foods can probably agree that there is too much reliance on processed food.

    I mean, the whole things seems to be a giant mess.The poor have to eat what they can afford, and those of us with some disposable income – well, what do we do?

    The answer to the above that I get from vegans is usually “that’s why you need to be vegan!”, while paleo-types will tell you that the “grain-based” diet is the real problem and that’s why you need to follow their religion. But I’m of the opinion that this is another example where the opposite of one bad idea is another bad idea.

    Which leaves me asking – what do I do? I try to avoid processed food, I try to buy organic produce to the best of my ability to afford it, I buy organic grass-fed meat and hope the animal that it came from was treated and killed in a humane manner, but at the end of the day – does it make any difference? I’m still participating in what seems to be a very dysfunctional way of feeding ourselves. And I can’t help but wonder how much of this dietary hysteria and evangelic fervor for the one true diet is a reaction to a system that puts us all in the position of not really knowing what to do that’s “right”

    Sorry if I rambled a bit…but sometimes the whole food issue makes me want to throw up my hands.

  44. Dear JMG,
    Reading your article I started to think in terms of Major Arcana, and it was amusing to think that an excess of the Hierophant preaching about righteousness may lead to the guilty compulsion of the Devil, which could have been balanced by paying attention to the body instead of trying to choke it in submission (Strength). I´ll surely remember Greer’s Law of Evangelism… XD
    Pedro Ribeiro

  45. Hi JMG,

    This is a fantastic post, and so very true. As an example, I live in the Atlanta area and it is an axiom in the gay community here that when the Southern Baptists (or some other evangelical church group) are in town, the gay bars are always packed.

    I look forward to next week’s post and to the next contest.


  46. Kind Sir

    The following “three condition diet” has served me well for most of my life.

    1) you are hungry
    2) the food looks and smells good
    3) the food does not try to run away or attack you.
    If condition 3 is not met, further negotiations with the food are a possibility.
    Make sure the roles are absolutely clear here.
    If unsuccessful the food and you agree on not entering a food chain relationship and go separate ways.

    The beauty of this process is, that, with minor modifications, it works as a decision making tool in many areas.

    On a slightly different note:
    It seems that a lot of the evangelical cults only started proselytising after their apocalyptic predictions failed to materialise.
    So another way of putting Greeks law might be: the more someone understands that a deeply held belief is rubbish, the harder he will try to convince others of it.

  47. Another great post, the long-awaited essay on what John Michael has called the “American Macroneurotic Diet”. Here are a few things that occurred to me as a result of reading this essay.

    1) One-size-fits-all solutions never work in the real world, at least not for very long. This is true whether we are talking about diets, religion, social welfare programs, government regulation, monocultures or a great many other things*.

    As a Heathen who embraced the faith of his ancestors several years ago, I went through a period where I had a very negative view of Christianity and Islam. But now, I can appreciate the teachings, qualities and achievements of both religions. In fact, among my recent reading projects has been the works of the early 20th century Sufi teacher Hazrat Inayat Khan, the Iranian Traditionalist philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr and Henri Corbin’s writings on Islamic mysticism. I am also reading a book about angelology written by a Roman Catholic priest that presents teachings about angels from a traditional Catholic point of view.

    2) Attempts to come up with one-size-fits-all approaches appear to reflect a totalitarian instinct that has become embedded in the West and always seems to lie just under the surface. I have read claims that this tendency originated with the prophetic religions that appeared in the Middle East, starting with Judaism, in which the priests and prophets insisted there was only one right way to do things and only one god who was worthy of worship, with all the others being false or evil. I am not sure I find that contention particularly convincing, but I would like to see this topic explored in further depth. Thoughts, anyone?

    3) An awful lot of evangelism of the sort critiqued here seems to be motivated by people projecting their own shadows, in the classic Jungian sense of the term.

    4) The business management consultant Peter Drucker used to say the one of the biggest causes of trouble in modern Western society is the notion of “salvation by society”, the idea that deeply rooted problems can be solved if only we would implement the right set of government policies or social reforms. But as Jung and others have repeatedly pointed out, real reform begins with the individual. Unless people are willing to start by making changes in their own lives, even the most laudable reform movements are sure to end in disappointment if not tears.

    * Even everyone’s favorite whipping boy, the F-35 Lardbucket, is a product of this syndrome in action, an attempt to come up with a one-size-fits-all fighter-bomber that ended being a classic jack-of-all-trades, master of none and thus is likely to lose badly to the latest Russian and Chinese air superiority fighters in a real war against a rival great power.

  48. I had to have a chuckle over what “Greer’s Law of Evangelism” says about all the pushy, self-righteous atheists I know!

  49. My dietary philosophy: moderation in moderation. In other words, unhealthy food is okay occasionally, just don’t make a habit of it frequently.

  50. I’m not a virtuous eater. I could do better. Each time I consume pork or bacon I regret the manure problem, which is especially problematic with pigs. When I visit my local supermarket it’s nearly impossible to avoid stuff pkgd in plastic. Sometimes there’s a glass, tin-can, paper or cardboard alternative, but even those seem to be vanishing. Some of our problems seem inescapable short of simply reducing our population numbers. Harmful activities are less harmful when done on a smaller scale; but our whole economic system is geared to doing everything on the largest scale possible. Preaching to the choir here, I suspect.

  51. I spent the late 1970’s in the thrall of the Jesus movement. It was fervently believed that ‘they’ll know we are Christians by our love’, which was, as it turns out, an accurate predictor of its downfall.

    The owner of Fleischer’s Butcher Shop in Kingston and Rhinebeck, NY, is a former vegan. While at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival a few years ago I saw some of their tee-shirts emblazoned with “Bacon-The Gateway Meat”.

  52. Loved every minute of reading this. I have most of Illich’s books and someone will have to force them from my cold dead hands, as he has been pivotal for me in many ways! As to the diets, I have not pursued any ‘cult diets’ like macro or vegan, although I work at a local food co-op that supports them somewhat. My spouse is gluten-free (makes her more alive) and so am I mostly.
    As an Eastern Orthodox christian, I try to abstain from meat and dairy during Lent but as I’m 80+ years I am exempt from some of the rigidity. It might interest some to know that there are over 1000 monks in Greece (Mt. Athos) and elsewhere who never eat meat except fish on major feast days and they often live into their 80s or more. Spirituality may be a part of their longevity.

  53. Excellent post as always, JMG. I am glad that I don’t need to subtract burgers or beer (or sushi, hopefully) from my diet. 😉

    I know of some vegetarians who aren’t opposed to eating meat per se, but who take issue with people that are okay with eating meat but couldn’t stomach slaughtering animals themselves to obtain it (I will admit to belonging to this subset of carnivores). Do you have any thoughts on this?

  54. Interesting post, and I definitely agree that if we really listen, our bodies tell us what we need. Although the processed food purveyors will do their best to block those signals! For many years, my best guidance in terms of diet has come from the book, “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”, published in the 1930s by Dr. Weston A. Price. If anyone thinks that there is one diet that can fit all, this book will quickly disabuse them of that notion.

    Back in the 1930s, Dr. Price, a dentist and highly respected researcher of the time, travelled the world with his wife, and the support of some 60 fine researchers of his day, to conduct a scientific survey of groups of indigenous populations who were still living their traditional lifestyles and eating their traditional diets. He went to many locations where such populations could still be found: to remote Swiss villages and isolated Scottish isles, to Africa, the South Pacific, the Canadian arctic and Northwest US native americans, among others. It was the perfect time in history to do that, since he wanted to compare the dental and overall health of the traditional groups to that of nearby populations of the same ethnic groups who had been exposed to what he called “the displacing foods of modern commerce” (which at that time were primarily sugar, white flour, vegetable oils and canned foods). Even more significantly, he looked at the children of both populations, and studied their skeletal development, particularly the all-important “middle third of the face”.

    He also, with the permission of the village elders, took samples of their traditional foods back to laboratories in the US where they were analyzed for the amounts of vitamins and minerals they contained (cutting edge work at the time). His discoveries were startling and sobering. The traditional populations enjoyed near-perfect dental health (and they had no dentists!). Their Westernized counterparts had many cavities and dental problems. The traditional groups were very healthy in other ways, such as virtually no cases of tuberculosis (which was rampant at the time), compared to the Westernized folks who were dying of TB and other diseases. Their respective children saw similar dramatic differences in only one generation; the babies born to the Westernized groups had smaller, narrower faces and crowded, crooked, diseased teeth. If you read the book, you will see many side-by-side pictures of these groups.

    So what were the traditional populations eating that kept them so healthy? The answer: a very wide variety of diets! From near-vegetarian (Dr. Price found NO groups on fully vegetarian diets, even in India, and certainly no vegans) to the very high-animal fat diets of the Canadian Inuit, and everything in-between. What they did have in common is that all the diets were exceedingly mineral-rich compared to American diets of the era, and had 10 times the amount of “fat-soluble vitamins” (A, D, E, and K2) found in animal fats. I could go on and on, but this is enough for now! I highly recommend reading the book; it’s fascinating enough that I have read it three times. Those traditional peoples knew nothing about the scientific composition of their foods. But they did know how to live in harmony with their environment, and to eat the right foods intuitively. Each population had what they called their “sacred foods”: perhaps a certain fish, or the spring butter, and when asked why they were sacred, they said “because it helps us have healthy babies”. And of course, the sacred foods turned out to be especially nutrient-dense.

    For us, it’s more complex to find our own nutritional wisdom, now that most of it has been lost. If anyone wants more information about Weston A. Price, and the application of his wisdom today, it can be found at

  55. Not Greeks law. Obviously I meant Greer’s law. Bloody spellchecker. I think my life would be a lot better if there was a way of inflicting pain on a computer.

  56. I agree with you that each body varies in the diet it requires. This would all be a much simpler discussion if one’s choice of diet affected only one’s own idiosyncratic body and not the biosphere in which one lives, as of course it does.

    I’ve seen so many people try vegetarianism out of genuine concern for lessening their carbon footprint, then discover that their bodies actually need meat, and then go back to full-blown carnivorousness as if their efforts were futile and ultimately embarrassing. I think this underscores the point you’re making about the mistake of searching for purity rather than balance.

    The fact remains that most human bodies can get by on much less meat than the average North American diet takes for granted, and that this remains one of the most effective ways to take personal responsibility for one’s impact on the living earth, as you’ve consistently advocated.

    The world doesn’t need universal veganism to achieve ecological wholeness, but it sure would help if the well-fed were to cut back on meat consumption. My rule of thumb is to eat meat when a medieval peasant would have: on feast days, when travelling, or during illness. If that’s evangelism, I hope it sounds as unattractively common-sense as I find it to be.

  57. I’m a vegan for probably 350 days of the year. Sometimes I need a little fish or chicken, so then I eat it. I’m 61, I’m at my perfect weight, and I feel great. My reasons for being vegan are partly about health: I’m at high risk for diabetes, and a diet low in saturated fat is indicated for people with that risk.

    But there is another reason — industrial meat production is a nasty business, and the suffering and damage it causes to workers, animals, and the environment is nightmarish when one contemplates it. Moreover, my understanding is that it generates a huge proportion of our civilization’s atmospheric carbon load, and, according to some hunger experts, it takes grain that could feed a hungry planet and diverts it to feeding livestock in the wealther nations.

    Yes there are pasture-fed, boutique farm alternatives to industrial meat, but only a small part of the population has access to those or can afford them. I’m one of those people, but if I weren’t I would have to forego eating meat entirely. I have been in situations where it was factory meat or nothing, and I was not able to overcome my revulsion to it. The images etched in my mind of how that meat gets to our tables create an insurmountable barrier to its enjoyment.

    This is not a subject one can bring up in most situations without offending people or coming off as shrill or zealous, and for that reason I’m not an evangelist on the subject. But it weighs on me almost every day, the millions upon millions of sentient creatures who live and die in agony so that people can eat lots and lots of cheap meat (large quantities of which are not healthy anyway), as well as the way workers in the meat industry are treated. I agree that our bodies don’t know anything about ethics, but I wonder if any conversation about food choices is complete without considering the ethical implications of our current industrial food economy. Yes, we have to respect what our bodies tell us, but our minds can be good teachers as well.

  58. Hi John,
    You took me back to my macrobiotic memories of the ’60’s.
    I lived in an inner city hippy commune house in Sydney where lots of experimentation/research was carried out, yes we were thin in those days.
    A list of experimental substances was written on the living room wall, to which brown rice was added, much to the amusement of the police officers who periodically dropped by.

    Nowadays I stick to the C- food diet, see food and eat it, so long as it is fresh, not poisoned with ag chems.
    I do think that foods that have life potential like eggs, grains, nuts and fruits and bacon are essential for health, and meat , although dead,(bacon is on another plane) is essential for the nutrients and enzyms they contain.
    We, my life friend and I, grow a lot of our veges and fruit, and keep and breed chooks for eggs and meat. Have done for over 45 years.

    On the sacredness of food, Jesus was one of a long line of venerated food gods, grain & grape , who were sacraficed and regenerated , true sons of the Great Mother.

    Love your work.

  59. My dietary heuristic: follow any traditional diet that you enjoy. In this context, nothing delicious is bad for you.

  60. Nice subject, JMG…kudos to SWMBO!

    My son started dating a vegan 3 years back. Now cohabiting, she finally confessed that she was always tired and felt depressed. My son asked, “Since when?”, which apparently she never considered. “I’m not sure, exactly,” was the reply.

    A few days later, she told him that she thinks she began feeling depressed and tired about ‘z-y-z date’, and he asked her when she began eating veggies only. “About 6 months before then, I think,” was the reply.

    Fast forward 6 months, and she has begun eating eggs, fish and fresh meat (mostly deer, bunny and hog from the farm). She gained 15 pounds initially, but that has disappeared now and she is most obviously more robust and energetic by my eyes.

    Both are happier, as she makes him eat more veggies, so a balance has appeared.

    For me, I began to use “focused eating”, where I actually slow down and contemplate foods while eating. I also listen more closely to what I am hankering for inside. Some days it’s meat, others a crisp salad, other rutabagas with butter. I do try and avoid too much sugar, but the occasional dessert is certainly ok. But no more eating half a cake or pie…LOL I’ve dropped about 40 pounds in a year doing this, and find that ‘focused eating’ works well for me. It also allows for an extremely wide array of foods and preparations – because the focus is on the food, not on filling the gullet.

    Balance within makes balance without. Everything in moderation, maybe? Those words came down a long way back, and still seem to fit humans.

    But the best advice, regardless of the diet, is to go fresh. Dump processed and fast foods – they are just too many calories and you really have no idea of the meat source or the freshness of the veggies in most fast food.

    I dumped fast food years back, when I happened to be in McDonalds when their delivery truck came. I saw boxes labeled EGG PRODUCT, CHEESE PRODUCT and some others. Anything termed a ‘product’ is likely none too healthy compared to the original thing.

  61. Greg, in that case, don’t eat pork. As for a diet that benefits the land and the people, well, I’d suggest that this may not be the central issue in choosing what to eat, you know…

    Drhooves, I haven’t really noticed a “brain dump” effect. If that were to happen just now, it would probably be as a result of finishing my novel The Shoggoth Concerto, but we’ll see!

    David, good. That’s a theme I want to develop further in posts to come.

    KMB, when you give your body what it needs, it generally doesn’t give you indigestion!

    Daniel, may I offer you a bit of advice? Don’t plan on continuing any diet for the rest of your life, no matter how good it makes you feel now. I can tell you on the basis of much experience that my body doesn’t need anything like the diet nowadays that it needed when I was your age. If a ketogenic diet works for you now, excellent — but be ready to change it as your body goes through its life cycle and its needs change.

    Isabel, yep. Sugars are very yin — alcohol is basically a sugar — so your rum and cherry coke are good yin foods to balance your yang bacon cheeseburger. As for sacrifice, got it in one — one of the great downsides of our culture’s cult of entitlement is that most people have no idea how to handle wanting something and choosing not to get it.

    Corydalidae, have you experimented with other simple carbsto see if those help with the sugar thing? Some people have livers that don’t store glucose well, and so need simple carbs on a regular basis; others store glucose too well, and are healthier leaving the simple carbs alone. As always, one size emphatically does not fit all… And by all means get ready to write a story or three! I’ll make the announcement in a little while.

    Clay, it’s an excellent cookbook, and if that kind of cooking keeps the two of you happy and healthy, then by all means.

    Frank, glad to hear that you paid attention to your body’s needs. It really does pay off!

    Sgage, delighted to hear it.

    Michael, no, that’s also a rule that works for some people and not for others. No one diet is suitable for all people.

    Steve, I’ve gotten the same thing from vegans. Again, not from all vegans — there are people who really do thrive on that diet — but it’s consistently those who are thin and sallow and have the bug-out eyes who insist at the top of their lungs that it’s not true that vegans are thin and sallow and have bug-out eyes, and I’m personally responsible for all the evils of factory farming if I point out that they’re thin and etc. As for gluten, my wife has celiac disease, so I get that. Me, I can eat just about anything — coffee gives me migraines and so does a food additive, calcium tripolyphosphate, which is found in canned and frozen shellfish and cheap French and Italian bread and a few other things — so I simply pay attention to what makes me feel healthiest, and eat that.

    Tamar, that’s the one! I used to take the bus up from Burien, where I lived, to Capitol Hill, and walk to her apartment. I don’t think I ever met Will Nye, though.

    Jay, good. We’ll be talking about that, and a couple of other factors feeding into the fad-die thing, in posts to come.

    Aigin, by all means feel free to quote it.

    Xabier, well, wasn’t “capitalist running dog” a common term of abuse among Marxists back in the day? 😉

    Newtonfinn, if a vegetarian diet works for you, that’s excellent, and if you can do it and not turn into a dogmatic jerk about diet, then Greer’s Law suggests that it really is good for you. And, yes, the Fifth Dimension — that does bring back memories!

    NemoNascitur, good question. I think it was Francois Mitterand who once made fun of the “almost messianic sense of national purpose” that obsesses the United States, and of course he was right; to way too many Americans, the United States isn’t just one nation among many, it’s supposed to be Utopia. I think the increasing gap between that deranged fantasy and the reality of an ordinary nation in an ordinary state of decline is one of the things that has pushed so many people into political googoomuck of late.

    AuntLili, I see I struck a nerve. I’m glad to hear that you and the vegans you know are all healthy and happy with your diet — and indeed I mentioned in my post that there are people who thrive on that diet. There are, however, plenty of people who don’t — here’s a thoughtful essay written by one of them, and it’s interesting to notice that it was only after she returned to an omnivorous diet that she realized just how “enraged and difficult” (her words) she was toward anyone who didn’t adopt her diet. If you, personally, want to eat a vegan diet, for whatever reason, that is of course your right; and if that diet isn’t healthy for you, and you choose to keep eating it anyway for ideological reasons, that’s also your right. (No one has the right to tell you how healthy to be, after all.) So long as you can handle the fact that other people also have the right to make their own choices, even when those differ from yours, I have no complaints at all.

    Valenzuela, depends on the god. You might ask, the next time you pray, for guidance as to whether that’s something you need to do.

    Millicently, yep. I’m old enough to remember when polyunsaturated diets and carbs were supposed to be good for you.

    Rita, no question, there’s a huge amount of internal inconsistency in macrobiotic writings — on the one hand, follow the rules for yin-yang balance; on the other, eat local foods (but what if the local foods aren’t balanced?) — and then there’s the whole mucusless business, which just struck me as daft. The basic insights about balancing yin and yang foods always worked for me, but yeah, there was some very dubious stuff in there.

    Matt, glad you liked it. I still habitually cut carrots on the diagonal, though that’s more because they steam better that way in my rice cooker’s steamer basket!

    Aron, I’ve been told that among recovering ex-vegans, it’s a common joke to refer to bacon as the gateway drug!

    Skolymus, some people would certainly thrive on less meat. Others would thrive on more. Simplistic assumptions about what human beings have eaten in the past are hard to square with the extreme diversity of actual diets found in past societies. A case in point? My paternal ancestors ate very modest amounts of grain and vegetables, and a very large amount of animal products, because the Scots Highlands offer very good grazing and plenty of fish, but weather and soil suitable for field agriculture is quite another matter. (I suspect that heredity is one of the reasons why I don’t assimilate plant proteins well.) As for the body and the mind, it’s very common to assume that listening to the body means listening to its temporary passions, but many of these are actually products of the mind. I suggest instead (and it’s just a suggestion — there is no one rule for everybody) noting carefully which foods make you feel healthy and well-satisfied over the short, middle, and long terms, and which don’t — and making dietary decisions on that basis.

    Lunchbox Bike, well, there you are. You make your choices based on what your body wants and can handle!

    DD, and if you happen to live a sufficiently comfortable and privileged life that you can do that, by all means. Not all people do, you know — and not all people will have the same reaction to your choices that you do. It’s a far more revolutionary act to embrace the idea that there is no one right way for everybody!

    Marvin, I’d encourage you to write the book. Publish it under a pseudonym if you want to avoid the controversy! Some people will doubtless thrive on the diet you suggest.

    E. Goldstein, and that also is a dietary rule that works for some people, some of the time.

    Kimberly, with regard to “the animals,” perhaps I should take a moment to explain. As I see it — and there’s plenty of evidence to back this, by the way — life and consciousness are present in all things, not just in animals. (Scientists demonstrated back in the 1970s that when you bite into a raw tomato, it screams.) All living things without exception live on the bodies of other living things — plants send their roots in search of the rotting remains of animals and plants — and all living things, in turn, go to feed something else in due time. That’s the cycle of life; it’s as true of me and you as it is of every other living thing. I eat fish and chickens, pigs and cows, and a great many other living things; in due time worms, fungi, and bacteria will eat me — and I wish them bon appetit! To my mind, the ideology of veganism is based on an essentially anthropocentric delusion — the insistence that only those living things that belong to the same category we do (animals) are really alive. A thoughtful participation in the cycle of life seems much saner to me.

    Of course you’re free to disagree, as I know you will. May I ask one favor, though? It’s really rather rude to insist that someone who disagrees with you “has a blind spot,” or what have you — as though nobody who’s actually thought through the issue can have a different opinion than yours. Please just say “I disagree.”

  62. Hi John Michael,

    Condolences for the loss of your early teacher. You have my sympathies for your loss.

    The world is a funny place, because you journey along its path whilst others fall along the way, and then one day you wake up and realise that someone else is now calling you that: “Old bloke, he’s doing OK, that guy”. Well that’s what happened to me anyway! Hehe! It is best to laugh about these things I reckon.

    A muse is a lovely thing to have, but one never owns a muse, as they are their own person and that is how it should be! :-)!

    Incidentally, and this is not a review or critique of your writing, but I am seriously enjoying the playful whimsy in your words this week.

    I hear you too! People are frankly weird about food, sex, and alcohol. Nuff said really! Hehe!

    Hey, I feel compelled at this stage to ask for your advice. My neighbour – who knows full well that my wife and I brew all of our own supply of alcohol and thus get to enjoy a glass each per night of delicious home made brews – has stated to me on several occasions that he abstains and thus has as he puts it: “no vices”. Now my question to you is this: Is self righteousness a vice? Certainly we hold the belief that he is a closet drinker, and I for one am glad that you share this opinion of those who protest too much. In a darker turn of events, he appears to have sprayed the local blackberries (he told me that he had) just as they were beginning to ripen. He does know that my wife and I pick these berries and produce jam and wine, so I am unsure whether he is making another moral judgement. I would not have taken either course of action, but he is new to rural areas and I’ll cut him some slack, but it is certainly not a good look.

    Incidentally, I often use food as a talking point with many people for other larger matters which are usually not discussed in polite company. The contrast between the stuff produced here, and the food that people are used to consuming is great enough that it cannot be lightly ignored. Although to be fair, I have occasionally come across folks who deride my produce as tasting ‘too strongly’. As the celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay (who has earned his stripes in my opinion) once remarked about a customer: “you have the palate of a cow’s backside”, and that comment possibly applies to those people!



  63. I agree with the majority of what you have to say in this post, it’s a shame our earlier exchange on the subject went so poorly. The quibbles I have are mostly about about cravings and addictions vs actual needs. This varies from person to person as well but I know I’m not alone in sometimes having cravings for foods that I know aren’t good for me (Knowing that comes not from any books or dietary dogmas but from my own experience with how I feel after eating it). Sometimes cravings do come from actual needs such as yours for meat (My body needs a certain amount of meat too). When I realized I was gluten intolerant, I first thought I could just reduce it, but not only was I still reacting to it, I was craving it intensely. When I stopped eating it entirely, for a few days all I was craving was bread, bread, and more bread. Within a week, the cravings pretty much stopped. I’ve heard the same thing from enough other gluten-intolerant people that it seems relatively common. I don’t consider gluten grains to be an evil food, I’m more interested in why they’ve become a problem for an increasing minority of people (theories about which I won’t get into in this post)

    Interestingly, after a few years of being gluten free I figured out I could get away with occasionally eating a bit of gluten in well-fermented forms such as certain beers and sourdough breads with a longer fermentation time. If I’m ever stuck with no other staple food but wheat, I’d ferment, sprout it etc and be able to get by.

    I agree that sticking too dogmatically to certain diets based on ethical concerns can be unhealthy, but so you see it as good if ethics and willpower have a role while considering the needs of the body as well? I ask because of how outspoken you’ve been about things like climate activists cutting back on their own carbon emissions and for those pursuing a meditative practice to do so on a regular schedule, buth of which require willpower. I’m not a vegan and have my arguments as to why I don’t think it’s ethically superior, but I’ve always respected those vegans who do follow their beliefs in a thoughtful way. I suppose thoughtfulness can be taken to too much of an extreme like anything, but it still provides lots of benefits. I’m thinking of the Stanford marshmallow experiment which showed the ability to delay gratification in children correlated to many positive life outcomes later on.

    It seems like different people need different amounts of willpower to function in the world, not just in regards to diet but to life in general. Some people seem to be much more naturally inclined to do what is necessary to get by in life in whatever environment and culture they’re in. Others need much more willpower to be able to get by effectively, and others just don’t get by.

  64. I might as well add that I was “vegetarian” for a year. I put “vegetarian” in quotes because I cheated constantly with fish, which was considered acceptable in the social circle I moved in at the time. Even with the fish I was pale, depressed and… well, let’s just say that you wouldn’t have much cared to be in the same room with me after a heavy meal of soy-based meat products.

    I am grateful for that time, though. I learned more about cooking in that one year than I had in every year prior to it, including the time I spent working in restaurants.

    @ Isabel– Yep. I have no problem believing in Hell. It’s not even particularly difficult to find– head over to the “wrong” part of town and it’s easy enough to find its borderlands in bars and back alleys. Or head back to the right part of town and find it again in behind the facades of perfect suburban homes that hide prisons of psychological, sexual, or substance abuse. But there’s a name for beings, incarnate or otherwise, who create hells, or who trap other people in them. That name isn’t “God.”

  65. JMG –
    Congrats on bringing up the “Screaming of the ‘Maters”, because I remember we had to dupe that experiment in my physiology lab in college. You know – back when reproducing the same results was part of ‘science’?

  66. I enjoyed reading these reflections. What I missed was more critical musings on the relationships between diet and ecology. Eating a bacon cheeseburger is one thing, but without an awareness of where pigs bacon was raised, what it was fed, and how it was slaughtered, there is a gaping disconnect between an awareness of what your body needs and the sources of those elements that nurture your body and at the same time nurture the greater web of relations from which that source emerged. I recognize that this was not the focus of your post but given your voluminous publications and strong stance towards the need to act in a manner that’s in accord with a healthier planet, I was startled and even saddened to see this absent in your post. I wonder how you might frame an ecological dietary relationship that takes into account the sources of our nourishment and the crucial role that an awareness of those sources plays?

    Yes such a stance often involves a place of economic privilege that affords one the possibility of buying grass-fed and sustainable food. But it also opens a conversation with small farmers who are being crushed under the weight of industrial agriculture.

    All that being said I do love a good bacon cheeseburger and find myself very much in alignment with the majority of your sentiments.

  67. Interesting… Wish I could – EAT. Nine year oral cancer survivor. Lost 1/3 of my tongue and the ability to swallow easily. No obvious cause or marker for the cancer. While reading the comments and letting the goop go in through the feeding tube I check the label of the goop – the least processed ‘ingredient’ was oat fiber. Corn and Soy show up with 10 to 20 letter modifiers – in other words the voor has left the universe. But I mostly tolerate it and health is good. I try to eat a bit of ‘real’ food every day but it is a chore.

    I raise chickens and eggs are something I can get down. Now if they would start laying again. (And yes I’ve raised and slaughtered meat chickens. Did the best I could for them and they were soooo much better than the thing in the supermarket.)

    Looking back at the travel I done some of the best food was in Beijing in ’87 or so. A one month trip turned in to six months. We lived and ate local. Mostly vegetables/rice with a bit of meat for flavor at most meals – and usually 2 or 3 liters of beer. Could not stomach American Chinese food when we got back. Lost wight and ate like a horse. The experience colored all the remaining travel. If the locals eat it – try it and assume it tastes good (maybe not I first so keep trying). Can’t remember anything I really couldn’t eat – a very few I wouldn’t order but would nibble if someone else wanted it..Most interesting was farm raised deep fried Scorpion.

    I’m like Joel Salatin – a Vegtabletarian. (sort of a take on Pollan’s “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” )
    Glad to see WPA get mentioned. Lost interest locally when they got too evangelical on the anti-vaccination kick.

    John – NJ0C

  68. @Shane W: Reminds me of the old joke: Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, Protestants don’t recognize the Pope as the head of the Church, and Baptists [or Lutherans, or Methodists*, depending on the teller’s neck of the woods] don’t recognize each other in the liquor store.

    @JMG: Nice! And now I’m wondering if my general love for sugar (I have drunk simple syrup straight, no lie) is somehow a balance for my general yang-itude personally (fond of heat and fire symbolism, bright colors and shiny things, fairly “masculine” for a straight cis girl, and so forth).

    *Oddly I’ve never heard this one about Mormons, despite them being one of the more well-known non-drinking sects.

  69. ” The conviction—still remarkably common these days—that it’s possible to create a perfect world by getting everyone to eat the right diet” is a rather disturbing notion. It provides the justification for a totalitarian level of control. The culinary sphere of one’s life has very personal connotations. Not only do we digest our own food, we also digest thoughts and experiences. The idea that “science” or “tradition” can dictate the ideal diet is therefore very frightening if taken to its logical conclusion. If the one of the fanatical diet factions had their ways I imagine they would try to control much more than diet, and ultimately fail as handily as any other totalitarian.

    This essay reminded me forcefully of Spengler’s discussion of Socialism. He said in effect that the Classical Cynic and Stoic speculated on their own ideal diet, but the Faustian Socialist speculates about the ideal diet for everyone in the whole world! It strikes me as patently absurd, at least from the perspective of old time energetic health systems where everyone has different energetic requirements.

  70. The current fad (or was the last time I looked..) is bone broth, currently being touted as a cure-all for everything that ails you. Given the hype, I am a bit dubious of that but having experimented with it, I can say it does make a luscious soup broth. I have long since stopped buying canned soups in any case, electing to make my own from chicken or turkey parts, since it tastes so much better.

    Like Lydia I have read Dr Price’s book, written at a time when there were still many indigenous people still eating their traditional diets. Their robust constitutions and beautiful straight teeth were testament to a simpler and better way of eating that modern industrial farming has bull-dozed away for the sake of profits.

    That having been said, I prefer to avoid the website dedicated to Dr Price as a number of its articles are written by True Believers who write about the evilly evilness of soy milk, tofu, vegetable oils, etc. They are so determined to warn us about the Diet Dictocrats (as they call them) that all too often they come across as Dictocrats themselves.

    Maybe someday we can just sit down and enjoy a quiet meal without worrying about whether it’s ‘good for us’. It should be enough that it tastes good and leave it at that.

  71. Forgot to add: @DD: I think it’s good to have a mix of all, as and when you’re able. Cooking at home and slow meals with family are wonderful, but there’s something to a candy bar and a trashy novel as well, IME, or diner food at 3 AM after a night on the town with friends, or the famous pizza and beer RPG sessions…

  72. El said “sometimes the whole food issue makes me want to throw up my hands. my hands.”

    I second the motion, but with one subtraction: “sometimes the whole food issue makes me want to throw up.”

    It seems not that people are defining their sophistication by the endless novelty of what they eat, and their refined sensibilities by all the things they won’t or can’t eat. Let alone the food at the local co-op: this-free and that-free and imported from Ghu-knows-where.

    Pat, who eats the sort of thing my mother served in my childhood, minus the Velveeta, Junket pudding, Koolaid, and food coloring.

  73. JMG, you haven’t hit a nerve. As you may imagine, I’ve had a lot of comments about my diet over the years. The point I was trying to make, and apparently didn’t, is that all diets, including mine, have an impact not only on health but on the environment. For example palm oil, while perfectly vegan, is a destructive mono-culture so I avoid it. The same is true for a lot of vegan favorites, especially tropical ones. You’ve written elsewhere about our poor economic relationship with the ecosystem that sustains us. The fact that no diet is perfect for everyone does not, I think, absolve us from considering the environmental impact of the choices we make. Meat eating may feel good, but to some people so does driving around the corner, blasting the air-conditioning, or jet-setting off to the Bahamas whenever it gets cold. To me the issue is not can you eat perfectly and solve all your problems, but regardless of your diet, can you eat sustainably, responsibly and beneficially?

    BTW, I read the article you linked to. I respect her experience but if I did everything I’ve ever dreamed about doing I’d be redundantly dead. 🙂

  74. Shane said

    You don’t know how many fine, upstanding men find guys that they can call f*ggot on the down low, behind closed doors, as part of a scene.

    And not just as part of the BDSM roleplaying scene. The vast majority of the truly nasty racist, sexist and homophobic slurs and stereotyping I’ve heard being used by people in private have come from people who were politically liberal. Behind closed doors when they think they’re safe and don’t have to be PC, that’s when you really see the ugly and hypocritical side of them come out.

  75. Hi John.
    Interesting timing in your topic this week. We at GWB&PA Tower 440 are making our wish list to incorporate as a lodge… including calling the inner and outer guards Ruinmen (finer gradation pending) … and naming the canteen “The Ruinman’s Bar.” Any menu ideas?

  76. Great responses all around. My own take on diet is being a ‘vegetarian-pescetarian’. The quip I use is “Fish is the methadone of meat.” All the vegans/vegetarians I’ve known who have ‘snapped’ have done so due to the siren song of bacon. Works for me, but I know that some people can’t do certain diets. I shrug my shoulders and accept it.

    Someone mentioned to me ( that fish are the worst way to get protein, due to mercury, and the fact that fishing stocks have declined precipitously. Their comment was that the most eco-friendly meat is grass-fed grass-finished beef.

    James Swanson brings up a good point. I think if I was to kill a chicken or two, or was able to hunt for my own meat, that might change my relation to eating meat (I’ve fished, so that squares with me fine). This might go for all sorts of food; being a bit closer and more involved in the process might make me feel OK with going back to meat full-on.

    Of course, there’s Arthur C. Clarke’s short story The Food of the Gods…

  77. Thanks for following the muse this week. After vegetarianism, a brief foray into veganism, localism, and others, I settled on a diet that works for my body at this point in life. I feel energetic, rarely fall ill, cook from scratch most of the time, and enjoy the pleasures of food with friends and family. I have not once tried to convince someone else to eat the way I do, so by Greer’s Law it must be satisfying. A friend of mine went vegan a year ago, but he doesn’t preach about it; last time we visited, I had forgotten, and he didn’t take offense. Ahh, disensus. It feels like a warm bath in a utopian winter.

    The question I have, as one with little astral knowledge, is what does one experience when encountering a dissatisfied evangelical (of religious, dietary, or other stripe) in the astral plane (if such a thing is possible)?

  78. @Matt: “Question: how much of the Asian peasant diet was influenced not by the yin and yang of food, but by what foods were available to Asian peasants?”

    I don’t think there was much of a yin-yang for the average peasant, but my book The Sacred Science of Ancient Japan has a lengthy quotation from one 18th century text that prescribes a macrobiotic-style diet with extensive metaphysical explanations. I didn’t know it at the time of writing, but that text possibly had a Chinese Taoist influence. Japanese diets in general were extremely austere before the 1920s or so.

    The Tale of Genji is full of the good smells of flowers, winds, and plants, but the taste of food is not mentioned once. Presumably the main food being consumed was plain rice, with no spices or garnishes. Ivan Morris writes that “meals are hardly ever described … on the whole the food was poor in both culinary and nutritive value.” Less spice and meat, and less food in general, would make you less smelly, which was extremely desirable in the classical court. On the other hand, the premodern Japanese often came down with scurvy or beriberi — even nobility, who ate white rice that had been “cleaned” of the nutrients found in brown rice.

    The principles of small plates and less meat used in macrobiotics aren’t bad ones. In the 20th century, when the Japanese had well-rounded diets, they achieved the longest average lifespan in the world. A main trick is not to eat very much at all.

  79. Ben, all of it, of course! The yin and yang theories were come up with later.

    Shane, funny. The return of the repressed…

    Aloysius, I don’t know of one in print. You’d probably have to go read Galen and Avicenna.

    Mark, yep. I expect Breatharianism to make a comeback one of these days, too.

    Michael, and here again, that works for you. Why is it necessary for you to proclaim it as a law for everyone?

    El, don’t try to be “right.” Just try to pay attention to the things that make your body feel healthy, and eat those more often than not. If you’re concerned about the environment, remember that your diet accounts for only one modest part of your ecological footprint — there are many other things you can do to benefit the planet, and quite a few of them have a much larger impact.

    Pedro, excellent! Yes, indeed.

    Chronojourner, thank you for the data point!

    DropBear, funny! Thank you.

    Armata, the notion of “salvation by society” is a huge issue. Spengler talked about it from a different angle in The Decline of the West. One of the things that most needs challenging right now is precisely the totalitarian notion that there’s One Right Way that ought to be shoved down everyone’s throat.

    Blackthorn, yes, I have them in mind as well. Modern scientific atheism is a religion — any belief system that claims to be able to tell you how the universe began and what happens to us when we die is a religion — and like other religions, it suffers from evangelism to the precise extent that it’s unsatisfactory in practice.

    Dean, and if that works for you, great.

    Phutatorius, hmm. Do you consider yourself a virtuous sleeper? Or a virtuous defecator? How about your circulatory system — is that virtuous? One of the things that fascinates me is precisely the way that people pile this vast tottering structure of moral guilt and virtue onto the simple act of nourishing your body, but not on most other ordinary biological actions. For some reason nutrition, exercise, and sex get that kind of treatment, while other biological activities don’t. I may be exploring this further.

    Beekeeper, funny! Thank you.

    Jim, I appreciate the limited fasting for limited periods that many religions practice, and not just for spiritual reasons — it seems like a sensible practice for health, at least from my perspective.

    James, sushi is actually very balanced — you’ve got yang (the fish), yin (the sweetened vinegar dressing), and then the rice right in the middle. As for killing things to eat them, I’ve done that — you don’t live on a hippie farm, at least not the sort of hippie farm I frequented, without slaughtering, plucking, cleaning, and eating chickens now and again, and I’ve also assisted in the slaughtering of several other meat animals, and of course a fair number of fish. It’s something I’d encourage every omnivore to do, just as I’d encourage everyone who eats plants to plant, grow, and then kill and eat them. It’s a good way to get back to reality in relation to the cycle of life.

    Lydia, I’m glad that works for you. I tend to steer clear of books in general when it comes to food, and — as already noted — simply note what foods make me healthy when I eat them.

    Dylan, and if that works for you, great. The claim that eating meat is more harmful for the environment than eating plants, though, is to my mind not well founded at all — when you consider the astonishing amount of toxic chemicals used to grow plants, the total destruction of native ecosystems required to put in fields for agriculture, the diversion of water supplies, and much more, the ecological burden of a plant-based diet is entirely comparable to that of a meat-based diet. Thus trying to claim that one is more virtuous than the other strikes me as special pleading in the extreme.

    Ruth, and again, if that works for you, great. I certainly don’t defend industrial meat production, but as I’ve just noted, industrial grain and vegetable production is also a massive source of ecological devastation, and a vast number of other habits each of us in the industrial world engages in each day are at least as damaging. (For example, do you drive a car?) We each have to make our own decisions about how to deal with the ethical dimension of life in a crazed society, and there is no easy answer that fits everyone’s needs.

    Simon, thank you. The whole issue of grain and grape deities probably needs to be hashed out here sooner or later…

    Vesta, and if that works for you, great.

    Oilman, and if that works for you, great.

    Chris, self-righteousness is not only a vice, it’s traditionally considered the deadliest of the seven deadly sins: the sin of spiritual pride. Wallowing in how virtuous you are is a profoundly addictive and destructive vice.

    Kashtan, that’s why I specifically talked about paying attention to what makes you healthy. Cravings and addictions can come from the mind as well as the body!

    Steve, heh. Yes, that’s one good reason to make fermented soy products such as miso a significant part of your diet if you’re going to eat a lot of soy!

    Oilman, yep. That was a long time ago — and of course that was also before the crisis in replicability that’s become such a massive issue of late!

  80. @ peakfuture…

    Did they even consider goat or rabbit in that study you reference? Because goat is just mighty good when taken as yearling and rabbit is similarly good. Rabbits eat veggie scraps and dropoffs, goats eat whatever is at hand – you really need do nothing fancy to feed either. Or are you talking about grocery store options only??

    Mercury levels in fish might be a problem if it is the sole source for protein – otherwise the levels are easily managed unless you are pulling fish from urban drainage ditches. Somehow, in the midst of all these deadly toxins, I have made it to 60 years eating fish from sea and river and lake. I’m thinking, since most everything is a business model, that the whole mercury deal is a tad overblown, perhaps helped along by the beef lobby?

    If government says it, then color me skeptical. LOL.

  81. Samuel, is that an issue? Sure — but it’s no more relevant to food than it is to a hundred other aspects of life. I’d rather see someone eat bacon cheeseburgers if they need bacon cheeseburgers, and start taking the bus to work, or turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater, or do any of the many other things you can do to decrease your ecological footprint. The entire subject of food has become so toxic in contemporary American society, and so heavily loaded with unstated agendas, that I find it much more useful to focus people’s ecological efforts elsewhere, and encourage them to get back in touch with the needs of the portion of biosphere each of us calls “my body.”

    Janitor, ouch! Sorry to hear that; that’s got to be really challenging.

    Isabel, possibly, yes. I wonder also how good your liver is at storing glucose. When you don’t eat sugar or other simple carbs, do you find your energy dropping to zero suddenly?

    Violet, indeed it is. I plan on talking about Spengler’s caustic discussion of diets in a future post, for what it’s worth.

    Jeanne, “bone broth” used to be called soup stock, and it was something that every housewife knew how to make a century ago. I make it all the time, and have been doing so since long before “bone broth” became a fad! Yes, it’s delicious, and also very nourishing. And tofu, to me, is both delicious and nourishing, so that’s another strike against that particular set of diet theories, for me at least.

    AuntLili, of course food has ecological implications, but I’m far from convinced — despite a range of dubious claims circulated by the vegan movement — that animal raising is more destructive than modern field agriculture, with its fantastic chemical burdens, water use, destruction of ecosystems, and the rest of it. That being the case, I’d suggest that the wisest approach might be to say, “whatever foods you eat, do your best to source them in ways that do the least harm to the biosphere,” and recognize that this allows for a great deal of diversity in diet. As for the article, I think you missed the point, which was that her body was screaming for animal protein; if yours isn’t, and your vegan diet keeps you healthy and happy, why, then by all means carry on.

    Rusty, glad to hear it! Good beer is a must, and I’d also recommend red beans and rice — a good traditional Memfis dish, enjoyed very often by Trey sunna Gwen while he was in that part of Meriga, and by me as well.

    Peakfuture, it’s worth doing. If you have a friend who hunts, especially if you live in an area that has a shortage of wild predators and thus deer overpopulation, that’s one way to have that encounter with the cycle of life.

  82. @ Armata,

    Re: totalitarian instinct:

    As JMG notes Spengler goes into great detail on what he terms “Socialism”. He considered this the Faustian counterpart to Buddhism and Stoicism. That is he believed it was the ultra-nonmetaphysical ethical system of a dying civilization. What Spengler meant by socialism is the tendency to believe that one has thought up upon a one-size-fits-all solution appropriate to apply to everyone.

    If you have not read _The Decline of the West_, may I share what was my introduction to Spengler? It can be accessed here:

    For whatever it’s worth I found these excerpts very very helpful to go over in full prior to diving into the books proper. The link above concerns his discussion of socialism.

    Basically Spengler’s argument is this totalitarian instinct inheres within the depths of Westernism. He posits that inquisition is a specifically Western form of persecution since it uses the “passionate thrust into infinite space” to force confession and contrition, rituals of central importance to Western Christianity.

    Also, if I may; I must concur with your response to Shane. My leftist-authoritarian friends would often say shockingly inappropriate things regarding race, religion, gender, etc. I always found it to be most perplexing, and rude. My more conservatively minded friends would rarely, if ever, do that. I’m beginning to think that the self-righteous hypocrisy that JMG anatomized in this post and you bring up is a form of demonic possession.

  83. Excellent post, I have been waiting for this one (though now I’m waiting for the astral plane one…. win some, lose some haha).

    I grew up on the ocean, raised by avid sportsmen, and I saw the bounty of wild foods growing up. I also grew up with farm tales (the day the kids ate George, their bottle lamb, etc.). I also regard plants as sentient beings.

    The American food pathology is even worse than you mention. People buy their food from the grocery store (or even further removed-restaurants, gas stations, fast food, etc.) and have no idea what it is, where it’s been, how it was raised/grown, what was added to it, or how many times it was dropped on the floor, sneezed on, or touched by a kid who just picked his nose.

    A small but increasing minority ask stupid questions like “What machine makes eggs that shape?” Many could not identify any plants that produce a single vegetable.

    As has been mentioned, our most popular sacred food is a tiny bland wafer.

    I would like to suggest this food pathology is actually a symptom of a much broader problem, that our traditional relationship with food has been reduced to a consumer experience. The millions of years of human evolution that created the world’s most widespread omnivore has left a biological legacy, a lot of internal connections and wires that used to hunt and gather and grow food, now sit idle and unused while our legacy is reduced to making consumer choices about foods we don’t actually know. All that old hardware is still trying to influence our food gathering experience, but without any relevant information or experience.

    Sorry, that was more rambling and abstract than I intended.

    Thanks again for the post,

    Jessi Thompson

  84. @AuntLili You said “The animal agriculture we currently practice is the biggest driver of deforestation, plummeting fish stocks, water consumption and pollution, as well a a huge contributor of greenhouses gases.”

    I would nearly agree with you, except you have focussed this far too narrowly, perhaps because of its effects on animal cruelty. Whereas our “[no qualifier] agriculture we currently practice” is rife with cruelty to plants and to micro-organisms, too.

    And yet, as a sheep farmer, on land not suitable for large scale growing of food plants other than pasture to grow for food, I know of other ways of working with this land and this flock that enhance our water and fish quality, enhances biodiversity in the soil, promotes a diversity of wildlife on the land and plants forests for the long term. And I know ways of working with sheep that are not cruel.

    Please understand I applaud and support your veganism, its success and its foundation in a dedication to avoid animal cruelty.

    But my personal feeling is that there is no way simple meat avoidance, on its own, can touch the problems and cruelties of our agricultural practices. The farm, and all its denizens, have to change.

  85. JMG,

    I noticed your comment on the environmental impact of meat and vegetables. The reason meat is worse for the environment than vegetables is because in factory farms the animals eat grain—grown on those same fields. Therefore factory farmed meat is actually worse than vegetables because those animals require more acreage of grain farming.

    Of course, this is also the stupidest way to feed a nation, with human food going to animals, scraps going in the landfill, manure turning into pollution, and acres upon acres turned into monoculture wastelands. It might make better sense to return to small farms that produce meat and vegetables and rotate cropland and pastures.

    This is why I am trying to wean myself off of food from the grocery store. As you say, there is more than one solution to these problems, and each person has to make their own choices.

    I hope this sheds more light on the issue.

    Jessi Thompson

  86. Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with Lydia.

    Look up the work of weston a price, and you will find golden information on what is the human dietary template.

    Just as the lion and zebra eats a certain kind of diet template. We humans have one to. Luckily Price visited humans before they were domesticated and the diets turned industrial. He found what was the sacred foods and made note of the food cultures of traditional humans.

    Right now its cod season here in norway, and Im enjoying a meal with cod liver, cod roe and meat. Sacredness from the deep sea brought by the cod. Thank you! Helps me trough the darkness, as the light is stored in the cod organs. Vitamin D for you scienceprogresspeople out there.

  87. I’ve tried, numerous times, to thrive on a vegetarian diet, but always meat just keeps dragging me back in! It starts with omelettes, and cheese, and by then I’m on the slippery slope. I find that I just don’t enjoy vegetables without a bit of meat on the side… And I find that a generous helping of vegetables really enhances the pleasure I experience in eating meat. Go figure!

    I find one of the great joys of any diet is, at some inevitable point, falling off the wagon. Since I’m ‘drying out’ for January and February, I’m really, Really, REALLY looking forward to lapsing back into my daily after-work English ale habit. I can’t even describe the blissful experience of putting the bike away right after the evening commute, kicking off my cycling shoes, reaching into the fridge for one of those brown beauties, popping off the cap… Oh God… March can’t get here soon enough…

  88. It seems to me that if the ecological philosophy is true (and I think it is), it ought to work for such a core human aspect as diet.

    Going by “Greer’s law of evangelism”, I find it suspicious when someone who so consistently calls for ecological thinking and doing suddenly makes such a glaring exception at such a key juncture and is suddenly so evangelistic for the consumerist “If it feels good, do it!”. As per Greer’s law I have to ask, What personal reason does he have for this?

    I’d say that a philosophy which would fail at such a key point would likely be a false philosophy. But as I said, I think the ecological philosophy is capacious enough for all dietary needs.

  89. Hi, just wanted to share an idea that popped into my head from reading your article. Most people dislikes something about themselves and wants to fix it or get rid of it (i.e. a bodypart or personality trait). When getting rid of this part of yourself is too hard or you are in denial about it, maybe the desire can manifests itself in an easier task, such as getting rid of certain foods? Maybe this is a major reason for the popularity of diets that totally forbids certain foods?

  90. I’m celebrating Greer’s Law of Evangelism with a double helping of bacon cheeseburger this morning…

  91. @JMG,

    I was into microbiotics in my college years, and I still eat lots of boiled cereals and greens, but also everything else.

    The pale, ghastly appearance and slow movements of too many of those in the “inner circle”, not to mention their mindless devotion to the sect leader, stopped me very early on from becoming an adept.

    But I see your wider point about religious fervor and diets. From my personal experience, Catholic Italians, used to confess their sins and get on with their lives, are less into fad diets than the Calvinist Dutch, who to prove to themselves that they were chosen by God to go to Paradise, turn their and other people’s lives into a dietary Hell.

  92. Several years ago the Japanese TV ran a retrospective documentary on the 70s, and at one point played “Age of Aquarius.” The mood, emotions, memories of that time came flooding back. Oh what a contrast to now!
    I think your post this week resonates with lots of people. Their experiences sound a lot like mine and yours.
    In Japan, in polite society, you do not talk about religion or politics unless you’re part of a group that agrees to this. I know of one man who claims to be vegan (“five grains” only, a Buddhist meme that extends to Shugendo), but he is also highly social so he gets a small amount of animal protein regularly in the name of being polite. Considerable evidence exists suggesting that overall, the Japanese fare poorly on a vegan diet. I only heard of the “macrobiotic diet” here once, from a miserably depressed anxious girl.
    Japanese nutritionists all recommend a diet called “soshoku” which is similar to macrobiotics, but not as rigid, and was prevalent before the end of World War II. A lot of new foods entered the Japanese diet with the occupation, including milk, chocolate Coca-Cola and meat. The Buddhist sensibilities seemed to have caused them to assume the culprit in a general decline in health was red meat. So they told my diabetic husband (having me come along, where I simpered and nodded) to eat carefully measured amounts of rice and little tiny and two or three tiny side dishes of vegetable and meat or fish. They admitted that maybe three percent of patients had the willpower to stick to it.They blamed the patients fr lack of control. My husband continued working with a low-glycemic approach instead (he’s doing so well the doctors ask him for advice). I was in good health, so I decided to try their “soshoku” diet. I really harnessed my willpower, obsessed so much over food that I have a handwritten cookbook legacy with my desperate attempts to find something satisfying. Did okay for six months, and then my health fell apart. Lost lots of weight, but people asked if I was sick.
    Living out in the boondocks, I don’t see foreigners very often, I’ve been amazed on hikes, where I meet a bunch at once, how many have gone vegan, particularly Americans,.Of course, the hikers have some interest in the environment, and those in Japan also have interest in oriental philosophies. They may be more prevalent here for that reason. A case can sort of be made from an environmental perspective–but I will not touch that subject in public.
    The Japanese will not up and tell you to take a hike. They smile and agree, and then they shun you. Indeed, that is what I do. People agree here to get along rather than be right. Compromise is critical.

  93. Great post John. Personally I was always a fan of the seafood diet. Sea food and eat it that is 😉
    My view, based on no evidence at all, is that a diet low in synthetic or heavily processed food is probably the best option, i.e. closer to what humans naturally would eat. But I’d first to admit I don’t strictly follow this myself. Still I favour a rustic looking home made cake over some factory uniform shaped tasteless piece of trash any day.

  94. @Isabel Kunkle, that’s because the “Jack Mormons” are known for sitting on their front lawn with a beer, laughing at all the devout on their way to church.

  95. Hi JMG, reading your article has reminded me of an old personal trainer that I had from way back in my rugby playing days. A grizzled old guy who looked like he belonged in a back alley boxing club rather that the shiny gym we trained in.Too many trainers back in the 90’s were focussed on promoting “this” or “that” system, (mostly the younger trainers for some reason?) He was far more focussed on having us experiment and find our what worked best for us. Summarising his teaching would probably go:
    “You’re unique, you’re training will be unique. Try stuff. Commit to trying something for a few weeks and record what happens. Your body will adjust, so how it reacts now won’t be how it reacts later. Sometimes the side effects won’t be good, but the desired effects will be. Don’t be a fool to commit to that long term, but feel free to make use of it in the short term.”
    Diet, exercise and lifestyle were all part of training for him. He had a very holistic approach though he never used the word. There is no one system and giving yourself room to go off track were all part of his process. “Change happens outside your comfort zone” was another saying of his. He was also the trainer who taught me to ignore the “No pain, no gain”/”Pain is only weakness leaving the body” machismo guys. His belief was that change wasn’t comfortable but if it was painful then you were doing it wrong.
    Its those teachings and that mentality that has taught me that its pointless for me to try and diet Nov-Jan, my body will just fight it even though the sugar and wheat won’t agree with me unless I can keep their quantities down. After that, I can go to a high protein-low carb diet just fine until the veg in my allotment starts kicking into production in summer, when I swap over to a diet rich in green veg, potatoes, chicken and fish.

    Its interesting. I’d internalised his teachings, but forgotten the man until your words brought him roaring back. Thank you.

    HA! I just realised that I described him as a grizzled old guy and I’m far closer in age to him now than I am to my younger self! Memory is a trickster!

  96. As a small farmer who raises livestock (cattle, hogs and chicken) from birth to slaughter, this week’s post and subsequent discussion is of great interest to me. My exposure to JMG’s writings actually opened the door to this life for me and my family as we sought to live a life that was closer to nature, less impactful on the environment and to specifically to have a stronger and deeper connection to our food. I try not to impose my dietary choices on others, but at times this becomes difficult given my absolute disgust with the industrial food system, primarily for it’s treatment of animals, but also for it’s role in completely detaching people from where their food comes from.

    Our guiding philosophy here on the farm has always been to put the welfare of our animals at the top of our list of priorities, ensuring they are living as close to a “natural” life as we interpret that to be, and having just one “bad” day. I also tend to take offence at the fairly regular critical feedback we get from the vegan community (we have friends/family within this community), especially when, by and large they have never experienced watching an animal be born, raising that animal and then slaughtering it for nourishing themselves and their family.

    Do I look forward to the inevitable bad day? Certainly not. It is upsetting and I am always apprehensive, especially if I am the one doing the deed. There is a measurable level of sadness (that is also present when I feel I am not doing the best job of providing a happy, comfortable life to our livestock, or even when it’s time to tear up the tomato and pepper plants in the fall). What I can say is that once the initial deed is done and it’s time to get down to business, all negative feelings are gone. Once the freezer is filled up, the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is second to none. The first meal(s) I had from livestock I personally raised and slaughtered were some of the most profound spiritual experiences of my life.

    I certainly ascribe to the idea that all livings things have a consciousness and see this everyday on my farm. I also believe that these living things have what is generally called a soul, and my feelings have always been that a soul ‘chooses’ (perhaps not exactly as we interpret the word) the life experience it needs. Does this make the fact that I raise livestock for slaughter easier to deal with from an emotional standpoint? Perhaps. As JMG has stated, we all have our role to play in easing the burden on the planet, and that there are certainly many more impactful ways of doing so beyond our food choices. We have simply chosen to be a part of a growing movement of raising livestock using the most ecological practices we have at our disposal and keeping a high regard for the sacrifice our animals are making to nourish ourselves and others. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have this path to walk during this lifetime, and wouldn’t change it for anything.

  97. JMG, I steer clear of diet books too….and “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” is far, far from a diet book. Seems like something very helpful for Ecosophia, in fact, because it is really about how people used to live in harmony with their environments (a great variety of them) and attain vibrant health. A whole, incredible, body of information we have now largely lost. In fact, when you talk about finding an older technology and learning it and working with it as a path to our uncertain future, this is always what comes to my mind, and I know what my path is.

  98. Hello: I was so glad to red this post! I just started to read your website, after reading a book that I really liked–The Twilight’s Last Gleaming. I so totally identified with your past experiences-having lived in Cambridge,Ma. when macrobiotics was all the rage,etc. I even took cooking classes years later, but just couldn’t spend so much time cooking every day. And I remember, after going through horrid cancer treatment (which was successful), I went to a talk by Michio Kuchi who stated he could cure cancer with macrobiotics,and I walked out halfway through. But I still use my macro recipes, with some changes.

    Two of the authors that helps me deal with this overall part of our culture that seems to foster this evangelism in so many aspects of our lives, are Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. I know, more dead white men, but they grappled very well with this issue, and it makes me sane to pick up an old book of mine and reread Hawthorne’s “The Gentle Boy” story. I cry each time.

    Thanks for your insights. It’s hard to stay sane in this world.

  99. This is a fascinating discussion and close to my heart, thanks for it!

    John Michael, you’ve asked Phutatorios if he’s a virtuous defecator, or a virtuous circulator, and why it is that sex, food, and exercise get the moral treatment and other bodily functions do not. I think the difference is that…well, left to their own devices, even the most weak-willed of us would not spend all day defecating, or devote hours of our day to concocting elaborate circulatory system fantasies. Our bodies are hard-wired through natural selection to really, really, really enjoy food and sex, in a way that is absolutely vital to our survival, and yet it is entirely possible nowadays to get way too much of both of them in ways that are indisputably not good for us. And so we have to learn some sort of moderation, just to get by in society – but moderation is actually pretty hard to do. It’s like eating just one potato chip. It’s a lot easier, at least in the short run, to declare absolute rules and then break them once in a while – if you can live with the guilt at least. And you can pretty easily shore up your faltering willpower if you can convince yourself that not eating potato chips is a Holy Righteous Thing That Will Save the World, whereas viewing it as Not Really a Big Deal will generally lead to eating the whole bag. It’s very hard to resist something you want to do that’s Not a Big Deal.

    (Exercise is a slightly different subject, as something we are genetically inclined to avoid but need to do, but the feeling of being better than anyone else helps get you going in much the same way).

  100. To Jeanne Labonte: If you are uncomfortable with the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), and I know some people are (although I don’t quite agree with your characterization of it), you might want to look into the Price-Pottenger Foundation. It is a smaller organization that was formed long before the WAPF. PPF was given the rights to Dr. Price’s original documents upon his death, including the book and his many scientific papers. So they are less about publicizing the work, and more about the actual preservation of it.They have much wonderful information at:

  101. When I was younger, I tried to become a vegetarian because of my (still valid) horror at the way animals are abused by the meat industry. I happen to be one of those folks who can’t digest enough plant protein to stay healthy and I got more and more ill until my doctor, herself a practicing Hindu vegetarian, looked at me and said “You can’t do this,” and explained why. It was a major wakeup call to my still idealistic self that not everyone can thrive on the same foods.

  102. Archdruid,

    I tried cutting alcohol totally from my life, it did not turn out well. I became more stressed and aggressive. Turns out that if I allow myself to get drunk once every week or two, I’m a much healthier human being, but any more than that and I become unhealthy. That’s about as far as I’ve experimented with dieting.



  103. JMG – “Do you consider yourself a virtuous sleeper? Or a virtuous defecator? How about your circulatory system — is that virtuous?”

    Oops, oh dear… do I hear the sound of people busily slapping themselves on the forehead, realising there is a whole new market in guilt and virtue they haven’t yet tapped?

  104. Refreshing! And now a bacon cheeseburger and beer or two have come forward as a necessity, I’ll offer a toast in your direction JMG when they arrive. I have spent my entire life being a shameless slave to my body’s desires, and by doing so I have found them to be modest and reasonable. In some ways, I think it works because my body knows there will be no resistance, no games, no silly rules. It really simplifies the relationship. My body says, “Let’s go for a long walk in the woods!” “OK,” says I. My body says, “Let’s eat meat, potatoes, beer, and apple pie.” “OK,” says I. My body says, “Lets be nice to a girl so we can have some loving.” “OK,” says I. Can you comment on this? Do you think that creating complexity in that relationship leads to some of the common “lifestyle” health issues?

  105. The Yahoo article penned by an ex-vegan is by now an old and familiar story almost a decade after the publication of Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth (which is more valuable as an account of the author’s personal journey than as a source of hard facts, I should caution).

    One reason that those evangelical vegans are so legendarily difficult to deal with is that malnutrition has a very intense impact on the functioning of the brain and the nervous system, and I tend to think this is especially so for the kind of malnutrition caused by unsuccessful veganism. An online friend of mine is a virtual administrative assistant who had a raw-vegan food-guru as a client. This guru was so impossible to deal with personally and so prone to mental lapses that it was painfully obvious that her brain simply wasn’t working properly. Because of this, my friend had to drop the raw-vegan guru as a client despite the financial hit that doing so entailed.

  106. JMG: I suspect the reason eating and sex are often viewed in terms of virtue is that they are the bodily functions most visibly connected to the larger whole systems in which we’re embedded, and most people have at least a vague sense that our interaction with those systems has a moral dimension. Our sleeping habits and our internal circulation are not as obviously connected to the larger world, and thus don’t come in for the same level of scrutiny. Other functions, like defecation, do indeed connect us to the larger world, but the alternatives are much less visible to those of us in the American middle class. Anecdotally I’ll say that ever since I found out about composting toilets I find myself occasionally feeling guilty about using flush toilets. From a certain perspective it’s silly to attach guilt to my pooping habits, but for me and I think for a lot of people this is part of the process of grappling with the Law of Wholeness.

    (As another example: respiration. There’s not too many different ways to go about this, but many people who make a deliberate choice not to exhale tobacco smoke do in fact attach quite a bit of moral significance to that fact, and this moral significance is tied into the way that smoke exhalation interacts those around us.)

    On an unrelated note, “astral plane evangelicals” seems like a good way to describe the kind of channeled entities that are constantly jabbering about apocalypses and anointing credulous oddballs as the high priests of new Universal Religions.

  107. Hi JMG, slightly off topic, but not entirely – I was 13 when I became interested and curious about what Guenn was doing. So I asked her to do a past life reading, as I knew that was something she did. She was kind and responsive to me. When I went to her apt she seemed to be writing as if she were just writing a story. In my scepticism I couldn’t tell if what she wrote was really about me. Maybe now, 35 years later, I should look at it again!

  108. @KMB thnx again etc; and it occurs to me that the underlying reason for differences in digestion couldn’t be anything besides the different biomes in peoples guts…I recently heard on a radio program that researchers are starting to think metabolism ( therefore obesity) may be linked to them, too…any thoughts?
    @KMG- Wow…! as a man who loves nutritional yeast, especially on popcorn (won’t eat any w/out) since childhood- and Sir or Madam, I actually carry a small bottle of yeast in my pocket for restaurant use- I’m terribly sorry that you don’t like the stuff, but since everyone does have different tastes (as referenced above, obviously), please refrain in future from maligning something that never hurt you, and helps so many…? thnx etc…😎

  109. Last week I offered to host the First Annual Ecosophia midsummer New England potluck.
    In keeping with this week’s theme, I have 4 charcoal grills, and we will set one aside for bacon cheeseburgers, and another for grilled veggies, or even (shudders) veggie burgers.
    Keep your eyes open for more information!
    Location: the violet house behind the Charles Dexter Ward Mansion.
    Date: June 23

  110. Thanks to JMG and all commenters for an interesting discussion.

    I grew up on the family farm, where we would butcher one of our own steers (and sometimes some hogs) annually. We had a very large freezer, and beef figured into our diet almost every single day.
    After a treacherous four year encounter with the modern “University Experience” while earning my college degree, my body was very strongly telling me that I needed a healthier lifestyle.
    I searched on Amazon for some books on healthy diets, and wound up being profoundly impacted by Dr. Colin Campbell’s “The China Study”. I switched to veganism pretty much cold turkey, and within four months I had lost 20 pounds and wound up with a raging infection that nearly got me hospitalized.
    My girlfriend at the time (now wife) saved me by making sure I began incorporating some chicken and fish back into my diet.
    We’ve since found the sweet spot as vegetarians who eat eggs and cheese, but no meat. We’re raising our two young kids with the same diet, and all of us are in good health. For my body, there is apparantly quite a substantial difference between veganism and vegetarianism – just the small supplement of animal protein through eggs and cheese has made all the difference.

    We are decidedly not evangelical, and on the contrary, our diet gets a great deal of criticism from family, friends, and coworkers in the rural, working class part of the country we live in. If anyone thinks meat-eaters can’t be evangelical too, they’ve never met my Grandma .

    JMG’s comment above about not expecting to adhere to one single diet for the rest of one’s life resonated with me. I was a prolific meat eater in my youth, have been happily vegetarian for 10 years now, and I can see myself eating meat again as I grow older, especially if our plans to resume raising livestock on the farm pan out!

  111. JMG:

    Re: Jasper’s

    Yes, I was referring to Central Point here in the valley of the Rogue (i.e. Oregon). Jasper’s started out in Jacksonville, created an annex in C.P. and subsequently closed the one in J-ville – sorry you missed it, their burger menu is fantastic. By the way, I tried the macrobiotic diet back in the day with results similar to yours.

  112. As an example of what you were saying, I remember from reading The Decline of the West that Spengler had some pretty sharp words about Nietzsche’s obsessing about dietary matters. Violet’s comment about Faustian Socialism as described by Spengler was also spot on.

    There definitely seems to be an underlying totalitarian instinct within the Faustian mindset that crops up in different ways. Faustian Socialism, the notion of “salvation by society”, people obsessing about what other people eat and what they do in the privacy of their own bedrooms, and the angry, self-righteous rhetoric we see coming from groups as diverse as militant vegans, gay bashing preachers and so-called “social justice warriors” all appear to be different manifestations of that tendency.

  113. Another interesting post. Thanks.

    Ditto on Jay Moses comment on affluence. I was thinking the same thought. The idea that we should eat what suits us, while accurate on one hand, is also a position of affluence. The poor rarely, if ever, have that choice.

    I agree that, individually, there are other, effective ways to reduce our footprint, but collectively our modern agriculture is doing a pretty good number on the fecundity of the planet: from soil erosion, to fossil fuel waste, to toxic chemicals, to crashing animal and insect populations, to the sixth mass extinction. It’s hard to imagine that our individual diets shouldn’t be influenced, at least to some degree, by the realities of the earth’s carrying capacity.

  114. @JMG: Good question! I can’t remember ever doing that (cutting down is as far as I’ve ever gone, and that only in the last 5-10 years; in my twenties and earlier, I could and did routinely hoover up an entire box of cherry cordials every week) and it might be worth a try sometime!

    The eating v. sleeping v. circulating dichotomy is an interesting one. One of my more recent discursive meditations ended up at the spectrum of various conscious/unconscious bodily functions and the potential metaphors for more nonphysical stuff there. I hadn’t considered the moral element, or the assignment thereof, but might be a good subject to revisit soon!

    @Mister Nobody: “malnutrition has a very intense impact on the functioning of the brain and the nervous system,”

    Once again I’m reminded of PG Wodehouse, who wrote a story about how the popular (even then) concept of restricted diet leading to inner peace and goodwill toward all mankind had it completely backwards; when you’ve spent a couple weeks limiting your intake to (in the story) orange juice, say, you resent everyone who isn’t, and then everyone in general. Bears out on my experiences of dieting, for sure.

  115. Re: fasting

    I never bothered with fasting, although I had heard here and there that it is a good thing to do for health. Recently, though, I read an article by Thomas Cowan M.D. in which he explains the health benefits of intermittent fasting in a way that a non-medical person can understand, so I started following his instructions most days of the week and it hasn’t been as hard as I expected to avoid food for 17-hour stretches. I don’t have any health problems or weight I need to lose so it will likely be a while before I can report any tangible benefits. On the other hand, Dr. Cowan’s information has convinced my husband to start intermittent fasting since his family has a strong history of high blood pressure and heart disease and he’d rather not give his doctor a reason to insist he start taking statins or sundry other pharmaceuticals. Some doctors seem to feel that a visit hasn’t been successful unless the patient leaves with a script of one kind or other.

  116. chrisroy: Biomes-in that case where can I get a set of skinnier ones? 🙂 I’ve actually never heard that, might be interesting to look into. Any references? Far be it for me to malign what anyone puts on their popcorn, or anything else. Full disclosure… one of the recipes I tried during that ill-fated experiment was a ‘cheeze’ dip with raw cashews, nutritional yeast, I forgot what else… horrible. Years later I had the same dish at a BOTA meeting with the addition of some salsa and I would have to admit it was great. I don’t know if my tastes had changed or what, but it was totally different. I honestly thought it was regular queso dip. Maybe I’ll have to revisit it…

  117. JMG, for about 3 months, um, 12 years ago, I went totally raw vegan and low fat. Cold turkey, so to speak. It kept me pain free while I waited to have my shredded gallbladder removed. My journey in figuring out what was good for me since then has been interesting. Having Celiac and several severe food allergies (also, a body that hates food additives) led me to listening better to my body. I really wish that I could be one of those people who can “eat just about anything.” My husband is one of those people. This isn’t because I miss the food, but because those with food issues like mine frequently get left off the invite list for dinner parties and backyard cookouts. Or if you do the invite people assume they will be served tofu and carrots and don’t show.
    People tend to act offended or I get labeled a hypochondriac, because I either ask lots of questions and/or refuse offered food. At least this has been my experience. (There have been a couple of rare exceptions.) Sharing a meal, no matter the contents of the meal is a social event. Instead of encouraging diversity, the way food is viewed has a tendency to divide people.

    It would be nice to see a more welcoming attitude around people’s choices and requirements.

  118. Dear Samuel, I am one of those who cannot in normal circumstances afford grassfed and organic beef or poultry. Around here the poultry costs more than the beef. However I am happy and grateful that some folks can, because their purchases maintain the locally owned health food store where I can buy the bulk organic products which I can afford as well as organic, free range eggs. As a long time baker and cook from scratch person I can tell you that the quality of eggs does make a yuuge difference. Some local farmers are now selling their excess production at reasonable prices through a charity low cost grocery store and those products I can afford from time to time, usually when a grandchild is coming to visit. So, the upscale buyers, while not subsidizing my purchases, are making them possible. Incidentally, apologies for straying a bit OT, the charity store has just converted its’ offerings to substantially more fresh vegetables and fruit and folks of every possible low income ethnicity are lining up to buy the produce. So it is NOT true, at least where I live, that the poor won’t eat anything but addictive snacks.

    Greetings Aloysius Snuffleupagus and please give my regards to the big yellow ratite. I loved the evil hot sauce site. Some gardeners are growing the new scorching peppers to make insecticides. An infusion of Carolina Reaper might be worth trying against ants taking up residence where you don’t want them.

  119. @ Bruno:.

    I can’t say I am in the least bit surprised. Once again the medical establishment, what Charles Hugh Smith aptly calls the sick care industry, is moving to protect it’s profits and market share by any means necessary, with the FDA playing it’s usual role as the bought-and-paid-for accomplice of Big Pharma.

    I am frankly surprised they waited this long. My suspicion is that we will see more of this in years to come, especially with the repeal of the Obamacare fines in the tax reform bill that was recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. In the long run, shenanigans like this will further damage the sick care industry’s declining credibility, but in the short term, more people will suffer as a result.

    I will be passing that link on to everyone on my email list. In recent years, even my most right wing pro-capitalist friends have nevertheless acquired an increasingly critical view of the sick care industry and it’s obscene price gouging, in no small part because the problem has become too big and too blatant to ignore.

  120. Thank you, Mr. Greer. Once again, you have enlightened me! It was always a puzzle to me why Temperance Union rhetoric always sounded so much like the ravings of drunken lunatics….

  121. My two cents, in two parts.

    This topic is certainly on the mark for me as it has recently become more important to my well being. I had tried vegetarianism and once veganism over the years, but in the end became convinced by Weston Price and other things I have read. He looked all around the world for stable cultures which were so healthy that they had no tooth decay. He found many with varying diets, but nearly all of them tried to get seafood and none were vegan. Some drank dairy and had little meat, several had no dairy but did eat meat.

    Some vegans say it is primarily a moral issue and not focused so much on health. This is a total nonstarter for me. What any individual wants to do is their business, but if there are no vegan cultures around the world (and I would like to know if there are any) then it simply means it is not a sustainable human diet. Even being vegan for 20-30 years isn’t good enough. What we need to see is total veganism successfully producing healthy babies for at least 3-5 generations. Furthermore, this produces a real disconnect between nature and reality in the psyche. If human beings cannot sustain a long term culture on veganism, and if it is moral to be vegan, then it is immoral for the human race to thrive.

    That said, I am sympathetic because I do find the carnage of the cycle of life a bit disheartening.

    I’ve taken a renewed interest in diet because I got a breast cancer diagnosis last year. I pretty much spend all my time reading and researching. I have watched quite a few videos of cancer survivors who have long-term cured themselves, some as long ago as 30 years and many with advanced cancers and considered terminal. Some had done a lot of conventional treatments and some not. I’m impressed with how many of them radically changed their diets and went to juicing and plant based. There are sound scientific reasons why this can work, and for that matter, the stories are trickling in from those who go the opposite route and starve the cancer by not eating any carbohydrates.

    Recently I have watched interviews with authors of books or other public figures in the cancer world who strongly advocate either veganism or near it. One of them spent years analyzing the blue zones (long term stable cultures with longevity and health). Unfortunately, while much of the information seemed very good and not all is about food, I saw he had a vegan bias. The lifestyles of these various cultures involved living a traditional life with frequent movement throughout the day and lots of face time with other people that one has meaningful relationships with. But he says they eat a lot of greens, often wild, and eat mostly plants and lots of beans.

    Only upon being directly questioned did he admit that they ate meat 4-5 times a month and fish a couple of times a week and drank goat milk. He didn’t mention eggs but I am pretty sure some of them do. But he says, we don’t know if these animal foods contribute to their longevity or if they live long despite it, since it isn’t so much and their lifestyle is so good. By this comment as well as several others, I could see that he is biased toward veganism and I suspect he even underestimated the amount of animal food they ate.

    The only vegan culture he found was 7th Day Adventists and he said it was only the ones who adhere to it that get the longer life, and that those who were vegan benefited most. This is a serious charge, and needs real follow-up. The prophetess who founded the religion did not advocate veganism but the consumption of dairy. There are some vegans, but not all that many. So do the vegans live all their lives that way and then have children, who grow up and have children, vegan all the while? This is the question.

  122. Part two

    There is something about the veganism movement that worries me a lot and I’m not sure I can pin it down, but I sense a lot of bad emotions and unevolved spirituality. A disconnect from nature and an avoidance of, rather than love of, animals. I also suspect (I’m a conspiracy theorist) that something bigger is afoot since it seems to be getting more and more media credibility. Are they trying to dumb is down? Reduce the human IQ?

    The bad treatment of animals actually begins with agriculture, not with hunter-gatherers who respect and honor the entire ecosystem and its animals.
    Another alarm bell goes off when people talk about how (for example) many gallons of water it takes to raise a beef cow. They are always comparing veganism to factory farming CAFOs. Our modern industrial money-worshiping society is doing a lot of things very wrong. Agriculture is one, animal raising is one, the medical fraud system is one, chemically polluting everything is one, and so on.

    How many gallons does it take to raise a beef cow? None, actually. You see, rain falls from the sky and the grass grows for free. That’s the way it should be done and only in places where the land is appropriate. Lots of land is appropriate for grazers, including goats and sheep, but not for farming, such as where I live, which is totally hilly.

    Due to my recent health research, I am even more amazed at the ways that food is rendered non-nourishing when we try to go against nature. It cannot be done. It is that simple, and plant foods are also ruined by Big Ag. And I have to wonder what affect it has on our health and our souls when we eat the meat or milk of an animal raised in such inhumane conditions. If emotions can cause cancer and heart disease, why do we assume that we can treat animals like that and get away with it? Milk cows suffer a lot and their milk isn’t really fit for consumption. I’ll give just one. CLA in milkfat protects against cancer. It is 5 times less abundant in a factory raised cow.

    Please multiply that ad infinitum.

  123. As for being a ‘virtuous defecator’, that recalls an unintentionally hilarious book – lent to me, not purchased! – on the total ‘Sufi’ lifestyle.

    It did indeed discuss the management of one’s thoughts while answering Nature’s call: dreadfully bad to let the name Mohammed, etc, pop into one’s head at that time.

    Which of course, if one were trying to avoid it, is just what would happen……

  124. My Mom and I recently took a trip to Italy. One of the best things about our visit was encountering a traditional food culture more intact than my own. Both enlightening and tasty!

  125. When you finally do write your column about the astral plane, I hope you will devote at least a paragraph to what’s been going on with the lower astral plane recently. I’m sure any of your readers who are psychically sensitive know what huge issue that has been for at least two years now.

  126. Hi JMG,

    Your post reminded me of earlier days too – in my case, of my time teaching yoga in Vancouver years ago (along with every other person I met at the time, it seemed). I was following a raw food diet, seeking that ultimate enlightenment which only diet and lots of asanas can bring. I even remember a raw Christmas dinner, which seems downright criminal now! Luckily, I’ve gone back to all turkey, all the time.

    I think I was led down the diet-as-spiritual-transformation path because my body has always talked to me – sometimes quietly, sometimes not so quietly. For me, it has long been a touchstone as to how things were going, and so it led me to a focus on the physical. Even when my rational mind tried to lie and pretend that everything was fine, that I was OK and didn’t actually need to do any more personal work, thank you very much, my body, with all its glorious shortcomings, would never ever lie. Whether it was through the back pain that just wouldn’t go away, the odd digestive disturbances, the weird rashes or any number of other strange symptoms, I eventually figured out that my body had its own truth to tell. That is, the truth of my higher self, which had somehow gotten locked away in my body, and wasn’t too thrilled with my attempts to ignore it. All these symptoms were only the physical manifestations, or effects, of causes that lay beyond the physical. Signs that all was, in fact, not fine with me. That there was some stuff I was still holding onto that really needed to be looked into, that was preventing further spiritual development from taking place.

    I think it’s worth going into a little aside about sex here. Despite an array of various social and/or personal moral conventions about what is and isn’t acceptable or right or fine, my body generally tells me what it needs in terms of sex. This has at times been a powerful force that tried to burn up anything that stood in its way – very dangerous if mishandled, and…complicated. But my body still knows what it needs. It may not be socially acceptable or virtuous, but at least it’s honest.

    The thing is, a proper diet can accomplish a lot in terms of healing, as I’m sure most people realize. Many diseases can be prevented or reversed through diet alone. The documentary film “Supersize Me” by Morgan Spurlock, is I think a great if extreme (and funny) example of this. If you haven’t seen it, Spurlock basically experiments on himself by eating nothing but fast food for thirty days, three meals a day. He recruited several doctors to serve as his health team, and they fully check him out before he embarks on his strange quest to verify that he started out virtually problem-free (and was in above-average health, in fact). Three weeks in though, and they are practically begging him to stop. He’s throwing up outside his car door in the parking lot after his meals. He develops several serious health conditions – high cholesterol, heart palpitations, mood swings, sexual dysfunction and fat accumulation in his liver – as a direct result of the fast food diet. Luckily after the thirty days is up, his girlfriend (fortunately a vegan chef) nurtures him back to his former healthful state. Admittedly that’s an extreme example (and not to knock those bacon cheeseburgers in any way), but just to point out that of course food choices affect health.

    But diet isn’t the last word on healing by any means. I see it as a possible first step in the work of spiritual development – the low hanging fruit of the physical plane, if you will. For me, it was preparation for the much harder work of trying to figure out the rest of the bodies which operate on higher planes – correct me if I’m wrong here, but the etheric/Astral, Mental and Spiritual bodies. I don’t think diet alone is enough to get through to those bodies. For years I had fallen victim to the classic materialist blunder of thinking that physical symptoms in my body must have exclusively physical causes. Now I think that’s incorrect to a certain extent, and in many cases, the causes can lie elsewhere. In emotional trauma, for example, (the Astral body) a lot of which seemed to get locked away in my body to spare me from re-experiencing painful emotions. And in the resulting wrong thinking and wrong alignment to the spiritual that arose from having my emotions largely inaccessible. That can’t be fixed with food, only by accessing those locked-up emotions using a variety of different methods.

    I think God or the Logos or what have you can’t normally communicate with us in words, as the vibrational energy from the Spiritual plane is too fast or too fine for us to understand with words. So God has to resort to other ways of communication – dreams, for example, and the body. For me, my body has almost become like a book that I can read to find out how I’m doing spiritually. I can usually ask my body a question, and if I listen, I find that it knows the answer. I’ve gotten a little better these days at not lying to myself about my spiritual development, and listening to what my body is trying to tell me. I have realized to some extent that the body is really a physical manifestation of the Divine word, projected out through all the planes, however that happens to look at any point in time.

    I guess there’s never a bad time to quote Jesus, so here goes: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” which was from Matthew 4:4.

    Trying to understand the Seven Laws from ‘Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth’ helped me to start thinking about all this, of course, so thank you for that book!

  127. Many of the diets mentioned above are simply a reaction to the crap that corporate agriculture and food manufacturers have been foisting on Americans for the last 40-50 years. Most people should be fine if they strive for a balanced diet that incorporates real food (fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, etc,..) and avoids processed and genetically modified foods.

    And at the risk of evangelizing, I think it’s important to note the considerable environmental costs of meat production. I eat meat several times a week but I also understand that this is a privilege that may not always be available to me. I think it’s safe to say that as we tumble down the long descent many people will be forced to shift their protein consumption practices. There might come a time when a plague of locusts is a good thing.

  128. Another thought on dietary evangelism…

    I haven’t had a drink or a drug in more than 4 years. I participate in 12 step programs and have found them immensely helpful.

    I don’t evangelize for sobriety, via 12 step groups or otherwise.

    When I go out with people who drink, I abstain. When they ask me why, I tell them. If they express interest in how I do it or express concerns about their own drinking or drug use, I help if I can. But I don’t push my views on them or condemn alcohol or pot use absolutely. (Heroin is a different story. I absolutely condemn heroin. I’ve lost too many people to it.)

    I view addiction generally as spiritual. The Taoist teacher Liu Ming talked about it as a form of possession. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing– In the view that he comes from, sometimes an ancestor spirit can pop in and ask for a smoke or a donut. That’s fine, give Aunt Hilda her cigarette. A need to smoke 2 or 3 packs a day, though, is something bigger than a ghost; it’s a demon. This fits in with the Western view of addiction as defined in part by an “obsession of the mind.” The word “obsession” originally referred to a stage of demonic possession, and in traditional Christian demonology “generational spirits” are known to attach themselves to family lines.

    I don’t see things that dualistically– not always, anyway. The so-called “opiate epidemic” that is destroying rural white America I do see as basically demonic. But Alcohol in particular I see as a generally benign spiritual force. But in the same way that some people have a prominent and afflicted Saturn in their natal chart, and thus need to avoid Saturnine things, some of us have already too much of Bacchus in our makeup, and so are better off avoiding his sacred beverages and seeking the company of more disciplined deities.

    There are people in AA meetings who are firebrand evengalists for the program. They tend to speak only in cliches and to condemn everything from cold pills to herbal tinctures to antidepressants to kombucha as contrary to Sobriety. I don’t know what they accomplish other than driving people away.

  129. Great article. I would add the issue is not what people eat in their own homes but that food and drink have a social element and this is where the conflicts come from. What and where you eat has class markers that all too often come out. Chris Arnade had a wonderful twitter series during the 2016 election about how the elite mock those that eat at McDonalds. It is worth looking this up for another perspective as many here put down fast food.

    When food and drink become social the issue becomes one of manners, and food is an area where the manners break down and people can be *******. I agree with you that Vegans are the worst. Second worst are beer snobs and wine snobs third. We were raised that when you went to Grandmas for a meal to eat and drink everything and praise it to death. Now you see vegans bringing their own food to parties as they are worried about molecular transfer – you know the knife I used to cut the veggies might have been used to cut meat at one time. Some time with Miss Manners might help.

    Full disclaimer – unlike most here I have an iron stomach and like it all. I enjoy well prepared food and booze in all shapes and forms, and have had many a happy meal from fast food to food prepared from scratch from farmers markets.

  130. No disagreement that different peoples bodies thrive on different diets or that those who protest the loudest about the virtues of their diet may likely be breaking it. However our dietary choices do have quite the potential to change the way we use and or abuse our ecosystem. I believe Wendell Berry has said something to that effect. I don’t doubt that you realize this but I feel like the essay may not address the facts that if we gear our diets towards foods that are produced more sustainably ie grass/pasture fed animals perennial foods, and local foods, as opposed to annual ones we can manage our ecosystems much better. I do not consider myself a strict adherent to this but am making strides. I also am quite aware that in America if you are poor you will have but little choice to eat foods that are not produced in environmentally friendly ways but those of us who have the luxury of choosing to buy more sustainably produced foods and/or grow what we can should try and do so. Just as we should all try and do our best with less and certainly drive less or not at all as you have accomplished. My body tells me I need sugar far too often. Should I agree or disagree? Please don’t give me a free pass to eat sugar unchecked.

  131. [Note To Editor: Please feel free to excise the rather wordy attempt at humor that follows my sincere sentiments]


    Thank you so very much for once again providing another wonderfully composed post.

    Swimming around inside the pools of my thoughts have been exactly these observations and remarks.

    Yay! for confirmation biases. Especially, when one knows they are mostly appropriate and the feelings of happiness from recognitions are not founded in bitterly jealous destruction.

    Please, carry on carrying on.

    Benjamin Michael Walker
    AKA, Foxy Stoat
    Seattle // WA // USA // NA // Earth

    { beginning_attempted_humours }

    “I’ve occasionally daydreamed of writing a book…”

    I said good day, sir!

    Are you not completely and fully aware that daydreaming is a wasteful and indulgent activity that could be more wholesomely spent surrendering your will to others?

    JMG, I will gladly purchase a macrobiotic burger product [MBP] from you and your company, but only if they have extra-extra cheese and many varieties of meats. And mayonnaise, please. Also, I would prefer to demand that any and all MBPs be pre-made and pre-packaged and pre-apportioned, frozen, soaked in synthetic preservatives, pasteurized, and *always* available in the freezer section of our locally-located and remotely-operated supermarkets.

    It seems to me, as of now — furthermore — that MBPs should be deliverable by drone. If the intended recipient consumer is not to be found at agreed upon location at the time of delivery, a new target can be acquired, and any undeliverable MBPs may be offloaded as non-lethal conveyances — weaponry to be used in offensive or defensive predicaments with other pesky earthlings, as our corporate technolords deem appropriate.

    I have some contacts at Amazon and other organizations with which I can try and get you connected?

    Also, maybe with your encyclopaedic knowledge of all things metaphysical and occult, you can get to work designing MBP weapons systems to battle the hordes of hungry ghosts out there in the ether and on the ground?

    Cheers and good day, sir!

    Digitally signed within this 1st day of February, 2018 CE,
    The Right-Obnoxious,
    Sir Shales-A-Lot On Everything Others Do

    PS: Really, though, please do stop with the daydreaming. Think of how much more time you could spend helping other people, rather than thinking only about yourself and your whimsical flights of fancy that do nothing but take you away from the one true reality that is and always will be (and then some more, after all this eternal infinity nonsense).

    PPS: I will be praying for you!

    { ending_attempted_humours }


    @Bruno Bolzon


    Maybe an optimistic attitude towards these legal revisions would be to consider how people that currently purchase homeopathic products might begin to grow and source their own goods or trade in grey markets for what they could previously obtain within the sanctions of the current Law, thereby subverting it and creating more variety in which other systems of things can grow. Until, of course, those once free systems are harvested, monopolized, and outlawed.

    Benjamin Michael Walker
    AKA Foxy Stoat
    Seattle // WA // USA // NA // Earth

  133. Aunt Lil,

    You said: “BTW, I read the article you linked to. I respect her experience but if I did everything I’ve ever dreamed about doing I’d be redundantly dead.”

    I really do think you missed the point entirely. Also, you linked feeling good from eating meat with several utterly unnecessary and irresponsible behaviors.

  134. @James M, I am right there with you on the notion of raising/producing my own food. I have eggs, dairy, and meat down quite well (chickens, dairy goats, rabbits, and three little pigs) but even with graduating from a black thumb to a brown thumb, my gardening efforts are still mostly for naught. What the local wildlife doesn’t pillage, my own goats will (and the occasional hen).

    As for the horrified question, “How can you eat an animal you’ve known?!?” I have developed a counter-question: “How can you eat one that you don’t know anything about?” I know my critters get a good life, good food, decent accommodations, and attention from us (hubby calls it playing with our food) and the goal of only one bad day in their entire lives. I do sometimes procrastinate on slaughtering, because it does take some mental working-up-to for me, but we are so much more connected to what we eat.

  135. John Michael,

    With regards to the totalitarian instincts that we were talking about based on the idea that there is One True Way and those who don’t follow that One True Way need to be forced to do so, I just came across an exceeding interesting passage from A Study of History, which also ties back to last week’s discussion thread.

    Mmelvink argued that those totalitarian instincts were inherited from the Roman Empire via the Roman Catholic Church. Toynbee, in his discussion about the origins of Antisemitism in the West, makes the case that Western civilization inherited a homogenizing tendency from the Romans, particularly the Christianized Late Roman Empire and it was this homogenizing tendency that led to the persecution of minority groups that were perceived as being culturally, ethnically or religiously alien. He contrasts this with the millet system that became the default tendency for Syriac/Magian cultures, including the Islamic world (Volume VIII, pages 277-280).

    Those who dismiss Toynbee because he doesn’t conform to the currently fashionable biases in academia are really missing out.

  136. Regarding “raceplay” and “f*ggot hazing” scenes, they both indulge two taboos right now, masculinity, and whatever is considered racism or bigotry. As for “f*ggot hazing”, a lot of the guys into it are openly gay, or at least same-sex attracted, and may have a same-sex partner/husband. They are not necessarily closet cases living “on the down low”. Call me old-fashioned, but one of the easiest ways to wrap a guy around your little finger is by validating his masculinity. A LOT of guys are very insecure about that, and it is a soft spot for many guys. Now, as gay man, I’m still free to validate a man’s masculinity, as (gay) boys will be (gay) boys, but the issue is fraught w/all sorts of implications for women–weakness, Stepford wife, unliberated, self-hating, Melania Trump–the list of negative attributes for women who don’t emasculate or at least deemphasize their man’s masculinity is long. As far as raceplay, that’s just too close for comfort for me, but I don’t judge guys into it. A lot of play is just a fun and exciting way to get really up close and personal w/your id and can be much more fun than therapy as long as you’re very clear about where you’re coming from (know thyself)

  137. I’m so glad you chose to write about food/veganism! I was always wondering if you would…

    A book I came across recently, that is the first I’ve found dealing with what you mentioned – that sustainable, local farm systems include animals:

    As someone who’s being trying with all their might to be vegan for the past 8 years, I found it both terrifying, and a relief, to read Milligan speak about the possibility that veganism wasn’t the be-all-and-end-all of human progress. ‘Trying’ is the keyword; I never was vegan, not for more than a few months at a time, at the end of which I’d feel weak, cold, and uncoordinated, despite taking B12 supplements, and all else… I would read so many books, hear so many stories of success, and wonder what I was doing wrong, you know?

    It’s ironic that vegans make fun of (people they call) ‘carnivores’ for all of a sudden becoming self-proclaimed ‘health experts’ in defence of eating meat upon meeting a vegan, because vegans do the *exact same thing* to anyone who’s tried and struggled with veganism, in self-assured medical knowledge of the opposite.

    Of course plants have feelings. Veganism, as an animal rights stance, is based on the fact that humans are just animals, and that ours is a feeling world, and that our feelings aren’t the only ones that matter. And yet, in further irony, vegans love to troll the idea that it could be reasonable to consider that plants have feelings too. It’s as if we’re willing to let go of only so much anthropocentrism – non-human animals are ‘allowed’ to have feelings that are enough likes ours to matter, and this we justify with recourse to the continuum of evolution, similar nervous structures, and similar behaviours. But plants with feelings? Nooo. It’s an unconscious societal assumption that the word ‘feelings’, which really is a co-constructed consensual tool, must actually correspond to something Real (which we imagine is only for humans). Which is strange, because at one step we were so concerned with appearing Scientific (philosophically materialistic), while at the next we require the other worldly existence of a Platonic English Dictionary… In any case, seeing that words are consensually constructed tools of thought, it makes much more sense to ask not, “What is a feeling?” but “What do we want the word feeling to stand for?” If ‘feeling’ is to mean, ‘sufficiently human emotion’ – as it does to most people I know – I believe we still need a way to talk about the ways in which plants experience, respond to, and are entwined with their environments, and FEELING simply seems like a reasonable class of words to use, because the analogy does not break, but rather allows us to communicate meaningfully about what plants do, which really is the point, isn’t it? Unless, that is, we’re going to go back and argue about human-specialness and whether it could still be Descarts’ pineal gland that explains why if it acts like it’s sad, we must not call it sad unless it also stands on two feet and is mostly bald.

    (Side note: I was recently so disappointed to read in an epilogue to an anthology of Thoreau that BF Skinner was a fan of Thoreau’s work. Biological behaviourism seems at odds with the spirit of a mad duck cackling his way into Walden pond, is all I’m saying.)

    I’ve often wanted to believe that The Reason I’ve been unable to be vegan is because I’m Inuit. When we go north to visit family, surprise surprise, there aren’t any vegans. What there is, is a more nuanced relationship. In a truly non-colonial world view (which, may I dare say, exists far less frequently than claimed), veganism simply isn’t on the table. Instead, there are ways of being-in-relation-to, backed by stories that create meaning.

    I watched ‘Earthlings’ (a documentary collecting animal abuse, torture, murder, etc.) and was very traumatized. But looking back, I can’t help but feel that veganism is the overreaction of a disconnected soul.

    Factory farming and industrial agriculture are absolutely horrific. Pharmaceutical research on non-humans is absolutely horrific. Etc. Etc. It’s all true, and I’ve beaten myself up about if for years, and seen a cruel world, but I think what we’re dealing with here (in regards to the moral code of mostly middle class city-dwellers in North America) is an insane reaction to an insane situation. Meanwhile, a sane reaction to an insane situation might look more like working to extricate ourselves from said insanity – and local, small scale farming does need manure, and the tofu I buy, shipped in from some distant place and wrapped in plastic, is part of walking in the right direction, but not, ultimately, a solution.

  138. @Isabel,
    I heard it as a joke: Q: What is heaven like for Baptists? A: It’s where we can speak to each other when we see each other at the liquor store.

  139. Russ,

    I am a bit gobsmacked by your comment. If I understand it aright, you have simply declared that if someone fails to be vegan they are wrong, and their philosophy suspect. And this because only veganism is ecologically sound? Is this what you said?

  140. I’ve had to kill a chicken or two, never a cow or pig, but I didn’t necessarily mind, though I didn’t relish the act, I did do what I’d heard native Americans do, which is say a prayer of thanksgiving for the animal who’s life I was about to take…

  141. With regard to Shane’s post:

    I thought it was an absolutely hilarious commentary on the repressed underside of American life. Apparently, the temptations of forbidden fruit are too hard to resist for many people, even with harshly enforced social taboos. If Daesh couldn’t stamp out homosexuality by throwing every gay man they caught off buildings, then what makes the SJW’s think they can stamp out “raceplaying”, “f*ggot hazing” or other such things between consenting adults? After all, roleplaying and catharsis can be a very useful way to relieve inner tensions, particularly those which people dare not speak of in public…

    Speaking of kinky and bizarre fetishes from the BDSM roleplaying community, have any of you heard of this one? Not my cup of tea, but YMMV!

    And now for some theme music…

  142. Violet,

    I have read Spengler, including translations of many of his lesser known works. I have re-read The Decline of the West at least three times and he has had a huge influence on my thinking. In my estimation, he was without a doubt the greatest historian of the 20th century and arguably the greatest philosopher since Nietzsche. It was in large part due to my readings of Spengler’s writings and Greer’s blogs that I developed a deep interest in the writings of historians such as Toynbee, Ibn Khaldun and Giambattista Vico. The link you shared is one I would recommend highly to anyone interested in beginning to explore Spengler and his ideas.

    Thank you for your feedback and insights. I very much appreciate being able have civil and intellectually stimulating conversations on this blog and I have always valued your contributions here and at The Archdruid Report and The Well of Galabes.

    PS – Another resource I would highly recommend as an introduction to anyone interested in Spengler is the six part lecture series that the American philosopher John David Ebert produced. The audio quality isn’t the greatest, but its one of the best introductions to his ideas I have ever come across. Ebert also produced a much longer 63 part lecture series on The Decline of the West that can be found on his YouTube site. Ebert is one of the few post-modernist philosophers I have any real respect for and his other video lectures are always worth watching.

  143. Interestingly, I think many of our problems with diet are due to something that most of us think is a wonderful fact of modern life: the fact that we have access to a wide variety of choices of things to eat. We can get so many different foods of all kinds in our supermarkets, from all parts of the world. However, our ancestors could not. They were limited, for the most part, to foods that they could grow, herd or hunt within a few miles of where they lived. Yes, there was trade, going far back into human history. But it was much more difficult, time-consuming, and probably far-off foods were largely limited to the few in higher echelons of society. Salt is one thing that many communities had to import, and many others made great efforts to get seafoods, if they lived in the interior, as seafood was so prized for it’s health-giving benefits. But mostly they had a diet that, thought it might contain a good number of plants and animal products, was fairly unvarying from year to year–certain foods at certain seasons and that’s it. Thus, their diets, while perhaps monotonous, were closely linked to the very local environment in which they lived, helping them to thrive under their local conditions.. With certain food preparation techniques, they were able to get the nutrients they needed for good health and healthy child-bearing. We, on the other hand, have so much to choose from, so little knowledge, in most cases, of how to prepare it properly to release certain nutrients, and so much reliance upon advertising and food trends that our diets may be quite haphazard, and not closely linked to our local natural environment; thus we may be missing crucial things we need to thrive in our environment, while also eating things that are really not appropriate for our local environment or lifestyle. Our bodies may or may not, depending on our sensitivity, be able to tell us exactly what we need because they no longer have that “food compass” ingrained within them that earlier people had from the generations before them.

  144. I guess a virtuous defecator uses a composting toilet, and sanctimoniously lectures and shames those who use drinking-water flush toilets?

  145. Jessi, that’s an important point, of course. In modern industrial society, every part of life is redefined according to arbitrary abstractions and covered over with manufactured pseudo-experiences; food is just one small part of the whole picture. As for the difference between animal raising and field agriculture, to my mind, that’s just one more good reason to source my meat from farmers who raise the meat animals by grazing rather than feedlot methods!

    Torgeir, anyone who thinks there’s a single human dietary template is not of interest to me, because the central issue is that no one dietary template works for everybody!

    Casey, I like that! The notion that one of the great benefits to virtue is the additional zip it gives to vice amuses me, but it also points to some intriguing truths…

    Russ, funny. If you’d actually read my writings, instead of just leaping in here off some vegan website or other, you’d know that my take on ecological awareness focuses on finding an appropriate set of individual choices, not rigid conformity to some dogma or other. You’re also know that I routinely get trolls like you, who fling around aspersions in an attempt to bully me into whatever dogma they want everyone to conform to — and of course, you’d also know that I roll my eyes and ignore their attempts at bullying. There’s the door; don’t forget to take your hat.

    Frank, hmm! That seems quite plausible.

    Sven, you’re made of sturdier stuff than I am if two bacon cheeseburgers make you a suitable breakfast! Me, I need a few hours after waking up to get ready for an experience that intense. Still, bon appetit.

    Discwrites, I think I was fortunate to be in a relative backwater like Seattle, where the big names in macrobiotics were a long ways away, and the people I knew who were into it were mostly pretty mellow about it all. As for Calvinism, that makes quite a bit of sense — the Calvinist-Puritan movement has a lot to answer for.

    Patricia, I’ll have to look up the soshoku diet. I had (and have) no trouble coming up with very tasty macrobiotic meals, even without the addition of bacon cheeseburgers, so I’m wondering what the trouble was! As for vegan tourists, why, yes — and we probably need to talk sometime soon about the way that certain diets function as forms of conspicuous consumption for the privileged — “I make so much money, and have so sedentary a job, that I can afford to eat this way” is a major form of status signaling these days.

    Averagejoe, and if that’s what works for you, great.

    Cortes, true enough! My wife has problems digesting meat fat; I don’t. Mr. and Mrs. Sprat come up for discussion now and again at our dining table.

    Gavin, a trainer like that is worth his weight in really good beer! Glad to hear you were so fortunate.

    James, I’m utterly delighted that my writings helped you on your way to the life you now have. Yes, exactly.

    Lydia, and if that’s what works for you, great.

    Katherine, thank you. Hearing Hawthorne and Melville named as guides to sanity made my day. I know it’s unfashionable to say anything nice about dead white guys, but those two among many others had a lot of good things to say.

    Dave, I think that’s an important part of it, yes.

    Rebecca, you had a good doctor. Glad to hear there are still some out there.

    Will, it’s twofold. To follow this, it’s necessary to remember that yang is centripetal while yin is centrifugal — any movement toward the middle is a yang movement. The entire thrust of the macrobiotic movement as generally practiced was to give up foods that were “too yin” and “too yang,” while focusing on foods that are close to the center, especially grains. That movement toward the center is a yang movement, and according to macrobiotic theory, would need to be balanced appropriately by a movement toward the periphery: thus unless you eat modest amounts of foods that are well out in the directions of extreme yang and yin, to balance the grains and seaweed and miso et al., you’re going to veer in a yang direction over time — and since yang taken to the extreme always changes to yin, you’re going to get clobbered by yin diseases such as cancer.

    More generally, according to macrobiotic theory, health is yang and sickness is yin, life is yang and death is yin, and you can’t have yang without yin. The entire thesis that you can have permanent radiant health throughout a very long life flies in the face of the entire doctrine of yin and yang: you can’t have one without the other. So instead of trying to be healthy all the time (another yang imbalance), the goal should be to be healthy more often than not, and to make the intervals of illness briefer and easier to get through.

    So my “new macrobiotics” would propose a very rough balance of three-fifths foods that tend toward the center, and two-fifths foods that tend toward the periphery; of course you balance yin and yang, as by having that beer with your bacon cheeseburger, and in subtler ways as well. You adjust your diet to take into account your body’s condition — a little more yang when you’re feeling yin, and so on — and you don’t pretend that what you eat is going to keep you permanently healthy, you simply use your eating habits to minimize down time and let your body rest and cleanse itself gently when it gets ill. As I said, given the frenzy for extreme diets backed up by extreme claims, there’s zero chance that any such diet book would find a publisher, much less an audience!

    Varun, well, there you are. That’s another taboo, of course — nobody’s supposed to say that there’s anything positive about alcohol or the like. Good for you, for seeing past that.

    Scotlyn, hah! You get tonight’s gold star with honorary bacon cheeseburger for that.

    Redoak, you’ve touched on a major issue there. A lot of people want drama in their lives, and will get it in one way or another; imposing rigid rules on their bodies, especially if those rules conflict with the body’s needs, is a good way to produce drama. A vast amount of what passes for morality these days, I’ve come to think, unfolds either from this desire for drama, on the one hand, or from a desire to exercise unearned power over other people, on the other. More on this in an upcoming post!

    Mister N., hmm! I’d put the shrill nature of vegan bullying down to cognitive dissonance; the possibility that malnutrition might contribute to that hadn’t occurred to me. Still, you may be right; the raw food diet is so low on carbs that many people who eat it don’t get enough calories to keep their brains properly fueled.

    Bruno, yeah, the pharmaceutical industry gets their pet bureaucrats in the FDA to try that at regular intervals. Mainstream medicine is extremely defensive of its market share!

    Fred, that’s certainly part of it. I suspect a very large part, though, is that both eating and having sex are pleasurable, and the Puritan streak in American culture insists that whatever you enjoy must be evil. (I forget who defined Puritanism as the awful, sneaking, intolerable suspicion that someone, somewhere is having a good time.)

    Tamar, by all means look at it, and treat it as the product of an intensely creative imaginatio backed up by occasional flashes of clairvoyance. Mine certainly fits that description!

    Peter, veggie burgers can be good! I’ve had a certain number of them, and enjoyed them — though I’ll probably be first in line for a bacon cheeseburger in June.

    Bill, excellent. If you’ve found a diet that works for you, that’s very good to hear.

    Martin, well, I’m very sorry I missed it. If it ever happens that I’m back that way, I’ll keep it in mind.

    Armata, yep. I’ll be talking about that soon.

    David, I certainly agree that those who are concerned with the environment might well choose to make that an element in their dietary choices. What I disagree with is the claim that there’s one and only one right way to do that.

    Isabel, in that case, be careful — your body may have no idea how to handle a shortage of simple carbs.

    Beekeeper, I’ve done it from time to time, with good results. It’s one of many things worth trying.

    Aubrey, that’s very true. My wife has serious food allergies, and while there are fortunately people who have no trouble working around that, we’ve had our share of serious trouble from people who can’t be bothered or, worse, assume that the allergies aren’t real or don’t matter.

    Steve, the return of the repressed is rarely a pleasant thing to watch!

    Onething, I don’t share your belief in conspiracy, but I won’t argue about the dubious nature of much of what passes for food these days — or about the prevalence of vegan bias in a lot of nutrition-and-health literature! I hope all’s going well with your breast cancer treatment.

    Xabier, yes, I can imagine that would be hilarious…

    Stacy, glad you enjoyed it!

    Mister N., yes, and I may also ask people to describe their experiences.

    Stefania, er, the Morgan Spurlock film has been debunked for what amounts to deliberate fraud. The claim that many diseases can be prevented or cured by diet alone is very popular these days, especially among those who are trying to sell other people on diets, but the evidence just doesn’t support it. It’s one of the main ways that people these days try to blame illness on the people who get ill — not a useful move, though a politically convenient one.

    James, and if that works for you, by all means.

    Steve, another good example of evangelism as evidence of failure…

  146. Classic quote from H.L. Mencken that was too good not to post:

    At the bottom of Puritanism one finds envy of the fellow who is having a better time in the world, and hence hatred of him. At the bottom of democracy one finds the same thing. This is why all Puritans are democrats and all democrats are Puritans.

  147. Shane,

    ” …but the issue is fraught w/all sorts of implications for women–weakness, Stepford wife, unliberated, self-hating, Melania Trump–the list of negative attributes for women who don’t emasculate or at least deemphasize their man’s masculinity is long.”

    If that is so our society is in terminal illness.

  148. JMG wrote:
    “A lot of people want drama in their lives, and will get it in one way or another; imposing rigid rules on their bodies, especially if those rules conflict with the body’s needs, is a good way to produce drama.”

    People, come to the theater for your drama, and live a happier life! (Only half joking.)

    😀 Bonnie

  149. A1, hear, hear! Can we please have a return to the simple practice of courtesy around food choices, as a preliminary to a return to the same practice more generally? If you don’t like what somebody else is eating, folks, and they don’t ask you for your opinion, keeping it to yourself is a very simple thing that makes social interactions go so much better…

    Travis, why are you asking me to play a role in your dietary choices? Whether or not you choose to eat a pound of sugar a day, with a spoon, straight out of the bag, is of no imaginable interest or concern to me. Nor is it a moral issue — it’s just a matter of what you, in the privacy of your own kitchen, choose to do.

    You know, that settles it. Stand by next week for the least popular essay I know how to write: an introduction to Stoic ethics. Epictetus has an ice-cold wet towel he uses to slap people across the face, and I’m going to ask him to loan it to me — it was applied to my face good and hard via his Enchiridion during the most bitter hours of my life, and got me out the other side sane and happy. Clearly it needs some use here and now!

    Sir Shales-a-lot, there are far too many drones already hard at work on an assortment of diet scams, among other things, and I must politely decline to add to their number! As for your cheeseburger, I think you probably need to argue about that with a famous cat…

    Armata, no argument there. There’s a good reason I own all ten volumes…

    Shane, that’s a valid point. The attitudes toward masculinity we see these days suffer from the same self-defeating habit I anatomized in a post a while back — everything that isn’t all the way to one dysfunctional end of a spectrum must be all the way to the other. There is a middle ground…

    Merlin, thank you for this. As for your difficulties with the vegan diet, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the traditional Inuit diet very high in animal protein sources and fairly low in plant foods most of the year? That would give you the same hereditary predisposition I got from my Scots Highland ancestors — a digestive tract and metabolism geared toward animal rather than vegetable proteins.

    Matt, I’m glad Monbiot has finally noticed. People have been making these same points for well over a century…

    Shane, so did I.

    Armata, I did not need that image in my mind… 😉

    Lydia, hmm. I wonder if you’ve followed up that claim by reading accounts of what people actually ate in earlier times. It might surprise you to find out just how varied and diverse a diet many ancient people had!

  150. JMG, like everything, there is a lot to know about food and diet. Some of it is very particular to individuals (e.g. something that triggers migraines for someone but is fine for almost everyone else), some of it is reasonably common (lactose intolerance) and some of it is universal (if you don’t eat enough vitamin C you’ll get sick and die).

    The realities are complex. The problem seems to be the cultural habit you point out, of wanting to distill a complex reality down to a simple rule that’s universally and rigidly applied. One of the difficulties with that is that the all-or-nothing approach leads to some of the pathologies you pointed out. If failure is understood as breaking the rule once, it’s almost guaranteed. This is why most people can’t stick to a “diet”. Then comes the guilt.

    On the other hand, “doing what your body tells you” is easy to get wrong. The problem is that a lot of those basic signals have been hijacked or confused by the modern food industry. It’s bad magic. Gratification from salt, sugar and fat is immediate, but the slower signals of “now I feel sick” or “I’m not healthy like I used to be” can be harder to link the cause and effect because of the delay. So some knowledge is a useful addition to listening *carefully* to your body. The following are pretty close to universal for anyone eating a modern western industrial diet. If you can,

    – stay away from trans fat
    – try to go for the low glycaemic index foods and not the rapidly digested simple carbs
    – drink mostly water (stay away from softdrink / soda)
    – make sure you eat a wide variety of food – a narrow range is an invitation to deficiencies (including the ones we don’t know about yet)
    – most people don’t eat enough fresh fruit and veg (and don’t get enough fibre)

    And it doesn’t matter if you fall off the wagon occasionally. What you do most of the time is much more important for your health than the occasional indulgence or lapse.


  151. Wow! This post has been up for only a day now and we’re at 162 comments already and counting. Great discussions too in the comments section. Thank you one and all.

  152. What about soul food? The diet mavens have been howling for years that the traditional Southern diet is very, very bad for you. Too much salt. Too much grease. Etc. Full disclosure – I had traditional collard greens on my last visit to Florida and liked it quite well. The syndicated raw-kale-mongers would probably have a cow at the first taste. Though my local foodie friend not only recognized it right off, but gave me chapter and verse on how it was made, since Albuquerque’s best-known BBQ place is one of her haunts. (Ribs. Corn bread. Sweet potato pie. Oh, my.

  153. Delightful post, JMG! Very radical thought… people being able to determine what to eat and what not to eat based on what their own bodies tell them. I had a good chuckle at your depiction of the “closet carnivore” vegans/macrobiotic followers and, of course, nodded in agreement with Greer’s Law of Evangelism! For those in the commentariat who enjoy absurd indie films, I can recommend “Scott Pilgrim Against the World” which mid-film has a villainous vegan who wields super-powers due to the moral superiority of his diet.

    My own story is one of feeling an intuitive urge to become a vegetarian at age 16 – and have stuck with it for nearly four decades (and counting). Fortunately I found a good Indian vegetarian cookbook within months of declaring myself vegetarian. But I would never dream of “converting” omnivores to my diet. Each person must live within their own skin and according to their values and conscience. The self-righteousness of various advocates of this or that diet has always nauseated me.

  154. Shane wrote

    I guess a virtuous defecator uses a composting toilet, and sanctimoniously lectures and shames those who use drinking-water flush toilets?

    ROTFLMAO! That was beyond awesome.

  155. Many diet disagreements arise from taking seriously the phenotype changes that we subconscious create in our own bodies by adapting to whatever diet a religion or other motivation provides.

    People dont realize how extreme our bodies change in response to intermed-long term changes in diet. We BECOME unique in physiology and biochemically learn to prefer/crave/require that diet, regardless of how unusual. After we adapt (diet change due to religious or other strong emotion) we truly feel and ARE different and start shouting at others who dont understand our new physiological reality. Eating (or avoiding) lots of fat causes major changes in pancreas for example. High Vitamin C causes major changes in how the body uses Vit C and can actually cause a deficiency when you go “off” such levels. High protein BECOMES a requirement and causes continued cravings by creating a much bigger liver and kidney and intestine needed to detoxify the N into – ammonia (THEN) – urea (research publications on this have been suppressed by our politicians who control the USDA since 1960s but no time to go into that). The real MDR (minimum dietary/daily requirement) for a person in another country is very different. Generally the intestines of an Indian in India absorb higher percentages of nutrients than do a N American due to physiological accommodation. Examples abound and I really dont have time for chit chat, but tersely point out that a diet of no saturated fat (myself for ex) for an extended time can leave a person with an inability to easily digest a bacon burger without a training period. (I force myself to eat wild pig occasionally despite my acquired propensity to stomach upset from the now-unfamiliar fat out of desire for revenge against the critters who ravage my farmland). But if I continue to eat the bacon and cheese whatever every day then I am again “unique” in that alternative modifiable way.
    I dont minimize the serious problems from genetic based differences (esp allergies), but detailed knowledge of physiological accommodation seems completely lacking in discussions and in information sources from “experts.”

  156. @Lydia Grey, I second your recommendation of “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration” by Weston Price. Written most of a century ago, it is a real eye-opener given where nutritional science with its reductionist views has led since. He traveled the world, comparing and cataloging people on traditional diets with those on modernized ones, which at that point (1930s I think) was characterized by stuff like canned foods and chocolates. Vitamins are added to bread these days to prevent the gross manifestations of deficiencies that arose then, but it hardly leads to robust health.

  157. I have to laugh at how reductive a lot of modern conversations are about nutrition and human dietary needs have become, even reading through this comment thread.
    After we moved to our farm, I read up quite a bit on soil science and mineralization and plant uptake of available minerals and the role of fungi and bacteria in bioavailability of soil nutrients.
    My firm take-away from that is:
    1) Plants can’t absorb minerals that aren’t in the soils to start with (nor can animals absorb what isn’t in their foods), and the geology of every soil in every place is different and the foundational input to agriculture.
    2) A carrot grown on one soil is not internally the same nutritional composition of a carrot grown on another soil.
    3) People used to build diets around the culture and agri-culture of their land – eating what grew near them and incorporating animal or insect foods as needed to balance out nutritional needs.
    4) Modern world-wide food sourcing and the loss of native-to-a-place food cultures coupled with world-wide soil loss due to current agricultural practices have made it hard to know what kind of nutrition is actually in any carrot we might buy – from the store or farmer.
    5) The complexity of how our bodies respond to nutrition across our lives (and especially while we are still in utero) is still not understood but for sure impacts our long-term health, as today’s headlines about Dutch babies conceived during the famine in 1944 blockades highlights.

    All together, it means personal nutrition for health requires experimentation and not philosophy.
    YMMV for sure!

    Thanks for this lovely post!

  158. Yes, JMG, I have certainly have followed up on that…..there are voluminous accounts in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and in other sources I have read that describe ancient people’s diets in detail. Notice that I said they *did* have access to a variety of foods, but — and here was my crucial point, that that variety was nearly all from very local sources. And it did tend to be the same from season to season and year to year, unless their environment was constantly changing drastically, which I doubt it was. We have a greater variety today even than they did (much greater), and most of it is NOT from local sources, unless you are among those lucky enough to be able to afford local artisan foods and farmer’s markets. (As many of us on this blog probably can). Also, our diets need not be seasonal or the same from year to year unless we specifically choose to make them that way.

    I am not sure why you seem somewhat hostile to my posts about traditional diets. I would think that that information fits in nicely with many of the things you talk about in this blog. And I am certainly not saying that there is only one way to eat. In fact, my sources show beyond a doubt that there are as many different ways to eat as there are places on the planet that produce food! What I do think is that as industrial civilization has taken over most of our food supply, we have lost (not all) but much of the precious nutritional knowledge and lore of more traditional populations, and that we can learn much about nutrition by learning from them.

  159. @JMG: That wouldn’t surprise me! When I’d switched to an oatmeal-and-vegetable-soup-heavy diet for the first few weeks in January, my digestion kind of hated me, and I had to go back to having at least one bagel a week.

    Also adding to the chorus re: letting people make their own decisions about food and not judging and/or asking questions. In general, I think asking overly-personal questions–anything from “Why don’t you drink?” to “Why are you still single?” to “When are you having kids?”–is obnoxious and merits a completely snarky answer. (My favorites re: singleness were “Because of mandatory minimum sentences,” and “The stars are not yet right, nor has the time of flaying arrived.” For times when people get on your case about eating/not eating meat, maybe “It reminds me of that time I got stranded in the Rockies…”)

    @Armata: Yeesh, and I thought being spanked with Forbes was bad!

    More semi-seriously: yeah, the more reasonable even among us SJW-types understand that humiliation is a fetish for a lot of people, humiliation based on particular characteristics trips some people’s wires for various reasons including the fact that anger is the other side of lust and taboo-breaking is hot, and, well, “a stiff **** has no conscience,” as the old saying goes. It’s not my thing, but eh, doesn’t have to be.

    @Shane W: Ha! Nice!

    The Lutherans surprised me too, but I guess they get pretty dour in some parts of MN/WI? (I know, for instance, that Ed Gein’s mom was some kind of fundamentalist Lutheran, and did not approve of hard spirits, among other things.)

    I guess there might even be a sect of abstemious Presbyterians, though given my family reunions, I can’t for the life of me imagine how that would work.

  160. @ Armata, thank you for the reply! It’s amazing how many people on this board have read Herr Spengler; coincidentally I’m currently I’m on my third reread right now.

    I likewise really appreciate the civil discourse here and your contributions to these forums.

    @ JMG, If I may, something I want to add to this conversation around Faustian Socialism is that, according to Spengler, everyone who is Western is implicated in it. Since the symbolic world of Faust is recreated in everyone on Earth — at least shallowly through the far ranging effects of Romanticism — it applies to everyone.

    This is a rather harrowing thing to contemplate; there is the same self-righteous strident arch-demon personified by a Hitler or Jim Jones lives in me or anyone else. I don’t say this to be moralizing, or to wag a finger. I just don’t want to project this horrific reality on to someone else and evade my own responsibilities. Yes I’m critical of many people possessed by self-righteousness but in those very moments I am the most vulnerability to becoming possessed myself by the same demon.

    There was a time when I was living in a tent with a partner at the age of 20. We had been homeless together for maybe three months and we’d be homeless for another nine before we broke up. I was talking Marxist theory, which I believed at the time as historically inevitable, I began talking about the great slaughters that would take place and whatnot, and she listened very carefully and then said “while you were saying that you turned gray and it looked like a demon had entered you, your voice wasn’t your own.”

    I was aghast, and began to really contemplate my inner world more, and try to work on my tendencies towards self-righteousness. This had been a work in process, and I would be lying to say that I don’t need to maintain some vigilance and watchfulness on my own inner world. I do, and all that passes within isn’t rainbows and unicorns.

    It’s easy to point at Marx or Hitler or the SJWs or Richard Spencer and cast them to the other side of a growing war, but I think it is much more important to look at oneself and say “what am I creating inwardly that contributes to this growing divide? How am I the mirror image of my enemy?”

    My thought is that the shrill voice of self-righteousness that points the finger and seeks converts to wage war against the Evil has been a demon growing in the Faustian imagination for some time now. Perhaps it’s perpetual. The whole “The Evilliest Evil that has ever Evilled” that you have criticized so heartily, JMG, seems to me to be a growing mirage. People see it in their neighbor and they see it in the news and they even see it in the food. I tend to see this…being as something real but on a different plane of existence. Some arch-demon that feeds on the energy of hypocritical self-righteousnesss, and like a spiritual parasite, it fosters inner conditions that allow it to thrive. I imagine this demon as less passive than Jung’s Shadow, more conscious and perhaps even self-conscious

    For this reason, I am eager for your discussion of Stoicism. This whole inclination towards trying to war as to master outer evil appears to me wrongheaded. I am conscious of an entire inner world! Is that not enough to focus my energies on? If I cannot even master myself why do I think I would ever be a good master to others?

  161. many thoughtful and interesting comments, but the ones that pose the greatest difficulty to my understanding are those that insist a particular diet represents a moral/ethical choice. sure, there are practices that can readily be characterized as unethical–i.e.factory farming with it’s inevitable creation of waste and abuse of animals. every thoughtful person who can do so would be well advised to avoid food from such sources. but on the basic question of meat or no meat i see no dilemma. god, evolution or visiting aliens made me an omnivore. that’s a real evolutionary edge. do i really need to question my good fortune?
    “bacon is the gateway meat” is priceless. i just ordered several t-shirts in assorted sizes to annoy my vegetarian friends.

  162. @JMG, I went wrong on the soshoku diet in two ways: using it as a means for weight loss through stringent calorie restriction, and incorporating way too much soy in an attempt at vegetarianism, which probably wouldn’t have been that bad in itself, but I consumed a large batch of GMO soy flour once, and felt sick afterwards. My belly suddenly expanded and my weight increased despite ever more desperate calorie restriction. It took several months to realize I was now gluten intolerant (and thanks are due to the reviled Dr. Atkins for pointing out that possibility earlier than others). Rather than white rice, which is what the Japanese nutritionist was recommending, I was eating a rich whole-wheat bread, one of the most satisfying things on my menu. The recommendations were very poor in nutrients and aimed at incorporating Japanese comfort foods, so it may not have been pure “soshoku,” on which I have no information. It’s the word the nutritionist used, and I have heard it is based on the peasant diet. I know very little about macrobiotics, beyond what you’ve said. You are helping me overcome my negative first impression of it, and I ought to see what it really involves, but ultimately, carbohydrate restriction seems to work better for me and is essential for my husband.

  163. ” evilly evil evilness with a double helping of evil sauce on the side”

    Great phrase, and it made me laugh. Thank you for the diversion. And you are correct about this “if I could only find he perfect food my entire life would be better” concept, which is even better.

  164. @Armata,
    oddly enough, all’s fair (for most people) amongst consenting adults in the dungeon, including raceplay and f*ggot hazing, even by many of the most ardent SJW’s.

  165. JMG,
    Where can I find out about this low liver storage of sugars/simple carbohydrates? If something like that is in play it might explain a few things about my metabolism and why my mom’s side of the family all have a big sweet tooth, and all lack diabetes. Like why I get cold, shaky, and dysfunctional mentally if it has been more than 3 hours since I last ate, during the day. And needing breakfast right now on getting up. When I did a fasting blood glucose test, I was at the opposite end of normal from how a diabetic would register. Now I’m in my thirties it isn’t nearly such an issue as it was. As a child, teenager, and young adult on the other hand…

  166. I’m enjoying this weeks’ post and am happy your muse led you to this topic, JMG.
    It has me reflecting on my grandparents. They were born in the 1890’s and were solid working class folks, although my grandmother had a couple of years at Pullman College in Washington. Unusual for a young women of a farming background at that time.
    My grandfather always had a vegetable garden and though he had only a grade six education he knew instinctively that DDT, the so called miracle cure for plant disease,was a bad bet for health. My grandmother was a thoughtful and creative cook.The two of them put food away in the cold room and my grandmother’s preserves kept them through winter, and then they bought locally all those food groups that they didn’t grow themselves.Of course, that was all anybody in their small community had back then before the era of the transnational food industry.. They ate a balanced diet of fruit and veg (mostly),dairy( local milk and cheese)a little meat but not every day because it was expensive for their means, a few sweets with meals always home baked and very occasionally alcohol- also expensive for them. They did not eat foods that didn’t “agree” with them,and meals were as I recall with fondness,always convivial. Eating at restaurants was considered an extravagance that was a very rare event. It seems to me that they paid attention to eating thoughtfully and listened to their bodies’ needs. They also were firm believers in daily outdoor exercise- either working in the garden or walking daily as the season dictated.Along with their family, church and community were central to their lives. They carried on this way as long as they lived, to 88 and 90 respectively.
    When JMG talks of the myth of progress I think of my grandparents,and how their way of living ties into this topic so powerfully.
    They ate seasonally, bought locally and enjoyed their abundance with family and their community.
    All of this ramble to say that the way forward may be to look back and recognize that we have a history of folks like my grand parents who seemed to know how to live a healthy life and also respect the earth.
    I try to follow their example but fall short in some areas- like drinking much more wine!
    I agree with Jay Moses that some of us have such affluence and privilege that we have far too much time to indulge in the diet du jour. Living as my grandparents did, eating seasonally from food produced locally, listening to our bodies needs and sharing joyfully with family, friends and community seems like a good idea to me.Whew! I’m done!
    I so appreciate all the respectful and thoughtful comments here. And again , thank you JMG for your thought provoking posts, and providing this space for us to discuss topics that ,for me ,are so essential.

  167. A Spratt-like object lesson in dietary “horses for courses”: I have a hereditary deficiency in my ability to break down purines, which are found in greater amounts in more metabolically active protein sources. (Purines are broken down bits of DNA, the A’s and G’s in the genetic code.) Unless treated with dietary caution or with drugs, this causes gout. I don’t use the drugs because they’re dicey in terms of toxicity, so I have to be very careful about the proteins I eat, completely avoiding certain protein sources. Also, although dietary cholesterol has been largely exonerated as a cardiac heath risk in recent years, I’ve been advised that that’s not so in my case, due to my father’s medical history. Hence, I haven’t had a steak or burger in years.

    One of my in-laws has intestinal damage from complications of Crohn’s disease, and in order to absorb enough calories he has to eat rich foods, often including beef for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, he can’t reliably pass fiber (which can result in internal “blockages” which believe it or not are even worse than they sound), so most veggies and many grains are off limits for him.

    I’ve mentioned to him that if the two of us ever wanted to carry out a suicide pact, all we’d have to do is swap diets.

  168. By the way, attempts to address social issues in America by means of diet go back a lot farther than the 1970s. You’re probably already aware of the bizarre historical connection between breakfast cereals and masturbation, but if not, it’s worth a look. (In fact when I saw this post’s title, I thought it might be about that.)

  169. JMG re “The claim that many diseases can be prevented or cured by diet alone is very popular these days, especially among those who are trying to sell other people on diets, but the evidence just doesn’t support it. It’s one of the main ways that people these days try to blame illness on the people who get ill — not a useful move, though a politically convenient one.”

    I hear what you’re saying. My mom died years ago, when she was quite young, of cancer. She was going to all these well-meaning support groups that all seemed to have the same toxic message – if you would only eat healthy enough, detox enough, meditate enough, pray enough or whatever enough, you can heal yourself. This does amount to blaming the sick person for not trying hard enough, as though it was all their fault, and can be horrible to listen to for someone who probably already feels like crap and quite possibly guilty enough already. I think my mom fell for that line and it didn’t help her in any way.

    The thing is though, the one point you focused on wasn’t in any way what I was trying to say. I certainly wouldn’t be one to try to sell anyone on any particular diet! Just as it is with sex – I could care less what others choose to do with their bodies as long as they don’t try to involve me without my consent. I suppose I could cite journal articles, studies etc. to try to argue that there are some diseases which do seem to respond to a change in diet, but I’m not going to. My point was that physical symptoms such as illness can often have causes which lie in planes other than the physical and won’t respond to a simple change in diet. Once I started considering causes other than just what is manifesting on the physical plane, many of my previous health concerns cleared up to a considerable extent.

    I don’t find it helpful, though, to imagine that diet doesn’t have any influence whatsoever on one’s state of well-being or lack thereof. That would be almost like swinging in the opposite direction as the diet fanatics. But there’s the middle ground, which is always more complicated. I think sometimes the causes are just physical, possibly food-related, and sometimes can at least have a physical component. For example, when I helped my daughter recover from autism, a particular diet was a big piece of the healing process. But it was far from the only piece – there were many, many other aspects which had contributed to her overall state of unbalance and needed to be addressed, and many that were not on the physical plane at all. And take the Weston A. Price book which Lydia mentioned and I read years ago. The pictures also spoke volumes, and distinguished between those indigenous peoples which ate their traditional foods (high in actual nutrients), in whom the elegant wide tribal facial bone structures which normally passed from one generation to the next with little variation, had been maintained, and those who had switched over to a more modern diet low in nutrients, and showed considerable degeneration in their facial bones, teeth crowding and decay etc. (My apologies if you are already familiar with all that). Is it only diet? My interpretation would be that I think diet must have had some influence, but it’s hard to say for certain. I’m not going to test that theory though – rather just try to feed my kids actual nutrients and hope their jaws develop properly. I would venture that achieving a state of balance is very complex and depends on many different factors, not at all limited to the physical, all of which need to be considered.

    As for Spurlock, hmmm. I saw that film a long time ago, had a bit of a laugh, and then forgot all about it until now. I would be admittedly a bit surprised if he did actually fake it all. Maybe he meant it more as a bit of social commentary? I’m not about to go and try to replicate those results either though, so who’s to say. I tend to just aim for balance these days with my diet – just eat whatever my body seems to want at the time.

  170. An essay on Stoic ethics? Same philosophy as in After Progress, chapter: Rock by Lake Silvaplana? Please, yes. (re reading for third time, more enjoyable each time)
    We have control over two things: what we do and our assessment of our experiences- that stuff, or am I all wrong?

    I am trying to remember the survivor of Natzi camps who said- the freedom that cannot be taken from us is the freedom to choose our assessment of our experiences. This rings so true.

  171. I recently saw an encouraging sign in Wal-mart of all places. It’s not a place I frequent, as it’s a little expensive for my budget, but I wind up there a few times a year. Every time I do, I pick up some cat food so I don’t have to drive somewhere else. Which is to say that I get an occasional look at the pet food section.

    Last week was one of those occasions and, lo and behold, they were selling chicken feed. I’m sure it’s not a new product for Wal-mart, but it’s new here. I’ve heard mutterings against local laws restricting chicken ownership coming from some fairly influential people, and seeing a full suite of chicken raising products there on the shelves felt like a sea change.

    It’s a small thing, but it relates to the theme of people making choices appropriate to the environment and their own situations. And after all, every big thing is made up of a lot of small things.

  172. I have to say that I knew Supersize Me was bunk and now to find out the guy’s girlfriend is a vegan chef…well that clinches it.

  173. Graeme, you know, I may just stop putting through comments that start by pretending to agree with me and then go on to list a set of supposedly universal or all-but-universal rules. If your rules provide you with a diet that’s satisfactory to you, that’s great — but the insistence that your rules ought to apply to everybody, or almost everybody, is exactly what I was trying to critique in this week’s post, you know. I’ll be talking shortly about the use of such things as an expression of the will to power, an attempt to impose your will on other people — which is what’s going on, of course.

    Armata, yeah, I figured it would be a lively week.

    Patricia, the diet mavens are by and large middle class, soul food is the food of the poor — and class snobbery plays an immense role in determining which diets get lauded or damned in the media, of course. If you find that soul food keeps you healthy and happy, get out there and enjoy it.

    Ron, delighted to hear it. If that’s what keeps you healthy and happy, go ye forth and do that thing.

    Marvin, that’s a good point — adaptation to diets combined with genetic predispositions explain a lot of variation.

    KF, excellent points. Thank you.

    Lydia, er, only if you define “hostile” as “not immediately jumping onto yet another dietary bandwagon.” Given that the whole point of this week’s post is that jumping onto somebody’s dietary bandwagon is less useful than simply paying attention to the signals your body is sending you right here and now, I’m not sure why you’re surprised…

    Isabel, funny! The bit about being stranded in the Rockies is a keeper. More generally, of course, you’re quite correct; the basic politeness that comes from remembering that another person’s life choices are None Of Your Business seems to be embarrassingly rare these days. More on that in the upcoming post…

    Violet, if Spengler is right, the will to infinite extension is central to the Faustian ethos, and that very often expresses itself as a craving for unearned power over other people. Show me an ideology that claims that there’s one and only one right way to do anything, and I’ll show you an ideology that will rack up a body count if it ever gets the chance. Is it useful to understand the craving for unearned power as a demonic force? Possibly so…

    Jay, and right there you’ve just pointed to the rot at the heart of so much contemporary thinking — the insistence on converting everything into a language of moral absolutes, so that it can be used as a weapon to control others. More on this as we proceed.

    Patricia, and here again, whatever works for you, works for you.

    Siliconguy, glad you liked it. I may have to introduce the old ethological concept of “displacement activity” sometime soon.

    Corydalidae, I’ve long since lost track of where I read of it. The point, though, is simply that the human liver stores up glucose and then dumps it back into the bloodstream when your cells need fuel. If your liver is good at that, you have endurance; if it isn’t, you need to feed yourself simple carbs fairly often, or run out of fuel.

    Robyn, you’re welcome and thank you. Do you have any of your grandparents’ recipes?

    Walt, an excellent example. Thank you. And yes, I know that Graham crackers were originally invented and marketed on the basis of the belief that if you give people whole grain foods (which Graham crackers originally were), they won’t masturbate, and since we all know masturbation causes insanity, blindness, and the sprouting of hair on one’s palms, we must stamp out masturbation! (There was, in the early 20th century, an organization called the White Cross, exactly parallel to the Red Cross, that raised funds and did big campaigns to prevent the evils of masturbation. Many of our health beliefs will look just as silly in a century…)

    Stefania, no doubt diet does play a role sometimes in the complex dance of causes that leads to illness, and it can also play a role in the cure — I mentioned in the post, and in some comments also, that I use my old macrobiotic knowledge this way. When Spurlock’s film claimed that eating junk food gave him a bunch of illnesses, and those went away as soon as he went back on a vegan diet, though, he was lying. (If you do some internet research you can find ample evidence for this.) That was what I was trying to challenge, of course — the notion that diet is the sole factor in health and illness.

    Michael, yes, and there’s more to it. And yes, it’s Viktor Frankl, whose book Man in Search of Meaning gave me a useful rap on the head at a particular point in my insufficiently misspent youth.

    Ynnothir, fascinating. The post office in the Appalachian town where I used to live always resounded with the peeping of live chicks being shipped out to backyard farmers every spring; if that’s spreading more generally, I’m glad to hear it.

  174. @ Isabel Kunkle and Shane.

    Hey even SJW’s gotta blow off some steam now and then while tasting the forbidden pleasures of life, much like John Michael’s example of the conservative Southern Baptist who goes to a gay bar every once in a while in a neighboring county to “get shot with the bun gun”. 😉

    What consenting adults choose do in the privacy of their own homes or in a BDSM club is no business of mine and I really couldn’t care less about what fantasies they choose to act out.

    It’s when people do one thing behind closed doors and then publicly bully and denounce other people for things they themselves are doing while trying to portray themselves as holier than thou that I have a problem with. It’s wrong when Christian fundamentalists engage in that kind of behavior and equally wrong when SJW’s do it.

  175. Graham crackers as a supposed cure for masturbation and the White Cross? Wow! Never heard of either before. That’s one of the things I love about this site: you never know what fascinating things you’ll learn about…

    I do remember hearing stories as a kid about summer camps putting saltpeter in the boys meals to keep them from “spanking their monkeys”, as we used to call it when we were growing up.

  176. Oh dear, I was afraid that might happen.

    My point really, was that there are things to know about human nutrition and diet. Some of it is universal, and those things are worth knowing about.


  177. corydalidae, this process with stored energy in the liver (and muscles) is an very important process. This process is the same for all people but are extremely important to understand if you have diabetes type 1 and are an athlete or have a physical work. I have a daughter with diabetes type 1 that also is an athlete that’s way I have been interested in this.
    I made a quick search and could find one short article that describes the process.
    For example, normally during the night when you sleep is the body using this stored energy in order to have a healthy blood glucose level and energy for all cells, but if you don’t have enough stored energy in form of glycogen for some reason, will the blood glucose level drop to very low values (even for non-diabetics) and the body will start to break down the body in other processes for energy instead and that’s not good (specially not if you have trained in order to be better/stronger).
    The reason could be because you have been eating too little food (or food that your body can’t process well) during the day and evening related to the physical activity level you have, or if you can’t store the energy for some other reason…
    This is an important aspect when you look at diets. If your body can’t process the food in a chosen diet in a good way, then you will have a problem…

  178. @cordylidae, I think we must have very similar metabolisms. All your descriptors fit me. I never, ever skip a meal, because I feel terrible if I don’t eat regularly- sick, weak, jittery and light-headed, and unable to focus on anything but getting some food, NOW. The popular term these days is “hangry”, from hungry + angry. Periodic fasting, which others report good results with, would leave me a mess. And hunger is often what gets me out of bed in the morning. I eat a pretty moderate diet, with lots of fruit and veg, complex carbs, plenty of protien, and a pretty generous amount of fat, because that is what makes my body feel good. I do try to avoid too much sugar and other simple carbs, though, being under the impression that that’s what we’re “supposed” to do, but I do love them, and never have cut them completely.

    I too am intrigued by this low liver storage of simple carbs idea. It’s the first I’ve ever heard of it. When I was pregnant with my first child and was sent to do the glucose challenge test (go in the morning after fasting all night, chug a can of glucose syrup, then check the blood glucose level), I “failed” the test spectacularly- my glucose levels were very high, well outside the normal range. So I was told to closely monitor my blood sugar at home, which I did while eating my usual diet, and never had a single home blood sugar reading outside of the normal range. Fasting (first thing in the morning), after meals, with and without exercise- all 100% normal. But because of that original test “failure” (and a similar repeat glucose challenge test score), I was considered by the medical establishment to be diabetic.

    When preparing for a second pregnancy, I went to an endocrinologist to follow up on the gestational diabetes diagnosis. He told me that although my weight was normal (and always has been), I was probably fat on the inside. (Apparently, this is a real thing, and not just some elaborate body-shaming insult- some people store fat on their organs in ways that are not visible on the surface). I was willing to entertain this idea, but when the doctor, who was himself a long-distance runner, recommended that for a healthy pregnancy I should try training for a marathon, I gathered my purse and left. (Harrumph.) I decided then and there that I was Not Diabetic, that I would continue to follow the sensible, moderate diet that produced a healthy weight gain (and subsequent post partum loss), and, more importantly, a healthy first child, and not to listen to silly worrywarts about manufactured health problems. I’m happy to report that I then went two-for-two (healthy pregnancy and kiddo) and later found a primary care physician who snickered with me at the endocrinologist’s comments and struck the diabetes diagnosis from my record (which matters quite a lot for insurance purposes).

    I wonder now if those test results were a reflection of my liver not storing such a huge bolus of glucose in a typical way, but rather dumping it into my bloodstream? I confess I’m not very well-informed about how the digestion and glucose metabolism process works, but if people’s systems vary as broadly as we are discussing here this week, I am not sure that the standard normative medical description of the process would fit me (us?) all that well anyways. My curiosity is stirred. Time to go do some research, although reading anything about diet is so hazardous to the sanity these days…

    –Heather in CA

  179. Speaking from both personal experience and the experience of observing others–

    A major issue is that people today have a hard time observing their bodies or listening to their bodies’ needs.

    I will use myself as an example.

    I described above the process by which I became aware of certain food allergies. This took almost a year. It was obvious, though, to my girlfeiend, who regularly suggested that I sneezed more after eating bread. I thought that was ridiculous. I’ve since seen the same thing in others. I once watched a friend eat 2 cheese quesadillas and immediately develop bronchial issues which she blamed on a cold that she hasn’t had when we sat down at the table.

    Back to me. I have found that when I am very hungry and in need of protein, I crave everything but bit I need. I mean everything– sugar, coffee, sex, Facebook. I also find I cannot, in that kind of state, concentrate on anything.

    That raises the question– How do I ever figure out what’s going on? Sometimes it’s only because my partner makes dinner for me and I discover upon eating that I wanted steak, not social media.

    One reliable method when I’m on my own– I practice discursive meditation every day. As a preliminary I progressively relax the muscles of my body. This is awlays when I discover that I am hungry and did not know it– upon entering a parasympathetic state stomach will begin to growl and I will start to salivate and crave food. Not coffee or Twitter, food. I will also find that when I begin to consider my topic for meditation, I don’t get anywhere. That is not surprising, since when I am under-nourished I become inarticulate, irritable and unable to read anything more complex than the average Tweet.

    How many people never spend so much as 5 minutes a day checking in with themselves, in silence, having deliberately cleared away intrusive thought-forms? How can such people be expected to have any idea what is good for them?

    As a final note, social media, smart phones and computer games are enormous exacerbators of this problem.

    As a final, final note, I am typing this post on a smart phone, having not eaten enough today, and I am not at all sure how coherent it is.

  180. @Violet, it is so enlightening to be aware of that demon entering and possessing you! A good experience, thanks to your friend for spotting him. Through a dream once, I became aware of a different but just as ugly possibility in myself. Very lucky to have it pointed out as I awakened and realized what I had done, apologizing from the bottom of my soul to the man I’d harmed. (He was not impressed.)
    Well, your demon and mine both have a veritable feast at hand in their respective, different regions. I’ll remember your story and try to cultivate awareness in myself if he tries any tricks with me.

  181. JMG, ha! macrobioticry sounds like our good old prickly friend materialism; the idea that once material needs, shelter, clothing and in this case food, are satisfied then your arts, enlightenments and in this case happinesses are easily fulfilled.

    Coincidentally I am reading Lewis Mumford’s “The condition of man” (how much Mumford occupies your bookshelf?). I enjoy Mumford’s writing style and he seems skilled at picking out gems from other authors. And here he is quoting one Karl Marx von Trier:

    “Marx is usually at his best when he makes least claim to being scientific, as in the speech in 1856 when he said:

    ‘In our days, everything seems pregnant with its contrary. Machinery, gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labor, we behold starving and overworking it…The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character. At the same pace that mankind masters nature, man seems to become enslaved to other men or to its own infamy…All our conventions and progress seem to result in endowing material forces with intellectual life and in stutifying human life into a material force.’

    Who could have stated the case better? Carlyle, Rushkin, Tolstoy have little to add to Marx the critic.”

    And here is thecrowandsheep’s response to today’s health/economical/psychological/technological/political/biological savants: Sure, you can do it, but it won’t do what you think it will do (and probably the opposite).

  182. Hello JMG-

    Wonderful post once again, thanks.

    I really like your book idea. But it must be conceived as a popular book for the general reader. It just dawned on me that your writing style and thought process brings to mind the work of author James Burke of Connections and The Day the Universe Changed fame. Both PBS series from the late 70’s early 80’s timeframe. Companion books to the shows were released, which might have been a new idea for the times. I don’t know if you are familiar with the work, but they are well worth exploring just for the theme of showing the interconnection between- well- just about everything.

    Its great storytelling which tries to educate the reader/viewer to the broad sweep of history and social development. What makes the process worthwhile is that there is no moralizing. What the story is about is chains of causation. Some good, some bad, some planned, some not. Imperfect humans bumbling their way through the universe.

    I believe you could really do a great cookbook along these lines. Or a food history/anthropology book with recipes that people could use. A type of hybrid cookbook. People are dying for good stories, just as they are searching for “answers” to their life’s problems. What better than a “cookbook” that ties together ALL the eating traditions with the added bonus of historical sidebars in the margins.

    The work would have to be well illustrated and in color, so probably very expensive to produce. I can’t see any publisher wanting to touch it because they would say you have to focus and specialize- which is the exact opposite of what is needed, so that is why I would venture to say it could be fantastically successful. Many cookbooks these days fall prey to the “food porn” charge. Which is just another way of describing good ideas and intentions being hijacked by the quest for easy money. People need connections. People need good stories.

    An affordable book for the masses, well illustrated with interesting stories, tying the recipes of good, wholesome eating, to the larger historical context of their origins and interconnection. It’s also not just one book, but has the potential for an ongoing series.

    Simple food, especially peasant food is ubiquitous because of its survival properties. Proven over time. Its the same with the wisdom gained from listening to your own body- which you so pointedly expressed.

    A cookbook has the potential to expose your writing to a larger audience, and cross many social barriers. I’m curious to know now how many great writers and thinkers in history have also written about food or have cookbooks- sidebar time.

  183. I’m saying that every species has a general template that they thrive on.

    Zebras are grass eaters, wolfs are meat eaters, bears are omnivores. Humans also has a general template that we need to thrive, that we can discover trough learning about real traditional diets.

    Saying there is no template is like saying that a zebra can just eat whatever and still be fine.

    If you were a zookeeper in charge of a bunch of gorillas, how would you learn how to feed them?

    Travel to Kongo, jump out of a plane over the jungle, and see what those bad boys are actually eating out there. I would not go to a nearby zoo and learn from them, because those are already domesticated and probably strayed from the original template.

    All that said, the human template is incredibly diverse. We can thrive on a wide range of foods in a wide range of environments. From the arctic to hawaii. But within all those different diets, there is a generall template. For example we can not thrive without some kind of animal, insect or fish source. Traditional diets have many things in common that Weston price discovered.

  184. No disagreement about different diets for different people, just wanted to make explicit the obvious point that nevertheless all humans need exactly the same vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and so on. Different diets are different ways to the goal of fulfillling these same needs. This may be more relevant when you generalize to religions.

  185. @JGM, @jimofolym:

    Has one of you read Illich’s posthumous book “The Rivers North of the Future” ? I do at the moment and would like to hear other people’s thoughts on it, since it is provocative and original to the extreme.

  186. I agree that a dream of perfection is mostly beside the point. Some years ago I provided on ADR my own personal testimony of surviving heart artery disease. My very serious underlying disease had been revealed after a heart-attack in 1990. I attracted some American ‘diet wars’ stuff on ADR with my story, and then a lovely apology from one challenger when he understood it was entirely personal. I am British, I had a very young family in 1990 and my approach had been a ‘punt’ in the face of dire medical prognosis, and was remote from any normal British discussion of diet at the time.

    I was a biology scientist back in 1990. My view then, however, was and remains even more so now that reductionist science has done very poorly with ‘diet’, which should not be surprising. When I was a student we were served up with the paradigm that as long as food provided necessary minimal amounts of essential nutrients, then ‘the body’ could sort out what was needed from any combination of protein, carbohydrate and fat. This rationale underpinned the industrial diet, but did not explain epidemics of chronic disease emerging in the 20th Century in Western populations despite a decline in frank malnutrition. Nor does it explain now the epidemics emerging in the wider world in the 21st Century..

    Food, however, is only part of life, as I discovered after my heart attack, and there is no ‘ideal’ to cover everybody or all contingency. Like with smoking where although we all clock up some damage over time,many survive without frank disease until perhaps our very last years, so with the ‘Western’ diet. There were suggestions over the years on ADR that gardening to supplement bulk bags of staple crops obtained from local farms, with perhaps the occasional rabbit from the lawn, is a pattern that could figure more often in future food supply. This might actually be an improved dietary approach, and perhaps a good lifestyle.

    With that in mind it might be worth considering community food patterns outside the modern Western model. This splendid picture compares alternatives:

    I consider these papers useful observational science – despite my remarks above – perhaps to encourage us in more constrained times: a pretty good addition to discussion:
    Fat, fibre and cancer risk in African Americans and rural Africans (text for the above pictures)

    Coronary atherosclerosis in indigenous South American Tsimane

    Phil H

  187. JMG –

    I’ve always tried to go by this:

    “In general, the truest measure of one’s belief in [X] is inversely proportional to their efforts in proselytizing that belief in [X].”

    Ye olde “Actions speak louder than words” aphorism. Or, to quote that Nike slogan, “Just Do It.”

    But then again, I’m an apatheist, so what do I know.

  188. Hi JMG, this is the last post I will write on this subject, but I wanted to let you know about an insight I had last night. Yesterday evening I was disturbed by our exchanges, feeling that something was missing, and I went to bed thinking about it. I awoke well into the wee hours and suddenly had a moment of real clarity around it. You may not agree with what I’m about to say, but that matters not at all to me; it was such clarity for me personally. The insight was this: we are both correct, but both missing an important element in this discussion. You are quite right that people obsess about diet too much nowdays, and that rather than jump onto a “bandwagon” we should listen to the messages coming from our bodies. All well and good. And I am correct in insisting that there is great value to be found in the wisdom of traditional peoples regarding what they ate. (And I am just the messenger for that; it’s certainly not original with me, and hardly a bandwagon as it goes back many years). I started thinking about WHY people are so obsessed with diet, and also about WHY it often seems so hard for people to hear the message about traditional diets. And how do the pervasive food addictions and eating disorders fit into all of this? Why do people so stubbornly believe that there is a Perfect Diet? I think it is because they, too, are right. But it is not about the individual, it is about whole systems that are lacking. One clue came to me when another poster mentioned the idea of a “template” of the diet of any animal: there are certain foods that provide perfect nourishment for a lion, and certain places, or environments where those exist, and no surprise, that is where lions can be found. The same is true for badgers and birds, and in fact, the animals known as human beings. The traditional societies that Weston Price and his contemporaries studied (for there were many besides him making similar observations independently) were among the last to enjoy full access to this template: they were in touch with that inner bodily knowing, they had the traditions of many generations at hand to support it, and they were living in the environments that still were able to supply just what they needed for vibrant health, AND were relatively isolated from influences that might upset that delicate balance. Although as Price saw, it was already a struggle, as when the Westernized foods were too easily available. I believe that one reason people obsess about a Perfect Diet is because somewhere in the depths of their psyche they know that there was/is one, and that it is their birthright as human beings. And there is a deep, unrecognized, sadness around what we have lost. Now, I am NOT saying that all the animals and traditional peoples lived in paradise. Far from it. Obviously they had to contend with many things: weather conditions, predators, invaders, plagues, difficult terrain–all sorts of things, but nonetheless they were in an environment that with some effort and luck could provide them with a diet that would provide nourishing, satisfying food that brought robust health and healthy children. But it took all of those: the inner knowing, the support of the whole society in which they lived, and the proper environment. When we try to find the right diet these most often are not all present at the same time. Even if we are listening to our bodies, there is often no context for that, no examples nearby from childhood on to show us how to do that, as the lion does for her kits. So we become obsessed. Even if we decide on some foods we think would be healthy, our environment may not be able to provide these, or if it does, they may come from depleted soils or be contaminated with agricultural chemicals. Many processed food are designed to become addictive, so we become addicted. Then when we do find good, clean food, we may not know how to properly prepare it to receive optimal nourishment, by soaking, fermenting, souring, or many other older processes. No wonder we obsess! No wonder people develop eating disorders and jump on bandwagons. The template is there, and it wants and needs to be fulfilled. And it is extremely important for our collective future. I wish I could give an easy answer to this conundrum, but I can’t. People often ask me–just the other day in fact–if by eating bone broth they can avoid osteoporosis or hip replacements. I hate having to answer that because my answer is, probably not. It’s a whole system of nutrition on many levels that contributes to the health of our bones and joints. A little bone broth is a good start, but it’s the whole system that’s important. Listening to your body is also a good start, but it isn’t the whole answer either. Maybe hashing this all out together on a forum like this is a good start too…..

    JMG, you will doubtless object to much that I say here, but it doesn’t matter–thank you for providing me the opportunity for insight, and my apologies for the length.

  189. Hi

    I just wanted to say thank you. This is sort-of off topic for this week but on topic for the blog.

    I just joined a fraternal lodge near me. While community building has been a key piece of my downshifting strategy, joining a lodge would have never occurred to me without this blog. But all the talk here, and I think a commenter wrote a few months back about a good experience joining a grange so I took a leap and just called and asked to join.

    They were excited to have a young(ish) woman apply. It’s a very inclusive crowd and many of them noted how proud they were of that change from their original culture of exclusively male membership. And it was a lovely experience. While not a magical lodge, I saw so much of the symbolism and ideas talked about here in the ceremony. I’ve already gotten multiple invitations to join them at the bar, help with community service projects….and to invite my friends to join.

    To relate it to this week’s topic, lodge code is clear: no political or religious discussions. Keep divisive issues outside and focus on shared experiences inside. A version of what works for you, works for you.And they have both steak and a vegetarian option on the menu. 🙂

  190. Oops…and JMG, I know you are a member of an all-male lodge. So what works for you, works for you. I was merely making a point that I am glad there was one I could join. Hope there was no offense.

  191. JMG re: “That was what I was trying to challenge, of course — the notion that diet is the sole factor in health and illness.”

    OK, for sure. I wouldn’t dispute that at all, and in fact as I recall that was also the point that I was trying to get across in my original comment.

    So we’ve established (hopefully) that diet is one of the many things that can have an influence on how I feel, but that there are also many other non-material influences – relationships, TV, modern media, religion, friends, family, the weather…the list goes on. The point that follows from this initial point is that I am susceptible to being influenced by factors outside of my self, and therefore I might want to pay attention to what influences I allow to affect me. In addition, to consider which are those influences over which I can have some control, as some are beyond my control. Those ideas might be as obvious as the sun to you, but for me, it took years before I figured them out! And it was paying attention to my diet that led me to that initial realization, so I do tend to have a bit of a focus on it for sure. For example, I used to suffer from very bad sinus and ear infections, to the point that I would get big black rings around my eyes from blowing my nose so much. It took me until age 25 to figure out that it was too much wheat and unfermented dairy that was causing it. Once I eliminated those foods, no more infections. But I had no idea for all those years. It was thanks to the people who were engaged in a public dialogue about diet that made me think about it in the first place. I do appreciate those conversations, in books and in person, as it got me thinking and paying attention to how food might be one of the factors that was influencing my overall state of well being and eventually to figure out my personal issue with wheat and dairy. Do I really care if other people choose to eat wheat or dairy? Of course not! In the same spirit, I’m not going to mindlessly believe everything I hear or read, with diet propaganda or anything else. But if I can take the idea that food influences how I feel, draw the conclusion that ‘I’m susceptible to outside influences,’ and move on from there, it leads me to wonder about where “I” actually am in the midst of all of those outside influences. And to realize that I also have choices about what kinds of things I let influence me. Isn’t that how one starts to build up one’s personal will? To finally figure out that I don’t have to sit there powerlessly and eat (or be otherwise influenced by) all the crap, physical or otherwise, that people are trying to force on me? I have a choice, I have personal boundaries, and I would do well to pay attention and exert those.

    I find that food is one of the easiest things over which I can start trying to exert my will, as it is ultimately me that chooses what to put into my own mouth. It’s right there. I would argue that in my personal case I have a high degree of control over that influence in this my position of affluence and privilege. And from there, I can move onto trying to tackle some of those other non-food influences such as my personal childhood demons and modern media/culture etc. Maybe not controlling the weather though! I had to start with food I guess, as it is something very tangible which causes me to pay attention to myself and what I actually feel, instead of allowing other people to project their opinions and feelings onto me.

  192. I think the behavioral lapses of the vegans, Christian evangelists etc. are part of the attraction of these belief systems though. There’s a psychological reward for being “good” when adhering to the tenets of the system, and there’s also a psychological reward in being “bad” and indulging yourself, because that is also, paradoxically, being “good”. i.e. you get to be publicly, visibly good, and also privately good to yourself.

    Being on a diet is therefore as much of a meaningful personal psychodrama as a means of becoming healthy or enforcing power over others. I remember that the NYPD once did a sample of the heroin on sale on the city’s streets, and found that most heroin being sold had a 0% opium content. The scientists who undertook the analysis speculated that the users were “addicted” to the process of scoring the drug and the ritual of shooting up, more than the drug itself. Being a heroin addict provided a series of short-term goals that gave a structure to otherwise unstructured lives. I think diets do much the same thing.

  193. @Shane W, @onething:

    Re: ” …but the issue is fraught w/all sorts of implications for women–weakness, Stepford wife, unliberated, self-hating, Melania Trump–the list of negative attributes for women who don’t emasculate or at least deemphasize their man’s masculinity is long.”

    I hear this kind of thing often, but strangely only on the internet, from anti-SJW commenters. It doesn’t match my experience at all, and I live in as lefty an enclave as you’re likely to find (Burlington VT if anyone is familiar). The women I know generally find masculinity charming, at least when it’s combined with the kind of basic courtesy that used to be considered an essential part of manhood. What they tend to react negatively to is the kind of exaggerated display of hypermasculinity that is sometimes displayed by those who feel they have something to prove about their sex.

    Of course I don’t want to imply that you haven’t encountered what you’re describing, but I think that it’s coming from a much smaller fraction of the feminist/liberal population than you might guess. I think this is one more manifestation of the contemporary media’s filtering effect – the way that CNN, Fox, Google, Facebook, etc have become so expert at feeding people the worst examples of our ideological opponents and the best examples of our allies. Slate Star Codex has a fascinating discussion of the way that the Darwinian environment of the modern media landscape selects for the statements that cause maximum outrage and polarization:

    Personally, the only times I’ve felt that my masculinity was under attack have been while watching porn. (Compared to the typical performer it’s hard not to feel a little…inadequate)

  194. If you are going to write about Stoicism, I’m afraid that makes you an unabashed populist – at least in this quarter!

  195. @ Merlin – you said: “Of course plants have feelings. Veganism, as an animal rights stance, is based on the fact that humans are just animals, and that ours is a feeling world, and that our feelings aren’t the only ones that matter. And yet, in further irony, vegans love to troll the idea that it could be reasonable to consider that plants have feelings too.”

    Yes, I read widely in the research that can be roughly grouped under the “plant neurobiology” label, the evidence of plants communicating, calling for help, caring for kin, etc. It has not escaped my notice that some of the people who are most dismissive of this research (to the extent of writing “debunking” articles) are vegans.

    I wonder if they have painted themselves into a corner. If you decide that you cannot eat sentient creatures, and it turns out plants are as sentient as animals, then you will quickly run out of foods from which to construct a diet. Perhaps the only way out of this is to find (in the wonderful phrase you’ve written) “ways of being-in-relation-to” including to our food, which may well be the body of a god, but is most certainly the body of a once sentient being, whether of plant or animal or fungal origin.

    In any case, may I thank you for the following words, which I shall be medidating upon:

    “In a truly non-colonial world view (which, may I dare say, exists far less frequently than claimed), veganism simply isn’t on the table. Instead, there are ways of being-in-relation-to, backed by stories that create meaning.”

  196. JMG, I’m thinking the drama is epiphenomenal, a product of an underlying dysfunctional lust for control. It is the same will to power you mentioned above to Graeme: imposing one’s will on other people always create a lot of drama, for example telling other people what they should eat and why your dietary ideas are virtuous. Imposing this will to dominate on yourself has, of course, the same dramatic outcomes. But I suspect down deep in that lust for control is utter terror at the obvious: you’re not in control of anything. And that, by chance really, makes an excellent segue to Stoicism!

    But the really great subject here is getting comfortable talking about yourself in the 3rd person. Both crazy, and of course the only sensible explication of the relationships we have within ourselves…

  197. My wife had that same experience – she spent years as a vegetarian and her health suffered. She went to a traditional Chinese doctor who took one look at her and told her to add meat back into her diet – immediately. And voila – health restored.
    These days I have to think the most insufferable person to be around would be a polyamorous/vegan/libertarian – that seems to cover the most evangelical movements I can think of (although the SJW’s are giving the libertarians a go).


  198. First, there are Scandinavian Lutherans, and they tended to abstain from alcohol. I lived for many years with a woman who traced her lineage through both German and Norwegian Lutheran lines, and she infrequently talked about how her German Lutheran father would go out on occasion for a drink or two at the pool hall in town because her Norwegian Lutheran mother didn’t allow alcohol in the house (from what I heard, he never returned drunk and her mother made a point to not harp on his pool hall visits).

    Second, over the past year and a half I’ve actually lost over twenty pounds (from mid 280s to around 260) while keeping with the Standard American Diet (I drive twelve hours/day five-six days a week and presently live alone in a place not necessarily known for culinary variety outside of its burgeoning microbrew scene). My secret? Fasting and a careful reduction and awareness of what (and when) I eat. YMMV, of course, and from personal experience commenting on my habit of fasting causes lots of people to try to prove that my ability to fast is an exceptional outlier – and wouldn’t it be better for you to eat Vegan or Paleo or Adkins – anything BUT fast once or twice a week? Now I only comment when someone who knows me complements me on (or comments on – what was once know as Fat Pride on the fringes has morphed into a general abandonment of the idea of aspirational thinness in the general population) my being a bit thinner than before.

  199. I’d like to make sure I fully understand the imbalance in the macrobiotics diet, because if I’m following it correctly, yang can be thought of as balance, and yin as extremes, and yang taken to extremes turns into yin: thus extreme “balance” leads to imbalances of various kinds. If that’s correct, then it seems to imply that according to the yin/yang model it’s not just diet where pursuit of “balance” runs the risk of going horribly off the rails, but its a much more general principle.

    It does fit my experience, but I don’t know enough to tell if yin and yang actually work this way. In any case, I think this may be veering too far off topic, so I’ll save other questions on this for the next open post.

  200. Dear John Michael Greer,
    I would be most interested in what you have to say about the will to power in contemporary culture.

  201. Ynnothnir, JMG,
    Backyard chickens are a Gateway Drug. They are in a tie with Gardening for the top spot in moving to a more local (less than 1 or 2 mile) food sources. Generally less upkeep effort than most dogs.
    Nine years ago I started the Take-A-Peak Chicken Coop Tour in Colorado Springs, a parade of homes for chickens. I’ve turned it over now to some one with more energy. We’ve infected who knows how many people. Always fun just talking to the people that come to see the chickens.
    My tiny bit of Green Wizardry I guess.

  202. Archdruid,

    I can see how a the will to power would first seek to gain control of a person’s dietary habits. Control what a person eats makes it very easy to control the source they get it from, control the source and you control them. If they don’t cooperate then you shame and ostracise them.

    How creepy.



  203. Dear Benjamin Michael Walker,

    I am really glad right now that I planted elderberries. Also that my yard produces dandelion, nettle, plantain and burdock without any help from me.

    About the diversity of ancient diets: Anthropologists were astonished to learn, although they should have known better, that their subjects of study had detailed knowledge of every rock, plant and animal in their environments and how those might be used or which must be avoided. There is a hilarious incident in one of Jared Diamond’s books about some folks in New Guinea telling Diamond that only a dumb American would not be able to distinguish an edible mushroom from a poisonous one.

    For those of us who pay out of pocket for medical care, the quality of food we eat becomes a matter of urgent concern. That does not, of course, excuse rudeness. I have found that sharing home grown produce and home cooked treats can go along way towards being left alone by the ideologues of various persuasions. Criticism of (mostly when we can afford it) organic shoppers seems to me to be coming from political ideologues, with conservatives calling us “opinionated” and the SJWs denouncing our alleged “privilege”. What that criticism amounts to is a demand from both sides that everyone must spend their money on helping sustain the ideologue’s supporters and clients. Sorry, but I need to see a product which I want or need at a price I can afford. I also enjoy the occasional burger sans bacon, usually with a granddaughter along, but I do prefer to patronize local joints rather than MickeyD et al. The locals make better burgers and fantastic fries. It pains me to have to admit that café grills make better burgers than I can in a frying pan.

    Dear Patricia Matthews, Kale and collards are the same species and both are very nourishing. I find kale chips inedible but I do like to put kale in soup and stews. I once grew kale under two feet of snow, but you have to carefully search for the right variety to get that much hardiness. Most of the recent breeding of kales seems to be being done in the Willamette Valley where winter hardiness is not a concern.

    I would very much appreciate and read with undivided attention a discussion of Stoic ethics.

  204. Sort-of related to the topic at hand is a report I just heard on the NPR program, “Here and Now” entitled, “As Grass-Fed Beef Popularity Soars, Nutrition Of Grasses Is Dropping”. From the website: ‘sales of grass-fed beef are skyrocketing. Advocates say cattle which eat grass rather than grain are healthier and better for the environment. But scientists are warning that some grass may be getting less nutritious.’ According to the report, the culprit is suspected to be increased CO2 in the atmosphere related to climate change which is affecting the protein content of prairie grasses.

    Some time later today the audio for this segment will be posted on the website so you can listen here if you’re interested:

  205. JMG & All
    Sorry for daft error in my comment above!
    For those interested in the picture (supplementary info for Nature paper: ‘Fat, fibre and cancer risk in African Americans and rural Africans’,) this is the link.

    The American plateful and its complex ‘supply chains’ seems not to qualify as ‘progress’ even if you can avoid gut parasites. Smile

    very best
    Phil H

  206. Armata, yep. Masturbation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was considered by many public figures to be a massive crisis of public health and morals, causing insanity, effeminacy, and hairy palms in our nation’s youth. Here’s one decent online introduction to the crusade. One reason I find it hard to take the current round of media-manufactured health crises seriously is that they’re just as dependent as the anti-masturbation crusade on pop-culture prejudices.

    Graeme, and my point is that there are far fewer universals than most people seem to think these days, and the attempt to impose one set of dietary rules on everyone is an expression of the craving for unearned authority that’s so common these days.

    Heather, stay tuned!

  207. @Fred: That’s my experience too (Bostonian here): like, there’s being an adult and/or competent, which are good qualities regardless of gender, and tend to up one’s sex appeal to reasonable people who are so inclined*, and then there’s the chest-thumping cat-calling WOO SOX WOO behavior, or Let Me Explain Everything To You, Little Lady, or being possessive/controlling/overprotective of partners, or whatever, which are…both disruptive and signs of trying too hard. (Among my generation, there’s also a sad prevalence of “masculine”=”does not care about appearance except re: athletics,” a single straight girl, I could say some things.)

    Far as porn goes, if I may offer some reassurance: most women don’t want their cervixes bruised. Endowment is mostly about appearances anyhow, and if the guy otherwise looks like Ron Jeremy/John Holmes/most mainstream porndudes, that *more* that offsets any, er, equipment bonus. Bleh.

    @Amarta: True as well! I think, as long as people acknowledge their kinks *as* kinks, and don’t try and extend those attitudes to apply outside the bedroom (q.v. Gor) it’s all good.

    In re: vegetarianism/veganism and concern for animals, I recall reading somewhere (sadly, am at work and don’t have time to source it, so am open to the possibility that it’s been disproven or that I dreamed the whole thing) that grain and other vegetables are actually responsible for more animal deaths than meat (pesticides, habitat destruction, mice getting caught in threshers, etc), which really does reinforce the notion that no diet is necessarily morally superior to another, and everyone just does the best they can with the situation they’re in.

  208. Jonny S, I think you misunderstood what I meant. I do not have diabetes. My bloodsugar reading were low, not high, and I get symptoms of low blood sugar fairly regularly, without symptoms of high, and this is common in my mother’s family. They are worse when young, and seem to get less problematic as we get older.

    If we’re having problems with adequate production or storage of glycogen or glucagon, while not having insulin production issues, this might make some kind of sense, but problems in insulin production shouldn’t produce this pattern.

  209. @Corydalidae, JMG

    You can check the liver storage function in any standard physology textbook. I use an old edition (1966) of Guyton’s Medical Physiology.

    The short (and possibly innacurate) form is that there are 2 main pancreatic hormones: insuline and glucagon. When glucose blood levels are high, insuline production increases and opens channels in our cell’s wall for glucose molecules to enter more easily. In most cells, like regular muscle tissue, the effect is that glucose is used as the preferred energy source (brain cells do not need this, because glucose is their only energy source). But in liver cells, hepatocytes, what happens is that excess glucose gets transformed in a form of animal starch called glucogen, which is a short term reserve of energy (normal body fat being the long term one).

    In diabetic patients, either production of insuline is broken (type I), or the cell channels are damaged/deffective and insuline cannot bring in as much glucose as it used to (type II). In either case, you cannot use the carbs you eat and they get filtered out and disposed by the kidneys.

    Glucagon is less known, but just as important. When glucose levels are down, it kicks in and instruct hepatocytes to reverse the process, break down the starch storage in them back to glucose, and dump it into the bloodstream. It also inhibits the secretion of insulin so that the precious sugar available does not get hoarded by tissues that can do without and all/most glucose can go to feed the brain instead.

    When the starch reserve runs out, Glucagon triggers a second mechanism, Gluconeogenesis, which breaks down other types of molecules to produce the much needed glucose. Since this feeds from protein and much as fat, it tends to consume skeletal muscle, which is why you bounce back after a restrictive diet: You might have lost total weight, but your lean mass is smaller now and you must sustain the calory restriction indefintively in order to avoid further weight gain.

  210. Since we’re touching on Jungian shadows here, I am going to bring up Jordan Peterson, whose popularity has soared lately. I am guessing at least partially because he’s brought up some taboos and shadows of the Left, but his attacking posture makes me think that he’s got his own shadow, that he might be sharing with the Right (might have something to do with what this culture has done to native people, nature, and the feminine values. He might be another sign that we are in decline, as he is insisting shrilly that western civilization is just fine and great and here to stay. On the other hand, I just heard him refer to Ayahuasca and Psilocybin and their benefits, definitely not a western culture sort of thing.

  211. JMG,

    Can’t miss the ocasion on this week subject!

    Here in Catalonia the vegan movement is much more recent, and is still gaining adepts.

    I had the ocasion of talking to some of them and readed some of his opinions now and then, and i think i got what are his core drives.

    First, is the other “sex” of our times, at least here, which is Death. The vegans as most westerners perceive death not as part of life, but as that final drama that leads into nothingness and oblivion.

    In this light, sacrificing an animal could only be a very cruel act.

    Combine that with the horrors of industrial meat production, which by the way, is the only way of dealing with productive animals the modern citizen knows about, and is even understandable that, from his point of view, quiting meat compltely is the only ethical option. As an example, as i was explaining how i raise chickens to a vegan, he interrupted me with a “Yeah, sure but then you kill them!”

    Useless is trying to explain to him that for me, a chicken born in a barn under a plucking hen and raised in the free air has had a very decent life, and way easier than any wild bird.

    The second great thing behind Veganism is Freedom. I think its not casual that as the lifestyles and future perspectives of young people in the west narrows, the craving for animal Freedom arises.
    However, is very hard to explain to them that animals, as evidenced by many Zoologists, are not as free as in disney movies, and that a good tended backyard animal could indeed be more “free” than his wild counterpart.

    The third is more a foundation, and you already discussed it, but it weights heavy in the Vegans arguments, and is that plants are not alive, but mere chemical reactions Blah Blah Blah.
    Because if plants were alive, the ilusion of ethical purity will be very flawed.

  212. I too would like to hear more about the will to power. Why is it that so many people when given even the least bit of power, turn into petty tyrants? The best examples can be found in schools where the bullies are both other children and the administrators (and rarely the teachers themselves).

    Related to this is the instinct to torture or hurt people weaker than self. It is one of the things that “trigger” me since I was a kid. It is something completely incomprehensible to me – I actually have the opposite problem. I instinctively distrust the rich and powerful and even people in cars and I feel the need to challenge them. Fighting someone bigger and meaner seems like the most human (and chimp) thing to do. But hurting the weak, what is the purpose in that?

  213. JMG,

    Regarding, as you said, “a massive crisis of public health and morals.”

    Why do people get so scared of and worked up about things that aren’t actually particularly dangerous? It seems like there are so many ways to die that really will kill you, why do people make up new ones that don’t actually do much?

  214. @ Heather, if I may, I had very similar experiences as you with “hangriness,” sans the pregnancy! I found that cinnamon taken regularly has helped immensely. Stimulating astringents such as cinnamon, rosemary and myrrh have been used for centuries to help control blood sugar and even diabetes. A teacher in herbalism explained that sometimes and over time cells can become “jaded” to blood sugar. According to him, stimulating astringents help cells to become fresh and receptive to glucose. Regardless of the causal mechanism, taking cinnamon daily along with some rosemary tincture “to fortify the apprehensions,” has helped me to withstand a skipped meal in much better shape.

    Cinnamon was used in the early 20th century by the great Eclectic physicians for diabetes. Finley Ellingwood mentions it in this context, although he mostly used it to staunch bleeding, most specifically for uterine hemorrhage. (

    Of course I’m not a doctor and cannot diagnose or treat any illness, but I am a fellow eater, and these simple additions have helped me greatly.

  215. @ Patricia, It’s good to be aware of demons so as not to become their slaves! For myself it is a work in progress. I think most of my problems have a personal origin, but a few times I’ve caught an eerie transpersonal reality. I feel very fortunate when I see the correct origin of my issues, either intrinsic or extrinsic, because that helps to put me on the high road to healing!

  216. The issue of diet is a very personal one, in my view, as it intersects any number of axes (e.g., nutrition, health, intolerances/sensitivities, religious and cultural requirements, and yes, personal preferences). I have reduced my meat intake a good bit over the years, but I am by no means vegetarian. I make robust salads and various meat-free soups from my garden produce, as well as experiment with home-made bean-burgers, but I enjoy a slab of meat periodically as much as the next guy (or gal).

    After a fair amount of discussion, my small city recently approved an ordinance permitting backyard chickens. (Only partially in jest, I usually refer to the episode as the “Great Chicken Debate of 2016” — I was a member of the planning/zoning commission at the time and had a front-row seat.) My yard is of insufficient size to accommodate the required set-backs, unfortunately. At some point, I’d like to be able to raise a few hens, both for the eggs and to be able to fully appreciate the act of raising an animal, slaughtering it (in this case, her), and then preparing the meat for my family. One of the results of our industrialization — as you have pointed out numerous times in numerous writings — is disconnection from nature and her cycles. I’d like to close some of those gaps in my own experience.

    I’d also concur with Varun’s observation re diet and control. As a fundamental need, food is an excellent fulcrum for exerting control over a person or society. If one can control where/how food is obtained or what food is acceptable, then one develops a considerable amount of power indeed. I forget where I’ve seen it, but someone has written that planting a garden is a subversive act. I rather agree. And would second that with chickens and bees.

  217. Or maybe the virtuous defecator gets admitted to the hospital w/an impacted colon b/c they will only go if a composting toilet is available? 😉

  218. The idea of a perfect solution or system that doesn’t contain drawbacks, risks, or tradeoffs is pervasive in our society. You see it in everything from the renewable energy debate (in which you’re not supposed to point out that making renewables work requires replacing machines with muscle on a massive scale), to science and health debates such as vaccination, nutrition, agriculture, and pretty much any other hotbutton topic you can think of.

    One thing I see a lot of from the health and nutrition end of alternative culture, whether it’s the vegans or some other dietary fad, or just from the general organic health nut who frequents yoga studios and organic groceries, is discussion of the concept of “toxins” and their various ill effects. More often than not topics like organic food, opposition to genetically modified crops, the appropriation of certain diets designed for people with food allergies as health trends, are framed in the language of purity and “clean” eating.

    Over these last few years as I’ve slowly but surely plodded through my Druid studies, I’ve naturally made some major changes to my own lifestyle, shifting away from my former habit of eating out almost every day to making most of my meals at home, from scratch. One thing that came about rather naturally as a result of that was a localization of my diet, and due to the location in which I live, that often means trips to the local fish market as well as the local farmer’s market and going out fishing a few times a month when the seasons are right is a good way to supplement my outdoor meditations with activities that also bleed into other parts of my life.

    Thinking about that in relation to this week’s post raise some completely different questions about what the definition of the “right” diet in an age of decline would be. Today’s obsession with food purity misses one of the most crucial aspects of life in our era, and that’s that due to the accumulating consequences of the past several centuries, “purity” is an open option for only the very privileged. Fishing or getting local fish from local watermen, growing vegetables in my small urban balcony garden, and other things I have done while they may be meaningful choices can hardly be considered to be “pure” or “clean” eating. More active participation in my local ecosystem also means taking on a part of the burden placed on that ecosystem by centuries of bad decisions. In terms of “toxins” I’m certainly not taking on any fewer into my body than someone who eats processed microwave noodles every day does. The choices I’ve made in my lifestyle are fulfilling and enjoyable, but taking up fishing, hunting, foraging, urban gardening, etcetera as a way of supplementing one’s diet is far from a road for “purity.” Instead, I’ve made peace with the knowledge that someday health consequences may build up and I very well could get some form of cancer as a result someday, but I feel like that’s in part one of the risks and trade-offs of living in our world at this particular time. I find it fascinating how many of the current ideas of the pure and moral perfect diet, even when couched in terms such as “natural living” are tied to an image of food that comes out of a sterilized hydroponic laboratory… or to a perfectly ordered permaculture food forest where no unwanted guests ever manifest. Meanwhile, hunting and fishing with all the mercury buildup and chronic wasting disease that are inevitable risks are stereotypically associated with the despised poor (think about the stereotype… baseball cap and bud light… cussing and football. It’s all there. It really does come back to some of the class issues you’ve brought up in the past, doesn’t it?

  219. Hi JMG,

    I agree. No pretence involved, now or previously.

    I’m going to put this down to poor writing on my part – but that rather short list was my attempt to distill what we do know for fairly sure. Notice how short it was, and how little specific advice there is in it.

    If you’re going to self-experiment seriously with diet though, it’s really useful to have somewhere to start from rather than fumbling about completely in the dark. Especially in an environment full of food designed to manipulate you, and full of misinformation (including official misinformation).

    I’ll leave this alone now, I’ve had no prior experience of this being such a charged topic.


  220. @ Violet:
    “This is a rather harrowing thing to contemplate; there is the same self-righteous strident arch-demon personified by a Hitler or Jim Jones lives in me…”
    Your essay sums up what I have come to recognize in myself, and it is a constant battle to keep under control. The first time it really occurred to me was about 17 years ago. I grew up a good liberal boy, sent to a private school which deliberately ensured that blacks were students in proportion to the population, and I was most emphatically NOT a racist. I just didn’t find black women very attractive. 18 years ago, we adopted a daughter of mixed race, including some African ancestry. About a year later, I noticed that African American women were really good looking. Hmmmmm. The act of deliberate love obviously had reactions on a subconscious level.

    It is even harder to find a way to convince a spouse that “The Evilliest Evil that has ever Evilled” is actually, perhaps, not that Evil.

  221. @ Violet:

    Your thesis that self-righteousness, a desire for undeserved power and certain other patterns of behavior may be demonic in nature is an interesting one with some very disturbing implications. I for one suspect you are on to something. This is something I have been thinking about since you brought it up and something I would like to see explored in greater depth.

    The idea that Faustian Socialism and what Nietzsche called the Will to Power are the result of demonic possession or at least influence reminds me of another idea I’ve come across in some of the books I’ve read about Hitler and Nazi Germany. It has been suggested by a number of people that Hitler was a case in point of someone who was a victim of demonic possession and did what he did because of it. There are eye-witness accounts by people who knew him who witnessed incidents that do indeed sound an awful lot like traditional descriptions of demonic possession.

    A few questions just occurred to me: Is the desire for undeserved power demonic in origin or is it a state of mind that renders one susceptible to demonic influence? How many of the horrors we have seen in the Faustian Culture of the West and its victimization of other cultures were the result of demonic influences at work? Again, using the example of Herr Hitler, was the madness of National Socialism and the Holocaust the result of an entire culture falling under the spell of an archdemon or other malignant spiritual influence? If so, how many of the other great horrors of history can be attributed to the same phenomenon? And what can not just individuals but entire cultures do to protect themselves and avoid falling under the influence of demonic forces?

    John Michael was talking about doing a post on egregores and perhaps this is a topic that we might want to explore as part of that discussion. How can a society or culture protect itself and prevent its egregore from being polluted and hijacked by malign spiritual powers?

  222. Steve, that’s why I say specifically “pay attention to how different foods make you feel” — not, please note, what you find yourself craving or what have you. When you’ve eaten a given food, how does your body feel — over the short, middle, and long term? That’s one fairly effective way to get around the effect you’ve mentioned. Of course it does require you to pay attention to the state of your body, and yes, that’s something a lot of people don’t do.

    Thecrowandsheep, and that’s also a good point — though the macrobiotic system also included a lot of things that dealt with the nonmaterial levels of being, they didn’t get the press.

    Scott, that’s not the way I’d write it. I wouldn’t give recipes, and wouldn’t splash around the photos, either; what I’d want to do instead is to walk people through the basic ideas, show how those ideas are applied in terms of a range of examples, and then encourage readers to go out, experiment, and see what works for them.

    TorgeirN, a forced comparison between humans and zebras makes for great rhetoric, but it shows a serious lack of knowledge about zoology and environmental adaptation. Zebras are obligate grazers — their dentition and digestive tracts have evolved to process a very narrow range of foods. Human beings, by contrast, are opportunistic omnivores. The ecological niche in which we evolved is one that fosters the ability to extract nutrition out of nearly any available source, and our dentition, digestive organs, etc. are adapted to make use of whatever food resources become available. We’re comparable, in other words, not to zebras and gorillas, but to rats — and like rats, no, we don’t have a dietary template. We evolved not to have one, in order to facilitate making use of the widest possible range of food resources. We have a very few dietary limitations inherited from primate ancestors — for example, we need vitamin C in our diets, which most mammals don’t, and we need certain specific amino acids — but beyond that? Nope.

    Matthias, sure — but individuals very often need them in different amounts, and in different forms; the distinction between those who can assimilate those amino acids from vegetable sources and those who need to get them from animal sources is one example out of many. No, I haven’t read the Illich book — I’ll have to put it on my get-to list.

    Phil, all grist for the mill. Thank you.

    Sweaterman, works for me.

    Lydia, you’re quite right that I disagree. Your suggestion that people long for a perfect diet because in their hearts, they know there really is one — well, apply that same logic to any other thing you care to name and it’s pretty clearly poppycock. People long for perfection because they haven’t come to terms with the everlasting gap between the perfect abstractions we like to hold in our minds, and the grubby reality in which we actually live. We’ll be talking about that more next week, though.

    Blue, delighted to hear it. I’m a past Worthy Master of North Side Grange #727, Seattle, WA, so have a very good idea of the kind of welcome you got! No offense taken at all; there’s a place for single-gender lodges, and a place for all-gender lodges.

    Stefania, fair enough. Thank you for clarifying.

    Phil K., excellent! Yes, exactly; a lot of people seem to feel a need for extra drama in their lives, and embracing an extreme diet and then trying to demand that everyone else also embrace it is a good way to have plenty of drama.

    Xabier, I’ve been called worse.

    Redoak, oh, I don’t know. Boredom is powerful stuff, and people who don’t have the internal resources to keep themselves from being bored will reliably generate drama to do it for them. I suppose it’s easier than having a life. More on this as we proceed!

    Anthony, it really seems to ebb and flow. When I was in my twenties, evangelical Christian proselytizers were far and away the biggest bullies on the block; when I was in my thirties, it was vegans — of course I lived in Seattle at the time, where one of the most popular straightedge bands called itself Vegan Reich and sang songs about rounding up people who eat meat and putting them in concentration camps; by the time I hit my forties it was angry atheists; and now the techno-libertarians and the social justice types are duking it out for the title of Number One Bullying Jerk. Ten years from now it’ll be someone else.

    Godozo, glad to hear you’ve found something that works for you! One of the most astonishing of the old-time strongmen, Joseph Greenstein aka The Mighty Atom — a guy who could tie a #2 iron horseshoe into an overhand knot with his bare hands — used to fast every Thursday, so you’re in good company.

    Will, no, balance is balance. Movement toward the center is yang, movement away from the center is yin. You can be balanced by being balanced; you become unbalanced by making the balance too narrow, or making it too broad. Since human beings are alive (yang) rather than yin (dead), something like three-fifths yang to two-fifths yin is a good proportion for many people. Does that help at all?

    Millicently, duly noted!

    Coop Janitor, I like that. Thank you.

    Varun, creepy indeed.

    Beekeeper, and that’s something to keep an eye on, of course.

    Phil H., thanks for this.

    CR, thank you for this!

    Iuval, yes, we had a discussion about him last week.

    Guillem, that matches the sort of thing I’ve heard many times on this side of the pond. The terror of death seems to be particularly common among those American vegans with whom I’ve had conversations — and of course the pretense that this or that diet will keep you healthy forever is behind a lot of the diet mania generally.

    NemoNascitur, hurting the weak has always been a way for those with fragile egos to boost their sense of power; those who can’t exercise power in themselves quite reliably settle for exercising it over other people. We’ll talk about that soon.

    Yucca, because it allows people to ignore real problems they don’t want to deal with. It’s much easier to crusade against masturbation than it is to face up to the brutal exploitation of the poor that made late 19th and early 20th century society run, just as it’s much easier to crusade for some fad diet or other than to face up to the ecological cost of that nice shiny SUV you just have to have.

    David, planting a garden is a profoundly subversive act; so is raising your own livestock; so is doing anything else that allows you to meet your own needs by your own actions, rather than relying on a corrupt and destructive economic machine to do it for you.

    Shane, er, I think it’s time to let that one go down the…

    Eric, bingo. It’s what I call Newspeak logic: that which is good in any sense must be 100% good, and can have nothing ungood about it, while that which is ungood in any sense must be 100% ungood, and can have nothing good about it. The world doesn’t work that way, but it sure does feed that sense of self-righteousness!

    Graeme, fair enough. My suggestion for anyone who wants to experiment with diet, though, is to try out several of the established dietary theories. Eat a vegan diet for a while, and see how it agrees with you; try a Paleo diet; try a ketogenic diet; try the foods your grandparents ate; and so on. None of them are the One True Diet, all have good things to eat in them, and by doing a bunch of them, you’ll end up having a much better idea of what your body wants and needs.

  223. There actually is a science fiction story by James Schmitz in which planting a garden was a subversive act. The organic gardener was avoiding the glop put in the processed food of a totalitarian society (I know. Conspiracy Theory Central. But Schmitz was a brilliant writer, and the society was essentially robot-ruled.) It’s in one of the collections about his universe, The Hub. For those so interested.

    Experiment: After a mild tummy bug yesterday, I felt like something substantial today, and walked up to one of the two nearby pubs for a bacon cheeseburger and a “Kelley’s Common,” which proved to be a red beer suitable for an offering to Sekhmet, rather hoppy. Alas, the pub itself, once The neighborhood pub, has gone downhill ever since being bought out by Santa Fe Dining. But it still has a solar thermal unit on the roof to heat the building and brew the beer. And they’ll offer you plain water with neither ice nor plastic straw, in a normal-sized glass. The effect on my body remains to be see, but it will all come out in the end.

  224. Biochemistry is my day job, actually insulin, so I did not want to enter into too many details here 🙂 People need different diets, and the same person will need different diets in different circumstances – this is simply in order to arrive at very similar concentrations of glucose, minerals, cofactors etc. in their bloodstream and cells. Put this way, the analogy to other parts of life that you proposed makes more sense to me.

    On another note, I also know “hangry” people and have long speculated that they have a mild expression variant of the enzymes the absence of which manifests clinically as glycogen storage diseases. However, I have never read a paper confirming that.

  225. @ Steve T – (If your still around). Another friend of Bill W., here. 27 years. LOL. We call those gung-ho, rigid, evangelical types “Bleeding Deacons” in this part of the woods. It’s an old term, I think, that goes way back. We should, perhaps, set up a chat somewhere else. Maybe over at Green Wizards? Lew

  226. Hi JMG,
    Your readers may be interested to know that there is a branch of Traditional Korean Medicine that explicitly agrees with you. It is called Eight Constitution Medicine (see I will give a very brief and inadequate idea of what it says:
    Humans are not all the same. There are 8 constitutions, and each one benefits from a different regimen. For example, some benefit from eating lamb, for a lot of others its ok, and for some its a really bad idea.
    Certain constitutions thrive on a vegetarian diet, for others its ok, and some will sicken.
    Some will feel great after a sauna, many will be ok, and some will be completely drained of energy.
    People are different: the difficulty is in correctly diagnosing your constitution.

    Regardless of how readers feel about alternative medicine, the point is that people exist who agree with the idea of this article, and have in fact gone a long way toward implementing 8 different diets that seem to work for them and their patients.


  227. One thing that was not mentioned about Dr Weston Price’s book was the motivation for his publishing it and it had nothing to do with touting a new diet. He was not alone in noticing the rise of dental caries and jaw malformation among his patients. But because of the dark pseudoscience of eugenics in vogue at that time, more than a few dentists, physicians and scientists believed this was the result of miscegenation. Dr. Price firmly disputed this, convinced that poor quality food lay at the bottom of the problem.

    To support his thesis, he embarked on his trip around the world visiting as many people still eating their traditional foods as he could find. He photographed example after example showing that healthy teeth and good facial development were the result of nutritious food prepared in the traditional ways of the people who ate them. There was no doubt in his mind that crooked and impacted teeth along with jaw deformities were clearly the outcome of eating poor quality Western food (white flour, sugar and other heavily processed foods robbed of their essential nutrients) not because so-called ‘races’ were improperly breeding with each other.

    His book is still in print for those interesting in reading it. The science is of course dated (publication was 1939) and some might be put off by his descriptions of traditional people. But he was a product of his own time just as we are of ours. His training as a dentist no doubt affected how he did his research as opposed to a more conventional scientist. But his integrity and sincerity impressed the people he studied enough so those who otherwise had no reason to trust white men opened their doors for him. The photos he took can be found with a Google image search and are worth looking at, even if you can’t find time to read the book. Dr. Price’s conclusions were and still are controversial for some. His is certainly not the last word on what constitutes nourishing food.

    But it is interesting that food seems to be persistently conflated with moral virtue. Some of it may be a holdover of the social engineering of the early Christian church which attempted to regulate the behavior of its members in dressing, sex and of course eating. For example, with Lent approaching, the old issue of whether or not fish should be considered meat will no doubt surface once again. If you read the articles discussing this on Catholic websites, it’s not hard to see where some of the food angst currently afflicting modern eaters originated from.

  228. Mr. Greer – I haven’t read today’s comments, but I think I read or heard somewhere (maybe here) that a lot of this fixation on food is fear of mortality. If I light on the right diet, I’ll live forever. That, beside the threads of power and control.

    Cooking is kind of a hobby for me. Both cooking and the history of food. I pay attention to what I eat, and have ideas of what (for me) is good or bad. I don’t expect to live forever (grim thought) but would like to be as healthy as possible, while I’m doing it. I’d say I eat “healthy” about 90% of the time. The other 10%, I don’t worry about.

    I am sometimes appalled, by what other people eat. But reign myself in and don’t comment. I moved into government subsidized senior housing (there are large garden plots!) about six months ago. We have a monthly potluck. Until recently, it was mostly deserts and breads. With subtle nudges, here and there, the last potluck was all homemade “real” food, with only one desert. Might have been my nudges, or, maybe, just that people have more time now that we’re past the holidays.

    I can say “No thank you” to some things. But, usually, eat what’s put in front of me. I recently signed up for a week-end retreat, and the question was asked if I had any food “issues.” My initial thought was “I can suspend my food foibles, for a week-end.” But finally settled on a simple. “No.”

    I think food really does impact general health. I think a lot of health woes could be taken care of, through diet. But it really takes commitment. It’s a hearsay tale (not scientific at all) but I have a friend who was diagnosed with diabetes, two years ago. They wanted to put him on insulin, but he said “Let’s see what I can do with diet.” His blood sugar is good and he still hasn’t taken insulin. He’s very disciplined. But, doesn’t fret. It’s just become habit. The only thing harder than breaking a bad habit, is developing a good one. :-). Lew

  229. If there were just a One True Diet . . . well, what the heck to feed to the ethnically mixed bunch of folks in this household would be a heck of a lot easier!

    I think that’s the hardest part. To whose ancestries do we cater? And which bits are which kids expressing? They have the same parents-but they sure don’t have the same bodies! And what to do about seafood-almost everyone ancestrally came from coasts, but we’re nowhere near one and suffer from allergies and/or lack of sunlight and/or asthma in coastal humidity, and prefer not to live near one!

    That’s where I wish technological progress could continue: maybe someday I could know what to feed each person here-ten of us, three generations, three continents-so that everyone would be healthy.

  230. Patricia, I trust you enjoyed the meal.

    Shane, I think we’re in TMI territory at this point!

    Matthias, fascinating. That makes a great deal of sense to me.

    Richard, fascinating. I know precisely nothing about traditional Korean medicine; for some reason Korea doesn’t get the kind of cultural attention in the US that Japan and China do, which I gather is an unfortunate thing. Can you recommend English language sources on traditional Korean medicine? Alternatively, have you considered writing a book on the subject?

    Jeanne, the application of moral rhetoric to food is indeed fascinating, and deserves more attention than it usually gets. You may be right that religious food taboos have something significant to do with it. Hmm.

    Lew. that doesn’t surprise me at all.

  231. @JMG, let’s see…future bullies…aha! “I told you so!” bullying jerks who then ask you which “eco community” you joined. A little further out, bullying jerks who are sure you have a stash of gold somewhere.

  232. Re: virtuous sleeping, I’m afraid there really is such a thing. As this article from the Harvard Business Review notes, “frenzied corporate cultures still confuse sleeplessness with vitality and high performance” (the term “sleepless machismo” is at once amusing and horrifying). So, America can indeed make a virtue and corresponding vice of any bodily function (let us not mention the lengthy and continuing history of human obsession with bowels, for fear someone may be reading on their lunch break). Personally, I’m one of those who thrives on a vegan diet (turned out I was mildly lactose-intolerant), but take away an hour or two of sleep, or force me to get up early, and I’m a wreck. That people can be *proud* of being a sleep-deprived zombie is beyond me, though I suppose their state of sleep-deprived zombiehood explains how they can believe they’re functional in that condition.

  233. I’ve experimented a lot with my diet a fair amount, and I’ve found that what works well for me is a diet of modest amounts of fatty meat combined with vegetables. I’ve also found that the best cure for my tendency to gain weight is regular fasting. I live alone, so I can eat pretty much anything I want, and find that a cyclical feast-famine cycle works well for me: Most days, I eat a vegan diet which is low in calories, and every couple days I’ll have a steak or a porkchop and some potatoes or rice. Legumes do not agree with me, I get nearly all my protein from animal products these days, and most of my calories from mixed animal and plant fats.

    For instance, tonight I had a couple beers, a decent size porkchop and some mashed potatoes. Yesterday I had some microwaved turnip (better than it sounds), same as the day before – the day before that I had some coleslaw.

    I am very bad at moderation, and am much happier with austerity or excess, and also, there are scientifically proven benefits to periods of little or no food. Many of the repair mechanisms in our bodies are actually modified scavenging mechanisms, which only ever get switched on when we’re deprived of food. There’s compelling evidence that being in a “fed” state too much is a major cause of cancer.

    My comment of the week on obnoxious and hypocritical vegans: The most obnoxious vegans I know own two dogs, who eat meat, and quite a lot of it considering that their gigantic dogs, neither of which are overweight, weigh about 150-175 pounds combined.

  234. @Armata & Violet, fascinating discussion! I once had to deal closely with a very tormented man who desperately sought power. (He wanted me to help him create a new religion to spread the grand ideas on how we should get along with nature and so on that he was thinking up all alone in his attic with his music tapes.) They were the sort of things people would listen to and nod thoughtfully, then walk away and forget. I thought it was just my poor Japanese, but nobody understood.
    I have him pegged as an example what Andrew Lobaczewski called “Schizoidal Psychopathy” and described as: “hypersensitive and distrustful, while, at the same time, pay little attention to the feelings of others. They tend to assume extreme positions, and are eager to retaliate for minor offenses. Sometimes they are eccentric and odd. Their poor sense of psychological situation and reality leads them to superimpose erroneous, pejorative interpretations upon other people’s intentions. They easily become involved in activities which are ostensibly moral, but which actually inflict damage upon themselves and others. Their impoverished psychological worldview makes them typically pessimistic regarding human nature.” (Lobaczewski, 123-4).
    He described the condition as genetic, and from our point of view here, perhaps particularly vulnerable to the demons who seek undeserved power. Of course, the key is they really think they deserve it.
    I’ll call him “Mr. I,” for “initiator” which is the role Lobaczewski says such people tend to play in corrupting an initially good organization. He came in with his brilliant ideas, and everyone said, “That’s nice,” and either gave him a prominent role or just let him take over, probably the latter. He was an incredible busybody. Nonetheless, getting everyone in a voluntary Shinto neighborhood organization to cooperate is like herding cats, and when he came to me with his request I just rolled my eyes. Those who excel at manipulating people, on the other hand, see an opportunity in folks like him. Two such guys showed up, one a known kleptomaniac and the other a “brilliant” young artist, who brought along an “Enforcer,” an older lady in the neighborhood with a crush on him, who could be really vicious. They flattered Mr. I’s poor ego profusely, agreed with his ideas and bullied anybody who stood in their way. People were driven out if they didn’t fall in line, which in this case meant letting the youngest, most inexperienced priest dictate everything. More peripheral participants who hadn’t brought negative attention on themselves would still show up, play their roles and report back to me. (We got the troublemakers to desist eventually, but that is a much longer story.)

  235. @ Violet, thanks for the suggestions! Cinnamon and rosemary are already two of my favorite flavorings- both give me a pleasant flush when I smell them- so evidently my body has some inkling… Myrrh, on the other hand, I don’t think I’ve encountered as a food ingredient. Incense, maybe, but not as a spice. Perhaps I’ll check it out!
    –Heather in CA

  236. @David, by the lake-
    If homegrown chicken dinner isn’t an option for you, maybe rabbit might be? They are quiet, clean (as far as livestock go), take up modest amounts of space, eat weeds, make great garden-enhancing poo, mature quickly, and are usually not subject to municipal meddling. And they’re tasty. Unfortunately they are very cute, too, so that can make turning them into dinner a bit of a wrench- but that is perhaps exactly the point of raising your own?
    Just a thought.
    –Heather in CA


    I also was vegetarian for some years and learned how to use different foods and about nutrition from books. Nowadays I eat meat weekly but not much and lots of raw vegetables, fruits for breakfast, lunch with whole grains, adding things or taking them away from my routine over time. A while ago I thought of using the net to check out health benefits of particular foods I use and here are some links for 3 of them. I had wondered about why veganism was so popular lately, as milk and eggs are not particularly evil ecologically, like no slaughtering of animals and eating them is very healthy. It seems overkill to me. Vegetarianism of oiitself with full proteins like egg and dairy is quite heathy as generally on concentrates on having a broader food spectrum thn just meat, potatoes or noodles, rice with some sauce and chicken, meetbalks. One eats beans, lentils, coen, makes salads, experiments generally. People in earlier times had little meat in diet and spent more time and creativity in just this way, making more of what was in their environment. Extreme diets show a lack of cultural connection, meaning, relation to the group. We disappear into afood or sports fad, new religion, to find identity that we are missing on the ground where we live. We drop it just as fast. The search for meaning in the modern world is difficult as so exchangeable. I went to mass on christmas first time in years and saw everything through eyes of my readings on culture and history. It all seemed disconnected.Chritmas tree from germans of ancient times, bible stories of birth all concoted to fit predictions from old testament. Mary statue and virgin birth supporting egyptian Isis cult. Then they sang silent night and it hit my emotional memories from childhood, a warm spot. So like diet, I realize that religion has nothing to do with facts but with transmission of warmth between children and parents. Mom made casserole or meatloaf and I still do though it may be not 100% organic, blahblah. Christmas carols are pleasant though a manipulative concocted lie. So who cares. Truth is what warms the heart, not the mind. Reality takes place somewhere inside us. Enjoy life while you can.

  238. Well, let’s face it, the rhetoric is virtually identical. Read this:

    “You’re not fasting and avoiding meat for Lent. You’re not a good Christian and will probably go to Hell and it will be all YOUR fault!”

    “You’re eating pork/beef when you should be avoiding it. You’re not a good Moslem/Jew/Hindu and will probably go to Hell or get reincarnated as a dog and it will be all YOUR fault!”

    And then read this:

    “You’re eating too much red meat (or dairy, grains, margarine, whatever the current poison). You will get sick with diabetes, heart disease, and dementia, wind up in a nursing home at an early age, and die alone with your property in hock to pay the bills. And it will be all YOUR fault!”

    Is it any wonder we’re all in a tizzy over what we eat?

  239. Oh, my JMG, you really have misunderstood me again–or maybe I don’t write clearly, I don’t know. I did not mean that there is just one right , perfect diet for everyone. Certainly, the work of Dr. price, whom I admire, is quite the opposite of that!! What I meant was that when people eat in harmony with their environment (usually because they had to–no other choice!), that usually, unless the environment is very degraded, seems to–let’s not use the word perfect– suit them so well that agonizing over diet simply does not occur, in the way it does for us today. Because we have so lost touch with those kinds of circumstances, it’s very hard, and for many well-nigh impossible, for us to live and eat that way. But I think that underneath our rational surface, our bodies know that we’re not getting what we need. Does that help?

  240. In both cases, the people heading shamefacedly across county lines to do something that contradicts their public personas believe with all their hearts that the ideals they uphold in public are right and true and good; it’s just that they themselves can’t live up to those ideals.

    In a third case, scientists who sincerely believe that Anthropogenic Global Warming is bad often cannot live a zero-carbon lifestyle

    I’d go so far as to say that pretty much every diet scheme has some value, and that you can learn useful things from even the most restrictive diet

    Even the breatharian diet?

  241. JMG,

    In one of the central Shinto creation myths, Izanagi was being pursued by his dead sister-wife Izanami as he sought to escape Yomi, the underworld of the dead.

    …Izanagi no Mikoto had already reached the Even Pass of Yomi. So he took a thousand-men-pull-rock, and having blocked up the path with it, stood face to face with Izanami no Mikoto, and at last pronounced the formula of divorce. Upon this, Izanami no Mikoto said: “My dear Lord and husband, if thou sayest so, I will strangle to death the people of the country which thou dost govern, a thousand in one day.” Then Izanagi no Mikoto replied, saying, “My beloved younger sister, if thou sayest so, I will in one day cause to be born fifteen hundred.” …

    …Some say that the Even Pass of Yomi is not any place in particular, but means only the space of time when the breath fails on the approach of death.

    –Nihongi, Chronicles of Japan, translated by W.G. Aston.

    The language is different in the Kojiki, but the formula that appears there is exactly the same: 1500 units of life for every 1000 units of death. In other words, a 3/5 ratio of yang to 2/5 yin.

    Is your figure of three-fifths one that comes from some kind of pre-existing theory in macrobiotics? Given its Japanese origins that could make sense. Or have I just given you a religious justification for a number you’ve come up with yourself?

  242. Oh, yes, I enjoyed the meal, and my body seems quite pleased with it so far. My taste buds did wonder a trifle if the hamburger (obviously made from fresh meat) hadn’t been quietly bulked out a trifle with bread crumbs, but all in all, yes.

    And the walk, on a day much more like March than February, was also enjoyable.

  243. Not that you’re taking votes in the matter, but if you ever did write a book on nutrition grounded in metaphysical theories– taoist, humoralist, and/or other– I for one would be extremely interested, and I rather suspect you wouldn’t do too very poorly on sales. I would hope for it to go into some depth about useful approaches to experimentation with diet, including teaching how to sort out the difference between your body’s short term cravings versus its genuine desires.

    I was actually raised from birth on a vegetarian diet, which I still follow. I went through a period in my twenties where I tried out a few common varieties of meats and fish to the extent that I understood why people liked them, but I still was too repelled by the thought of what I was eating to do more than sample a few different flavors. I agree completely that eating vegetables is not intrinsically more moral than eating meat, but I also do ascribe to the philosophy that if one eats meat, then they ought to have some personal experience in slaughtering. This post has actually inspired me to start thinking about trying meat again to examine the effects it has on my body over a longer sustained diet; but I feel I’d have to be willing to do a little animal killing myself as well, then. I’m not quite there at the moment, but I’ll certainly let the notion percolate.

  244. Ayurvedic wisdom traditions also assign different diets to differing constitutions. Imbalances (doshas or ‘lacks’) can be re-balanced by dietary or medical treaments. One of the characteristics of the Pitta ‘fiery’ type sounds like the ‘hangry’ type described here. Other types are airy, ethereal, or earthy (Vata, Kapha) and most people are of a mixed type. Kaphas balance by green fresh salads, Vatas by heavier foods. It is a complex systemic and flexible approach that accounts for imbalances caused by either innate tendencies or circumstantial events. Part of the theory asserts that a complete meal offers something to please each of the seven tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, oily, bland, savory/umami. Both vegetarian and carnivorous diets can be accommodated under these principles.

  245. Dear John Michael, I am going to directly state once again that “I think you have a blind spot about the animals”. I don’t think you would have written this essay if it wasn’t there. It has always been my nature to excel at exploiting psychological sore spots, and for that, I apologize.

    The circle of life argument “plants have feelings too” is the ad plantarum fallacy. If plants have consciousness, it should be our goal to eat fewer plants instead of the far more massive amounts it takes to feed animals, including rainforests cleared for cattle production. There’s an excellent book about this called Meatonomics.

    Anyway, for those of you still reading, the vegan cheese and dairy demo went exceptionally well last night. I think it was AuntLili who said the hardest thing for most people who want to go plant based is cheese; I have found that to be true and that’s why I occasionally veer from my usual whole foods and plentiful cheap carbs approach to demonstrate vegan cheese & dairy.

    People loved it, especially the spinach artichoke dip, which got demolished. I’m beyond exhausted and I’ve got a packed work day ahead, however, I did post the recipes as a PDF that all of you are welcome to here. I made the event as well as all of the recipes gluten free for the sake of a beloved vegan friend of mine who is gluten free:

  246. @Quin, JMG’s book The Celtic Golden Dawn includes tables describing the elemental qualities of various foods and herbs. Not a full book on the subject but it’s a nice starting place.

  247. JMG,

    The discussion on yin and yang makes more sense. I’m still not a hundred percent sure of it, but I’ll save further discussion on it for the open post, since I don’t want to take things too far off topic, and there seems like a lot to think about here. Also, this way, I may have more formed thoughts than I do at the moment.

    With regards to diet, I also want to add something: not just does one diet not work for everyone because of biology, but weather and activity level both seem to affect it as well. The way I like to eat is rather different in summer compared to winter, and it’s not just because my choices are more limited in winter. I like more animal products in my diet when it’s cold out, but when it’s warmer out I am happy as a vegetarian if not vegan. I also have acquired a habit of getting a very large chocolate milk after some intense martial arts training, and while normally smaller amounts than what I drink after a workout would make me sick, it makes me feel better.

  248. I have a question that I’m not sure I’ll ever know the answer to, but was there a significant increase in the number of readers of this blog who ate bacon cheeseburgers this week? Reading the comments, it seems like there might have been.

  249. Torgeir and Lydia (and to a lesser extent Graeme), I am sad to see that you and JMG are arguing, when in fact, from my vantage point, you agree. Torgeir, I understand what you mean by a “template,” but it appears to me JMG is misunderstanding your intent and attributing to you things you are not saying. I believe it is because you brought up Weston A. Price, whose findings are so obvious and yet subtle that people are forever squabbling with each other about what he really said.

    Since JMG admitted he has not read Dr. Price’s book, he probably assumed Price advocated yet another “perfect diet.” Far from it. I think Price and Greer would find they have much in common. I would note that JMG does not seem to be arguing with others, such as Stephania an Jeanne, who mentioned Dr. Price as well. As for me, I agree with JMG’s bottom line—you have to find what works best for you.

    I think Dr. Price’s work is of immeasurable value to the human race. He was arguably the first to ever study the human diet scientifically (he originally set out to find a control group). I have his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, and I use it to look for guidance when selecting diets and foods to experiment upon myself with. I just wish I’d found it sooner! (I had to wait for Michael Pollan to bring him to my attention.)

    JMG, I would ask you to take a second look at what Torgeir and Graeme are trying to say. I believe they are trying to say there is a difference between general guidelines for evaluating diets, and the diets themselves. If you still think you understood them rightly the first time, then please go ahead and lump me in the basket along with them of those who disagree with you. No hard feelings!

    (Having gone down the Weston A. Price rabbit hole myself, I feel compelled to clarify something for those who are interested in looking further. The foundation that carries on his work is the Price-Pottenger foundation. However, the casual observer would assume that’s the Weston A. Price Foundation, when, in fact, it has no association with him except that they use his name. (Lydia, thank you for linking to both sites.) Unfortunately, the WAPF has a penchant for getting attention by being controversial and obnoxious. Sally Fallon is probably the most vocal of the leaders of the WAPF. Despite having good ideas of her own, which I personally have used myself with good results, unfortunately, she comes off as a tyrant in her public persona and tends to end up in an argument with anyone who interviews her. I’m sure she means well, and for whatever reason she doesn’t offend me personally, but I don’t blame those who think she’s a nutrition nazi. She is, of course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a few tips from her.)

    Corydalidae and Heather in CA, thanks for sharing. I too have a high metabolism and could never skip meals. Once as a kid, I refused to go on a trip with my parents unless they agreed to stop for lunch every day!

    Steve T, thank you for all your comments today, you’ve been spewing pearls of wisdom in my opinion. Good point that sometimes it’s hard to even know what you want. I have trouble relating to JMG’s post this week because he’s so much more in touch with his body and soul than I am! Some of us are still experimenting upon ourselves and we still want to learn “diet rules” (until we feel comfortable enough to break them).

    Finally, JMG, thank for bringing this up this week, it’s been one of the more lively conversations. Let me share the story of the first time I heard of the macrobiotic diet, and why I never experimented with it. When I was a boy of maybe 12 or so, my dad came back from taking my younger brother to a schoolmate’s birthday party. There was a girl there who was raised in a macrobiotic family. He told me while they were passing out the cupcakes, some powered sugar (or perhaps it was icing) fell on the floor. He said this girl ran over and just licked it up, right off the floor. I just stared at him wide eyed.

  250. John Michael, this is such a refreshing post. Rarely does anyone write about an issue as physical and mundane as what we eat from anything but the most messianic and ideological frames. Whether you have dragged the conversation down to the squishy level of the body or elevated the body back to its role as our way of experiencing reality, you have certainly given us a useful new way to evaluate our actions’ impacts on our health. Ask your body how it responds, rather than paying exclusive attention to the mind’s/culture’s distracting beliefs. The same insight can be applied to exercise, sleep, medicine, etc. Ask your body how it responds to different inputs. The body has an “intelligence” comparable to our conscious reasoning. Their intelligences are different but I’d hate to have to say which is smarter.

  251. My spunky Chinese cooking teacher, has a few sayings I like to repeat:

    “Three vegetables, one meat”
    A ratio to not overeat meat.

    “Always cook meat with ginger”
    Ginger assists with digestion of meat and fatty foods. It also detoxifies pathogens so it’s especially important to eat it with sushi. Since fresh ginger will not be available in northern climates in the future, radish is also excellent for this purpose. I would apply this to tofu too, since it’s Cold in nature Warm or Hot spices will balance it somewhat. FYI, Wild Ginger grows in northern climates, however it is mildly toxic. It can be used as a short term medicine, but it’s not safe as a daily food.

    In one comment you mention that alcohol is Yin. To clarify this – sugar is Damp (which is Yin). Alcohol is sugar, so it is Damp, however it is also Hot, which is Yang. So, alcohol is Hot and Damp. When people chronically drink too much, they often get Heat symptoms – red eyes, red face, irritability, excess sweating, fatty abdomen, desire for cold drinks, etc. If alcohol was just Yin, like soda, you wouldn’t have any of the Heat symptoms. My favorite book on the Yin and Yang of foods is Chinese Dietary Therapy by Lui Jilin.

    Macrobiotics always sounded like torture to me. I know too many people who get off on self sacrifice with bland food and I was raised on tofu, brown rice, and plain vegetables. Luckily, we also ate lots of cheese and eggs. I appreciate that we ate vegetarian but didn’t really talk about it, so I wasn’t indoctrinated. I also appreciate that, although I may have been starving of some nutrients, I was entirely raised on home cooked foods.

    I went over to a friend’s house once to make “pho” and his ingredients were: a lot of water, some noodles, one carrot, one onion, a little tofu, and a little salt. I’ll call it by it’s true name: Water Soup.

    I really don’t believe the future requires veganism to save the planet, as so many say. For one thing, as growing conditions become more difficult due to climate change, it’s easier to grow animal feed or grass and have animals convert that to edible calories than to only grow edible food. Second, myself and billions of others will fight it tooth and nail. I know quite a few people who think universal basic income is a great idea. They must have never had to eat government food, because they don’t know how horrible it is. Someone once tried to pawn off their government supplied “cheese” to me. The first ingredient in this “cheese” was vegetable oil, the texture was gelatinous with little bubbles, and there was no flavor whatsoever.

    In my experience, the thing you are saying about the sneaking steak isn’t true for the die hard vegans and vegetarians. They probably have the craving, but direct it elsewhere, and may even find pleasure in denying themselves. It’s only true for the dabblers.

    My boyfriend is rather stout, he has always had a big belly even when he had very little body fat. We were discussing how he has a really good gut instinct and were wondering if there was a literal connection between big healthy intestines and gut instinct. Now that research has come out that the gut has tons of nervous system tissue similar to the brain, it seems to make sense that gut instinct is when people are able to listen to their gut’s intelligence. I also wonder if the microbiota of the gut communicating to us. Although it is composed of non-human creatures, they have lived there for eons and we may have co-evolved a chemical communication method.

  252. @Lydia, Please bear in mind our host, John Michael Greer is responding to several hundred impassioned messages this week, some of them quite hostile. He’s taken on quite a bit with that. I think he is forced to skim and then respond with his general impression, which can be quite different from the general impression you were trying to make. That happens with me too, and I just back off. When he is really as busy as he is this week–this is an explosive topic–I sometimes put a header on, like “@everybody” so that he doesn’t feel like he must reply. He is very conscientious. Several of us have backed you up regarding Weston Price’s eye-opening documentation of malnutrition from modernized food. Perhaps others on site will be inspired to read it, even if JMG still thinks its a diet book based on cherry-picked examples.

  253. @Quin, by no means should you feel that you have to eat meat! You are a very easy-to-tolerate vegetarian! If you feel fine on vegetarian fare, it is working for you. I can’t speak for the Japanese, but there are social situations where accepting the ubiquitous clear fish stock they use in everything would help. Setting aside obvious chunks of fish is fine as long as you are able to eat the same dishes as they. Likewise, I accept that if I am going to be sociable, it means eating hidden gluten. I’ve been able to recover kidney and liver functions despite it, so it is not too heavy or too frequent for me. Shinobu’s dietary restrictions with severe diabetes mean there are many people he simply cannot eat with. It could kill him.

  254. @blue sun: Thanks so much for helping to clarify what some of us are trying to communicate to Mr. Greer about the research of Weston Price. I, too, believe that Mr. Greer and Dr. Price have far more in common than Greer could imagine at the moment. I think it’s hard for me to try to explain his work to someone who is not familiar with it in a short, succinct paragraph or two. I find it so profound, but how to express that to others who are not familiar with it is something I need to work on. I was astonished when he dismissed it so casually, but then, he is VERY busy with comments this week!

  255. BoysMom, that’s why it’s so much easier just to pay attention to how foods affect you, and draw your own conclusions from that.

    Patricia O., always a possibility!

    Sister Crow, it’s not easy being satirical any more — there’s always somebody out there being even more absurd! Sleepless machismo — oh dear gods.

    Justin, excellent. If that’s what works for you, by all means!

    Gandalfwhite, fair enough, but that doesn’t help those of us who didn’t grow up with a religion — or who have the opposite of warm feelings toward the religion we did grow up with! The same goes for diet as well; my memories of my biological mother’s cooking do not call up pleasant feelings in me — quite the opposite…

    Jeanne, I ain’t arguing.

    Lydia, I get that you’re not talking about the one true diet — but you do seem to be rather deeply into evangelizing for the one true book by the one true diet researcher, you know, and that’s the thing that has my hackles up. Given that quite a few people also popped up here to evangelize for the same set of ideas, Greer’s Law of Evangelism would suggest that you’re not all that satisfied with the results!

    Quin, it’s standard macrobiotic teaching that your diet should be 3/5ths yang foods and 2/5ths yin foods, so in all probability it came from that legend (or the rule and the legend are both reflections of the same underlying principle).

    Patricia M., glad to hear it!

    Quin, so noted; I’ll take that under consideration.

    Gkb, not surprising at all. Most traditional healing systems offer a lot of flexibility around diet.

    Kimberly, and I’m going to state directly in response that I think you have a blind spot about your own rude and condescending behavior. Is it really so much of a struggle to simply say “I disagree with you,” instead of assuming that anybody who doesn’t share your views on diet simply isn’t thinking things through?

    Will, yes, exactly! In the full macrobiotic theory, you adjust your diet according to the seasonal cycle (winter is more yin, so you eat more yang foods; summer is more yang, so you eat more yin foods), weather, personal state of health, activity level, etc., etc. After a hard martial arts workout (very yang), a nice tall glass of chocolate milk (very yin, due to sugar and chocolate) ought to go down very well indeed.

    Blue Sun (if I may), no, I’m not assuming that Price is proposing the one true diet, but I notice, as I commented to Lydia earlier, that his followers seem to be rather obsessive about proclaiming him the one true diet researcher. Since everyone who talks about him and his ideas seems to get very pushy on the subject, I’ve decided not to read his book, as I don’t want to become any more obnoxious than I already am… 😉

    Christophe, thank you! Me, I’d have no trouble deciding which is smarter, the body or the mind; the body takes the prize, by a long distance. It’s drawing on two billion years of experience, where our minds are floundering around with a few thousand years of abstractions from which the bugs have not been worked out.

    Radha, good heavens — the macrobiotic cooking to which you were exposed was not very good! It’s possible to make really tasty meals using macrobiotic principles, including soups that are the opposite of the watery slop your friend made. As for the yin nature of alcohol, remember that macrobiotics isn’t traditional Chinese dietary theory — it’s its own thing, and draws the boundaries between yin and yang in its own somewhat idiosyncratic ways.

  256. Kimberly,

    If I may, I think is worth considering that Indian religions often exalt vegetarianism as a universal rule, but none, not one, declares that all people should be vegans. There is a long tradition of veganism in India, but it’s something that can be pursued by those who want to, and, crucially, are physically able to do it. There are a large number of people who simply sicken and die if they try. Even the Jains, who refuse to eat root vegetables because it harms the plant, take care not to kill insects, refuse antibiotics because they don’t want to harm microbes, won’t eat honey since it’s stealing from bees, permit most people to consume dairy products.

    There’s a very simple reason, one that a Jain I met in India explained: veganism as a universal does not work. People sicken and die, and for many they lose the ability to think straight. They have recognized that morality can not be the be all and end all of choosing a diet.

  257. For those who refuse to eat dairy because they think it cruel: While I am not familiar with the factory-model dairy farm, I can say with 110% confidence my dairy goats love their time on the milking stand. One figured out how to open the gate on the electronet fencing because she doesn’t like waiting her turn on the stand. It did take her over a year and a half to work that one out, but she’s the stereotypical stubborn goat. When one of the girls stops milking (dries off) it takes over a week to persuade her that she no longer has a turn on the stand. I have another who can jump the 48 inch fence, and one who hasn’t yet had her first freshening, but when she got too big to wriggle through the holes in the electronet, she figured out she could go under it as the bottom stand is not electrified (this is the granddaughter of the gate-opener). All this to say I need a gate guard these days for morning milking, else I’ll have seven goats wanting their turns when only four are currently milking. Actually, eight … the billy is still hoping he can get a turn because all the others are so keen on it. Find some smallholder who will sell you milk under the table, be it goat, cow, or sheep (yes, there are dairy sheep … if I had another pasture I would have those too). The same idea applies to eggs: my hens get a chance to run around and hunt bugs, lizards, frogs, and on rare occasions the unfortunate mouse. Buy your eggs from someone you know lets their hens out and about during the day. There are more options than just the industrial ag model.

    @JMG, I probably ought to chime in to mention I am out here at the dead end of the dirt road off another dirt road on ag- zoned land with my yardful of critters in response to your blog posts on Green Wizardry back on ADR. My childhood dream was to be a farmer, and you want to talk about some major discouragement on that one. Everyone said I was too smart to be a farmer; it would be a total waste of my intellect/talent/life; and my mom used to tell me I was too lazy to be a farmer, and besides I couldn’t even garden my way out of a wet paper sack. Our five-year anniversary of moving here is this week (the 8th, it’s become a special day for me!) and I think my mom still cannot believe I get up every morning before the roosters to have enough coffee in me to milk at sunrise. I did better at gardening before I got my goats, but there is no way I’d get rid of them. They’re even more entertaining than the chickens.

  258. @blue sun And Blue Sun, in addition to my appreciation of your understanding, I want to say a few words of support for Sally Fallon. I have met and spoken with her twice, and she impressed me as a very lovely, intelligent person. And I have listened to several of her conference speeches, and found them really wonderful and inspiring. I have never seen her in her “Nazi” mode, although I have heard this from other people. But given that she has to deal frequently with corporations who are very hostile to her work, and would like to undermine the organization, I think she must have to develop a pretty tough shell. It can’t be easy for her.

  259. Will J says:
    ” was there a significant increase in the number of readers of this blog who ate bacon cheeseburgers this week? Reading the comments, it seems like there might have been.”

    Well, I don’t eat a lot of bacon cheesburgers. But yesterday I listened to my body and went down to my favorite Irish Pub, met up with a good old friend of mine (who also comments here frequently), and didn’t I have a… bacon cheeseburger! Going by ancient guidance to balance the yang of the meat, I had the yin of a nice Smithwick’s Ale to sort things out. Actually, it was a large-ish burger, so I had two.

    As I was relaxing at home later, with all the various yin and yang factors from lunch suffusing me with good fuerte on every plane imaginable, my Body said to me (and these were its exact words, clear as crystal): “sgage, old boy, we really must do this more than once a year.” Who am I to disagree?…

  260. JMG, I’m entirely satisfied with my results…I won’t try to convince you of that, however, as I’m afraid whatever I might say will be termed ‘Evangelizing”. I’m truly sorry if something in my approach has caused to dismiss his work out of hand. My apologies!

  261. @ Lew– I’d be happy to talk further. I haven’t been on the Green Wizards site in a long time and I guess I didn’t realize it was still going. But I think that the 12 step tradition has a great deal to offer the post-peak world, both in the functioning communities it offers (that is, when they do function…;) and the spiritual and ethical systems, which have a great deal in common with classical Stoicism (I’ve encountered both Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius at meetings).

  262. When my younger daughter announced that she and her family were going vegan – for her husband’s health and her own tastes – she assured me they were not going to freak out about a little cheese on the salad or butter in the mashed potatoes – and their son can eat all the meat he wants. So can I if we’re eating out together. At their house, of course, politeness demands that I eat their food. But – delightfully – her husband usually opens a bottle of beer with the meal, and will serve it to guests of legal age.

    The older daughter’s house is not began, but it is teetotal, and their choice of cuisine is highly spiced, dry, and freaky (pardon the dated expression) yuppie cuisine. Guess which house is more comfortable to have dinner in? …. ah, people.

  263. @ Blue Sun —

    Thank you.

    I might note that I break my personal dietary rules regularly. It helps that they’re not moral rules, just actions that have consequences. I grew up in the home of my grandfather, who was Italian-American, with the result that pasta is comfort food for me. Sometimes I just want spaghetti and meatballs, and gluten-free spaghetti is terrible. (There are some okay gluten free pastas. If there is good GF spaghetti I’ve never heard about it.) So sometimes I make spaghetti and meatballs, and deal with the consequences.

    I really think it’s critical though to learn to pay attention to your body and its reactions. The things that have helped me with that are meditation and meditative exercise practices such as tai chi and qigong.

  264. I think there’s some pretty loose standards being applied to the word “evangelism”. As a fan of Dr. Price I also have a few criticisms of his book too, the biggest one being that he focuses too much on vitamin and mineral levels and doesn’t take into consideration many other factors that are likely to be involved. Nevertheless, I still have found it useful.

    Overall in my life for the last five years or so, I’d say I’ve recommended a few of your books to people, online and in person, at least twice as often as I’ve recommended Price’s book. If that counts as evangelism, then I guess i should consider that I’m not all that satisfied with your writings and should quit arguing the case for catabolic collapse to others.

  265. (Humor warning) A Few Reasons Why Price Supporters May Sound Evangelistic:

    It’s tough trying to support Dr. Price, downright frustrating at times. Why? Well…..

    #1 It’s not sexy. We don’t promise people a trimmer figure, tight abs or a shapelier you-know-what.
    #2 No Hollywood starlets have yet come out in favor of it.
    #3 It’s too old. Unfortunately, a lot of us start to describe his work by saying “Dr. Price was a dentist in Cleveland in the 1930s”, and see eyes glaze over as they look for the nearest exit. Soon you find yourself alone in a room muttering about fat soluble vitamins.
    #4 We don’t sell anything–there’s no supplements or sports drinks to buy.
    #5 It’s too boring. We can’t explain it in sound bites. It’s downright subtle in fact. More glazing of eyes and audiences drifting off.
    #6 The one “supplement” that is recommended is COD LIVER OIL, for gosh sakes!
    We try to make people feel better by calling it a superfood, but that usually doesn’t work.
    #7 The name is too long. We can’t compete with Paleo or Vegan when we have a name with many syllables and an initial in the middle.

    You can see why our voices get shrill, crack, and finally scream!!!

  266. I don’t know about virtuous defecaters. However there are some schools of Yoga that are very preoccupied with physical cleanliness and seem to lack any trust in the body’s own mechanisms. I am thinking of practices such as running a string through the nasal passages; swallowing and regurgitating long strips of cloth to cleanse the stomach; and the use of enemas to cleanse the bowel. Neti pots seem reasonable if you live in a dusty or polluted area, although I suspect that an enthusiast could do damage to the sinuses by too frequent use. I wonder whether private instruction in these schools include a similar preoccupation with cleaning the female reproductive tract? Or is that just too yucky?

    In America the Kelloggs were also notorious for a preoccupation with elimination. They pushed the ‘fiber’ craze in American diet as well as encouraging enemas in their sanitarium. There are a number of other health systems that are preoccupied with the amount, consistency and color of the products of elimination. Toilets sold in Germany are constructed so the user can inspect the contents before flushing; although this may be changing.

    As for virtuous sleep–well, all the early risers I have known were inordinately proud of the fact, regardless of whether they were doing anything particularly worthy with their waking hours, while at the same time seeming to resent those who remain in bed. I suspect that voluntary early rising is a great begetter of self-righteousness. Once again, different people have different needs: some thrive on 7 hours, some on 8, some on more, some on a short night’s sleep supplemented by frequent naps. There have been cases of people who never sleep at all, merely resting in a chair or bed. Back in the early 80s there was book called _Sleep Less-Live More_, by Everett Mattlin, that claimed it was possible to be healthy on 6 hrs or less per night and taught techniques to reduce one’s sleep.

    There is no part of life that humans are not capable of turning into an obsession 🙂

  267. Armata, Violet and so on,

    “And what can not just individuals but entire cultures do to protect themselves and avoid falling under the influence of demonic forces?”

    I am not sure about societies, other than having many individuals within it who are aware. But as to individuals, I think that being influenced or even possessed by demonic entities is extremely common, not that it should be. And I can’t imagine a greater success for them than the current situation where very few people take it seriously or believe in it. Because they do operate by stealth.

    I look at it in many ways like an infection. You are vulnerable if you have an unhealthy terrain. Negative entities are attracted to weakness and to negativity. I guess it is another case of easier said than done, but if you are confident, positive, and feel connected to the divine and to the Good, if you feel that you have help that you can call upon, if you are basically not afraid of demons, then you are not vulnerable to them.

    I also think it is somewhat alarming that half the world at this time has taken a step down, as someone above said, into the lower astral, with all this divisiveness and anger and lots of fear. These are all delicious energies to the parasites. And on this topic, I know a lot of Christians do think somewhat in terms of demons being real, but Christianity tend (my opinion!) to be a bit shallow and caricaturing of these things. Demons are bad because they are evilly evil and love to be evil and want our souls in hell. But really I think it is a bit more organic than that. They are predators, they are opportunists, and yes they are negative beings who probably get pleasure and even energy from fear and sorrow. If someone with a perversion has demons attached, and over time their perversion deepens, it could be that the demons try to get in as close to the human and into its mind (they are telepathic) so that they can get some vicarious pleasure even though they don’t have bodily senses.

    I was just watching a historical documentary and got to thinking about the blood sacrifices such as the Aztecs and so many others have done. What sort of entity wants blood? I’ve wondered that for a long time, as sacrifices would seem idiotic for a disembodied entity. But what if the emotions, which are a very ethereal thing, or even the life force in fresh blood can be “inhaled” by them? Even Jehovah was very specific about how he wanted his animal sacrifices to be done and what the heck was that about?

  268. @ petervanerp, that is a fascinating story! If I may, doing simple rituals really helps me with the nasty aspects that are within me. If we are dealing with something “bigger and badder” than we are, than I think it would follow that forming a relationship with something “bigger and better” would help.

    @ Armata, after reading William Shirer’s _The Decline and Fall of the Third Reich_ I think you may be on to something. The questions you ask are excellent. I tend to think that something as complex as warfare and mass-slaughter is going to have its own distinct consciousness. Of course, using this thinking, human cultures would also have their patron deities. How much control individuals and communities have navigating this is a crucial question and one that doesn’t appear to me to have clear answer.

    @ patriciaormsby, interesting. I really don’t know what to make of that story, although it gave me an eerie feeling reading it!

    @ Heather, you’re so welcome!

  269. Says Gandalf,
    ” I had wondered about why veganism was so popular lately, as milk and eggs are not particularly evil ecologically, like no slaughtering of animals”

    Have you seen those pictures of the lives of chickens who live in cages with clipped beaks where they can barely move and are under lights all the time? Did you know a “factory” cow only lives to about 4 years? It should be 15 or 18 or more.
    I’d far rather shoot a deer and eat it than torture animals for milk and eggs.

    I hope that we can move to a society with lots and lots and lots of small farmers and animal husbandists to solve this problem. I think that actually a surprisingly high number of people actually like doing that, but they’ve all been crowded out by industrialism.

  270. Kimberly Steele,

    You may have missed my post where I pointed out that while it is certainly true that modern life is doing some things very wrong, and perhaps we are overpopulated I might add, and if we are there are no solutions to the degradation of the environment short of lowering our population, so let’s keep the arguments where they belong. If we are overpopulated, that is the problem and not meat eating. And if we are feeding agricultural plants such as corn to cattle then that is the problem, and not meat eating.

    I’m getting to the point that if a vegan tries to use factory farming as the reason we should be vegan, I’m going to simply say it’s a straw man.

  271. Dfr1973, thank you — that’s very welcome to hear. My goat-raising days are long in the past at this point, but I found the company of goats very pleasant — and yes, they loved to be milked, and would be waiting at the door to the milking barn when I got there, bleating — well, I’ll be polite and call it encouragement.

    Sgage, delighted to hear that you practiced the ancient macrobiotic discipline of having a good lunch! My wife and I had bacon cheeseburgers the night the post went up — nondairy cheese since she has a milk allergy, and appropriate mods to make it celiac-safe too, but they were really good. I balanced yang and yin with a good bottle of cider.

    Lydia, I’ll make a suggestion as to what it was in response to your comment further down. I hope that helps.

    Patricia M., I shudder at the thought of yuppie cuisine anyway! As I’ve noted rather more than once, though, the people I know who genuinely thrive on a vegan diet are generally very laid back about it with other people, and yes, the food can be very good.

    Kashtan, if you go onto other people’s websites, insist that they really ought to read books by me, respond to anything other than immediate agreement with a long disquisition meant to convince them that they ought to read books by me, and make everything cycle back to an insistence that people ought to read books by me, why, then I’d really rather you didn’t. That doesn’t encourage people to read my books; it simply irritates them.

    Lydia, I’d suggest three more:

    #8 You talk about Price and his book in exactly the same tones that Mormon missionaries use when talking about Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon;

    #9 Any lack of enthusiasm for said book is equated with hostility toward it, and results in another long disquisition insisting that I read the book;

    #10 When this doesn’t get the desired result, other fans of said book pop out of the woodwork and launch a loud conversation among themselves about how awful I’m being because I won’t drop everything and read the book.

    The term “evangelizing” really does come to mind in this context. May I suggest an alternative approach?

    YOU: JMG, have you read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price? It’s about the lessons that can be learned from traditional diets around the world.

    ME: No, I haven’t.

    YOU: You might find it interesting. You can download a copy here [link].

    ME: Fair enough; I’ll consider it as time permits.

    YOU: [go on to talk about something wholly unrelated]

    You’ve been on this list long enough to have seen a lot of people do exactly that; some of the books they’ve recommended have ended up on my reading pile. You might also have noticed that people who try to push reading material on me don’t usually get far. There’s a variety of reasons for that, starting with my basic cussedness and going on into matters of deliberate strategy — but as I noted to Blue Sun earlier, when people who are fans of a book get pushy about insisting that I absolutely, positively have to read it, to me, that’s a sufficient reason not to read it. Even if I reach advanced old age, I’m not going to have time to read all the books I want to read, and redlining books because the people who promote them annoy me is simple common sense.

    Rita, true enough! Back in the 1980s I knew a lot of people who were obsessive about bowel cleansing via enemas and the like, and went around insisting that everyone else had to get their bowels cleansed. Those of us who weren’t into it had an uncomplimentary and rather profane nickname for them. I didn’t stay in touch with the people in question, so don’t know how that ended up.

  272. @Violet, thank you. It probably strikes you as eerie because you cannot understand the mind frame of the members of that highly effective, yet terribly dysfunctional gang, with the exception perhaps of the older lady with a crush. Aslo, as Lobaczewski stresses, it is not from personal actions per se (such as a rascal gathering a group of toughs together with the point of causing harm) that real evil arises, but rather from the interactions among people with completely different ways of looking at the world, including and especially us, the majority of “normal” folks who get morally offended at the lapses of the others–which is fine as long as those others have the capacity to remedy their moral lapses! What is most important, Violet, is that you are learning how to recognize the sorts of demons that enter normal people–you strike me as not merely normal but also making good advances in a moral direction through introspection. Lobaczewski was a scientist, so he suggested taking a clinical view, just like when classifying and describing vampire bats, asps, cholera vibrios and so on, never passing personal judgement upon such evilly evil nasties with pure evil running through their veins, because it would be counterproductive. That is one approach to the issue (I love it! It helps me stay sympathetic while aware of significant dangers), and there are others just as valid.

  273. @patriciaormsby, to be clear, I’m not thinking about trying meat to for social reasons. Having been raised vegetarian, social pressures to eat meat hardly bother me any more than air pressure does. It’s more that I’ve just never tried incorporating meat in my diet on a regular basis, and I’m curious what effect it would have. I’m a healthy guy with average height and build; occasionally somebody acts incredulous when I tell them I’ve been vegetarian since before I was born (as my mother was vegetarian during pregnancy, as well), and I joke that if only I was raised eating meat the whole time, I would’ve grown to be a 6 foot 6 olympic athlete. 🙂

    While I don’t believe that’s really true, it’s certainly the case that, in a sense, I never truly chose vegetarianism for myself– I inherited it, and kept it because it’s actually been psychologically easier for me not to change it. And it’s not like I’m one of those people who have dreams of hamburgers or anything. But the only way to ever know without a doubt whether it’s a better fit for me than the traditional human’s omnivorous diet, is to try really being an omnivore for a while myself. I’d be delighted to discover that vegetarianism really is best for me; I expect if I start eating meat regularly, my body will let me know yea or nay soon enough.

  274. @violet, armata, patriciaormsby, onething, and others; about demons:

    So much good experience and insight here!

    One thing worth keeping in mind is that humans can and often do create predators — demons — within their own imaginal worlds, who prey on their own creators for their proper food. This is just an application of our broader ability to create thought-forms within the imaginal world (Henry Corbin’s term, again), that is, the world in which one can imagine a thing in such a way as to give it power over the material world and some degree of manifestation to our senses that usually perceive the material world.

    For the most part, people create these imaginal demons unwittingy. (But there are some people who know quite well what they are doing, just as there are those who knowingly harm themselves — or others — by material means.)

    So not all demons are invaders, or can be compared to parasites or infectious microbes that have entered the body from some outside source. Some are internal malfunctions, somewhat like the sort of nutritional imbalances we have been discussing here.

    And, as with a nutritional imbalance, one can seek to correct an imaginal imbalance by choosing and sticking to an appropriate “diet” for one’s imagination. Here, as with material nutrition, one size of diet most emphatically does not suit all. (Part of mine is no TV and hardly any films, ever! Some folk can’t handle, say, gluten. I can’t handle screen-time that has both audio and visual input with more than the very, very lowest levels of intensity. Too much intensity and I actually become violently ill in very physical ways.)

    Last week, I think it was, I posted a small rant (in the comments) about the power of ritual as one of the most basic “programming languages” of the human nervous system and human consciousness. Effective ritual design is a huge topic. Without going into details, there’s a lot to be said for the use of riitual as an excellent means for destroying human-created demons, as well as for protection against demons generally, whether human-created or not. (You don’t even need to *believe* in the existence of demons for rituals to work against them.)

    Many, perhaps all, religions and spiritual traditions offer such rituals. Some are elaborate and employ many props, like traditional Christian Rites of Exorcism; others are propless and done wholly in one’s own imaginal world. Some are communal; others, personal and private, like Frank Herbert’s “LItany Against Fear” or Mary Baker Eddy’s “Scientific Statement of Being.”

    As noted by others, demons feed on strong emotions, including fear, and they thrive under inattention. It does help not to fear them, while being quite aware of them. (It’s tricky to do that, espeically at first, but it is possible.)

  275. Hi John Michael,

    Thank you for the explanation and I had not reviewed the self righteous behaviour from that aspect. It does not look good to me at all. Certainly it makes for boorish behaviour on their part and it really gets my nose out of joint.

    Am I ranting? Maybe. :-)! Well, as far as I understand the situation an organic farm that grows only a few plant products, and displaces all other life forms that previously lived in (or could potentially live in and are in the surrounding area) is an absolute disaster. And I find it really hard to consider that such an enterprise could even be remotely considered sustainable.

    Yes, I suspect I am ranting! It is a good thing! I mean anybody who feels virtuous for purchasing and consuming a plant diet from such a place, should take a good hard look at themselves. And then get in the ring and find out just how complex agriculture is. And stop feeling so fracking virtuous, because it doesn’t look good to me!

    There, I feel much better now, having gotten that off my chest.

    Mate, people are way out of touch with their food systems. It can not end well.



  276. @James Swanson,

    Thank you. I actually have the book and have seen the chapter in question– but it’s worth going over again.

  277. @virtuous bodily functions;

    Rita is right about German toilets 🙂

    Wrt to virtuous early rising: When you enter the state of Sachsen-Anhalt in eastern Germany by car, you are greeted by huge signage: “Welcome to Sachsen-Anhalt, the home of early risers!” I suppose this is an allusion to the industrial tradition of the region… There is also a number of proverbs about early birds.

  278. JMG – ” I knew a lot of people who were obsessive about bowel cleansing via enemas… don’t know how that ended up.”

    They’re still around only now they call it ‘colonic irrigation’. The premise is that our intestines are too stupid to naturally clean themselves out in spite of millions of year of honing by natural selection so we have to ‘help’ the poor things by swallowing various nostrums of dubious value for the user but very profitable for those who sell these preparations. The obsession with intestinal cleanliness won’t go away as long as money can be made and their peddlers can convince us we need these products.

  279. @Violet, Armata,
    I’m really looking forward to JMG’s post about the lower astral, but I think the ship has already sailed as far as things here in the US. JMG has talked about memoirs of people during the interwar period and their angst about the building insanity, and that’s exactly how I feel right now, and I refuse to let anyone tell me that my apprehension is unfounded. We seem to be doubling down here in the US on exactly the things that got us in this place in the first place, and the collective reaction, as best I can describe it, is scrunching the eyes shut, covering the ears, and shouting “USA! USA! USA!” as loud as we possibly can. I don’t think the coastal professional class will ever get over the election of Trump, and I look for them to continue to react in the worst possible way to the changes that has engendered. I’ve noticed a disturbing acceleration in certain trends that are now in a whirlwind: social mistrust of others, hostility and animosity towards others, lack of any sort of social norms in interactions–interactions now seem based in a sheer social primate dominance hierarchy. Now, before I’ve described myself as apatriotic, but this is one of the few places where I actually speak freely, perhaps because of this blog I’ve learned more forbearance and holding my tongue, but even keeping opinions to oneself and avoiding arguments doesn’t seem to be enough, since there’s this underlying attitude that “our way of life is under attack”, and suspicion of anyone who doesn’t sufficiently signal the right values. (Of course, our extravagant way of life is under attack, it’s under attack by limits!) Along those lines, I’ve noticed changes in people’s response when the topic of Limits to Growth, natural cycling, and natural decline is brought up–before, people would challenge the concept and respond w/hostility, but now, people openly panic, shut down the discussion, and actually refuse to talk to you again if you bring up a book that was popular and common knowledge in the 1970s! I really see it only a short step before censorship, loyalty oaths, and other forms of repression become commonplace in such an environment.
    I’m just thinking about what JMG said, “knowing one story is death”, we pretty much know only one story here in the US: the American dream, and it seems like 99% of the people here are already dead. It just seems so petulant: “gimme the American dream, or we’ll make the Nazis look good!”, of course, I guess the first time around was just as petulant: “Europe will rule the Earth, or we’ll become Nazis.” The last time we speculated on what god or spirit was bewitching America in the same way that Wotan bewitched Europe, according to Jung, I’m surprised no one remembered Jung himself–we were all looking at European, particularly Norse, gods. Since Jung said that Americans, regardless of race, are animated by Native archetypes, shouldn’t we look for the god or spirit bewitching America among the Native spirits/gods? At this point in the game, as bewitched as everyone is and all this underlying building collective animosity, I don’t possibly see a positive outcome. Even if blue peacefully secedes from red or a gridlocked Con Con peacefully dissolves the Union, I still feel that this animosity will be acted out in a disastrous way. I really feel that primary on anyone’s mind in preparing for the future should be surviving and seeing what can survive through a Holocaust, Cultural Revolution or Khmer Rouge type scenario. I think the ship has already sailed on that one and that it is unavoidable at this point, given Americans rigidity in their beliefs about their country.

  280. JMG,

    I may not be remembering correctly, but I do not recall anyone suggesting that you read a certain book. Rather, a conversation like this one does invite a certain amount of information sharing for the potential good of all concerned, but when a certain book was mentioned, it seemed to me that the person who mentioned it got their words taken so differently than they were intended, that they got a stinging reply which also appeared to lack understanding of what they were saying, and then there was an attempt or two to clarify. It put them in a very difficult situation and now they are accused of proselytizing.

    It looks to me like you have taken the idea that there is no one perfect diet and that people differ in their dietary responses to such an extreme that there is no point in even having a body of science or research that deals with diet or nutrition and how that might relate to human health.

  281. Shane,

    “Since Jung said that Americans, regardless of race, are animated by Native archetypes, shouldn’t we look for the god or spirit bewitching America among the Native spirits/gods?”

    I don’t know about Native spirits, but it occurred to me that the phrase you used, ( “our way of life is under attack” ) and the one Bush used “they hate us for our freedom” could be straight up transferred to how the Native Americans must have felt. Both true.

  282. Chris, no, it’s not going to end well.

    Jeanne, well, yes. It’s all the same notion that a set of currently fashionable abstract principles somehow embody more wisdom than two billion years of evolution. I don’t get that, but it seems to be very popular these days.

    Onething, er. you’re drastically misstating what I’ve said — and if you want to see whether somebody’s been pushing a certain book at me, you can always go page through the comments, you know. As I’ve said repeatedly, in the post and the comments alike, if people want to arrange their diet according to this or that set of theories, by all means; it’s a worthwhile experiment, and a great way to learn what your own body needs and wants. It’s when people get evangelical about one book or teacher or theory or diet, on the other hand, that you know that the book or theory or teacher or diet doesn’t actually satisfy them — that’s Greer’s Law of Evangelism, again — and so the more insistent people get that I have to read a certain book or what have you, the more I back away from it, because the clearer it is to me that the book (or what have you) doesn’t perform to spec. That’s not at all the same as claiming that nobody ought to read anything about nutrition, and I’m not sure why you don’t seem to see the difference.

  283. Dear John Michael Greer,

    You write: “Even if I reach advanced old age, I’m not going to have time to read all the books I want to read, and redlining books because the people who promote them annoy me is simple common sense.”

    This made me chuckle, and brought to mind Gabriel Zaid’s SO MANY BOOKS: READING AND PUBLISHING IN AN AGE OF ABUNDANCE.

    On a more general note, I am fascinated to see you invite such undoubtedly time-consuming interaction with your readers, and am curious to know what prompted you to do this.

    @ Robert Mathiesen Thanks for posting your comment on imaginal demons; it was most interesting.

  284. @Shane:
    I wonder if you are allowing your fears to cloud your awareness of other possibilities. I mean, if all the people whom you have been closely observing and interacting with are letting their fears overwhelm their judgment is it not possible that you are unconsciously imbibing and reflecting that mindset? Because, I think differently about the scene you describe. Viewed from the perspective of, say, family therapy, I augur a sense of hope for therapeutic breakthrough. Or, if looked at through the lens of Prigogine’s theories about dynamic systems, the nearness of a seemingly sudden reorganization of energy flow patterns. Seemingly sudden change can be merely the expected consequence of increasing pressures.

    I derive these alternate notions from the very same symptoms you are describing. Resistance to change, denial, etc. are not succeeding as barriers to widespread public awareness of cognitive dissonance about oil and decline. Many outcomes are possible. To be alert, aware, and not afraid is the very core of warrior thinking. Also, of farmer thinking. And child-rearing thinking. It is the basic mode of leadership in every field of endeavour.

    Perhaps you are not allowing for the possibility of a return to more fundamental shared values among Americans. For instance, if you have found relief from pressure by being able to openly speak your mind here, do not the ones you are observing also feel relief from speaking their minds openly among those they account in fellowship? Are you not alike in upholding the value of freedom of speech?

    This is the kind of energy flow where the trimtab effect can be put to good use. Even a small amount of agreement with those whom we fear could move the rudder of the ship of state and turn the society towards the direction of sanity and truly conservative ideas. But only if we are poised, balanced, alert and attentive to the currents in motion within us and around us. Society-surfing — the raddest new sport. If I’m aiming to shoot the tube, that what I need to focus on — not the ignominy of wiping out. Imagining the best helps to attain the best. Imagining failure….doesn’t.

  285. Lydia, my advice to you would be to follow the words attributed to Francis of Assisi— “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Who knows, one day JMG might show up on your doorstep in need of a cold beer. Then, upon tasting your delicious bone broth, he may ask you which Sally Fallon you got the recipe from…..

    JMG, no worries, it’s all good. I know I risk sounding defensive by posting another comment, but I assure you— you shall hear nary another word from me on this topic, unless you decide to bring it up again next week! 😉

  286. @ Shane and onething, on looking for “the god or spirit bewitching America among the Native spirits/gods”:

    Yes, indeed, the Native Americans I have known well enough to be told such things all still rremember and bitterly resent the wars of European settlers against their ancestors.

    Here in Rhode Island the predominant tribe is Narragansett, and the godfather of our youngest was 1/2 Narragansett (as well as 3/8 African-American, and 1/8 Norwegian with partial Saami ancestry). His wife warned us once, when we called on them while his very elderly mother was visiting, that she would neither speak with us nor so much as acknowledge our presence in their house. She bitterly resented the massacre of her ancestors in Rhode Island’s Great Swamp in 1675. According to Anglo history, the captured survivros were sold into slavery in the Caribben; and indeed, that was what the givernments of the Unted Colonies ordered to be done at the time. She, however, knew that the slave-ships had sailed several miles out of sight of land and then simply thrown all the Narragansett captives into the ocean — presumably stll weighted down with their chains. Native-American captives were thought by slavers to be too rebellious to make profitable slaves, so there wasn’t much of a market for them — not nearly enough to justify the cost of feeding them on the way to the Caribbean. Nor was this just a random fancy of one old woman. Decades later I had a chance to ask a tribal historian in private about what she had said, and the historian confirmed that the story was well known to every Narragansett who cared much about history. I suppose the seamen talked in taverns about what had happened when they returned home from that voyage.)

    If you ask which among the Native spirits might have it in for the United States, the answer is: nearly all of them, from Metacom here in New England and Popé in the Southwest on down. And the two military/political leaders I just named were consummate strategists, well able to wait patiently for the right moment to strike.

  287. Well, I’ve been reading all the comments, and all I have to add is that I think that some of the difficulty in this sort of discussion is that there’s a tendency to confound different issues. I feel like this is a broader problem with the whole food discussion, including the handful of “angry vegans” that I know.

    JMG wrote a post about listening to your body to determine what it needs, and not falling prey to dietary fads or thinking that any one diet is best for everyone. I agree with pretty much everything he said. His post was about what types of foods we eat, and what we need, and how we’re all different.

    But, as many of us brought up in one way or another, there are other issues related to food, specifically, how our dietary choices impact other things, like the environment, or contribute to animal cruelty (via factory farming). Many of the comments on that issue were not arguing with JMG’s original point (that we all have different dietary needs and things like vegetarianism and veganism don’t work for everyone, among other things), but were just bring up different issues related to the nature of contemporary food production that bother us. Most of our disgust/frustration with the current food production systems is, IMO, an observation on a related, but distinct, topic about WHERE our food comes from (as opposed to what it is).

    I know I’ve gone down a rabbit hole with some evangelical vegans in the past:
    Vegan Evangelist: Factory farming is cruel and horrible and disgusting and destroys the environment! How can you support that horror? Look at these pictures of suffering animals!
    Me: I agree about factory farming. It’s awful. But so is our agricultural system and our food-transport system and the labor system of food production. The corporate-capitalist food production system is a toxic mess.
    Vegan: So don’t eat animal products!
    Me: One, I don’t do well on a vegan diet, and two, I’m not sure veganism is the answer. Animals eating other animals is part of the natural cycle, and humans are omnivores. Wouldn’t pushing for better regulation and/or supporting independent producers be better, if you can afford to do so? And there are some ways of grazing animals that are less destructive to the environment than some kinds of farming. And hunting, if properly regulated, can be sustainable.
    Vegan: But you’re still killing animals!
    Me: I thought we were talking about factory farming?
    Vegan: Factory farming is horrible! Let me show you horrible pictures so you won’t eat meat!
    Me: I feel like we’re going in a circle here…

    (Disclaimer: not all vegans are like that, just some.)

    I have to say I was a bit heartened to hear from other people who don’t think that veganism (or other restrictive diets) are the answer to the fact that the food system sucks, but who are nonetheless trying to find alternatives to the corporate big-agricultural factory-farm food production systems – whether it’s living on their own farm, keeping chickens in the back yard, or trying to shop for more-sustainable products. It actually did make me feel marginally better when someone pointed out a concrete example of us who can afford to buy organic and support small local food producers may be doing a little bit of good by helping those people stay in business and make some of their products available at a lower price. At this point, I guess that’s the best I can do to be conscious in my diet, both in terms of eating what my body needs (which, in my case, is some meat), and trying to support better practices about where it comes from.

  288. @onething, thank you–you got it exactly right from my point of view. The whole episode has been rather a shock. I appreciate your post.

  289. Shane W speculated ” shouldn’t we look for the god or spirit bewitching America among the Native spirits/gods?”

    And immediately “The Wendigo” popped into mind. Not a local god down here, but way up North, it’s the essence of hunger and cold, and a frightening demon it is.


  290. @ Heather

    Re rabbits

    Thank you for that suggestion!

    @ Anyone who remembers

    Since we’re discussing food and diet, if anyone recalls my question many moons ago re bean burger binding agents, I’d like to report that I’ve found that rolled oats do a decent job as well.

    @ Shane

    Re the future of the US

    I think our biggest challenge will be the same as it has been since before the nation was born — each region minding its own business and keeping its nose out of its neighbor’s. We have a definite tendency to seek to impose our way/customs/view on everyone. While I suspect much of this is simply human nature, we Americans seem to have a particular bias towards it.

  291. Since Shane mentioned the lower astral plane and Onething brought up the Aztecs and their enthusiasm for human sacrifice, here is an essay by the American philosopher John David Ebert.

    In it, he argues the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures were a civilization that were under the overwhelming influence of the lower astral plane and were incapable of defending themselves against it’s malign influences. He makes the case it was the domination of the lower astral plane that explains many of the the peculiar characteristics of cultures like the Mayans and Aztecs.

    He also suggests that many of the characteristic tendencies of Western civilization arose as a defensive mechanism against the lower astral plane, first in the form of adopting Christianity and then scientific rationalism. However, in the process, Western civilization ended up cutting itself from the natural world and making the opposite mistake the Mesoamericans did.

  292. @ Robert Mathiesen: about demons:
    That is the clearest explanation I have read yet. As we have learned, our body is actually a colony supporting a host of micro organisms. When they get out of balance, either through outside agents, or with the aid of modern medicine, illness results. So too, we host many possibilities, on other planes, and demons or evil are a manifestation of imbalance.
    I hope to see you in June, as I assume you are in or near Providence. And, this being Rhode Island, I believe we have mutual acquaintances in Isobel Pingree and Alice Slotsky.

  293. @ Shane and Onething:

    In one of his essays, Jung related that some of the Nature American elders he talked told him that many whites appeared to them to be possessed by evil spirits. They told Jung they could see signs in the faces of most “palefaces” they came across that indicated possession and they believed that was why American whites behaved the way they did.

  294. @ Shane:

    I have read Jung’s essay Wotan and am working my way through his other writings. Since I am a Norse Pagan and Odin is one of the gods I worship, I find the implications to be rather disturbing.

    Jung mentioned in the same essay that the adoption of Yahweh as the patron deity of the Hebrews and the adoption of Allah as the patron deity of the Arabs often had very unpleasant effects, especially for their neighbors. In the case of the Hebrews, the Bible relates many instances of Yahweh harshly punishing his chosen people when they failed to live up to the laws he established for them, including killing large numbers of his own worshippers on several occasions because he was unhappy with their conduct and repeatedly inflicting disasters on the Hebrew people for their supposed lapses.

  295. As a follow-up to my previous comment, I do believe that demons and other malevolent beings exist. But if you look at traditional accounts, many of the gods and goddesses seem to be morally ambiguous figures, at least when judged by present day Western moral and ethical values. That includes not only Odin as described in the sagas and other Norse sources, but Yahweh as described in the Tanakh/Old Testament and Allah as described in the Quran.

  296. Shane, if you’re wondering what Native spirit is possessing the American consciousness, possibly the Wendigo is a contender – the spirit of endless hunger? The Wikipedia entry goes into more detail, and lists books where this comparison has already been made.

  297. @Onething, what a fascinating idea! Looking among the native gods/spirits/kami archetypes for the spirits bedeviling America (quite clearly) and other places to a lesser degree as a sort of insanity takes over. I’ve been enjoying your comments but too busy to chime in.

  298. Hi JMG, You have told me how you think I could have handled the situation; I hope you will give me leave to do the same. Perhaps, in response to my initial post, you might have said: “Thanks for your contribution. I’m not particularly interested in Weston Price’s work, so that won’t be part of this post and its comments, but perhaps someone else here will find it of value.” I would have felt that to be a courteous and respectful response to a long-time reader of your blog. I would have understood that you did not wish to pursue it, and would likely not have posted any follow-ups. You know, this week I have been sick with a seasonal virus, not feeling my best, and perhaps not communicating my best either. Perhaps you’ve had a hard week too. But we are both good people who care about many of the same things, if not about this topic, so I hope that we can “shake hands” and make-up and not let this sour note linger. I would appreciate that greatly.

  299. @Everyone, my take on this week’s minidrama is if you have an important point you really want to stress, try paring it down to at most three or four well considered, carefully structured sentences. I am guilty as anyone of wandering all over the place with my thoughts, and when our host misunderstands me, I only have myself to blame. Try to imagine reading 300-400 mostly long, wandering comments, including some that never make the grade. JMG deserves praise for his work–and a break!

  300. JMG,

    Its funny that you compare the tone of the Price evangelism with that of the Mormon missionaries… because I have engaged with both types in my misspent youth. Its funny too that it is observable in permaculture circles… From my point of view, what feeds the drive to proselytize and also what underpins Greer’s Law in these cases is the subversive role that Progress plays: Traditional foods in the vein of Sally Fallon and the WAPF (if prepared according to the tradition a.k.a. dogma…), promises to solve our current health and environmental predicaments (if implemented correctly), just as permaculture promises a graceful descent (if people would just get on board), but the fact of the matter is that those ships have already set sail. Our actual problems are of a different nature, and dissensus is critical as you’ve so handily outlined.

    Its just like the assertion that if you pray in the right way, and shove enough of your dissatisfaction aside as you read the Book of Mormon in the right frame of mind, “God” will tell you that you are on the right track, that you should give a tenth of your money and all your free time to feed the machine and then you won’t have to worry about the apocalypse (or the descent) because Jesus will come with storm clouds and tremors and institute a thousand years of peace… you can just focus on living the american dream!

    After coming to terms with my dissatisfaction with Mormonism, I ultimately had to deal with the religion of progress to fully address how ingrained the drive to evangelize was for me. I still use gardening strategies, and recipies I found in the above sources though… (not to mention the psychic self defence I’ve had to develop coming out of and living in Mormendom) its all grist for the mill.

    BTW I’ve been meaning to thank you for the term Paleolithic permaculture – just one gem of many from your book on Atlantis!

  301. @Shane, thank you for your window on America. Today I will write my contribution for a newsletter to my relatives, mostly in the US South, who are less and less inclined to talk to each other. I’ll tell them about lovely nature on the other side of the planet. Probably be dismissed as mere chatter. Japan responds to stress in different ways. Thankfully, my husband is beginning to think he would like to move in close to his brother (who is himself moving back right now to the family neighborhood). That is the first hopeful development in my life in quite a while, since we got our farming qualifications–and have since found no one willing to sell us land. We live in a town so hostile to outsiders the police are talking about giving up on it and letting it revert to its original lawless state, including abuse of its own women. (‘Bout that time,I told my husband, if we’re not outta here, we’re dead. And he agrees.)

  302. @Quin, That’s great! My husband chimes in to say when you eat meat,make sure to have some kind of fermented food with it, like kimchee, natto or yogurt. They help provide you the right gut flora to digest it. Go slowly introducing any new food. More power to you!

  303. Oh… I should add… the fact that the whole Price/Fallon diet (a.k.a. the GAPS diet as those circles definitely overlap) didn’t quite solve all of the health problems my wife and I were having and that it was said to address DID play a role in my doubling down on my obsession and evangelism with it – I am sorry to say. (‘But we didn’t actually make bone broth every day… and we didn’t actually take the nourishing herbal infusion every single day for three months… etc, etc, etc). I should have known better after all that nonsense about how the fact that I didn’t get the answer from the Mormon God that I was supposed get just meant that I wasn’t praying right, or reading right, or believing right… Yikes.

  304. @ Patricia Matthews and Kfish:

    You beat me to the punch. The idea of Wendigo psychosis as an explanation for certain aspects of white American culture also lines up well with Jung’s account of what Native American elders told him, which I referenced in a recent comment.

  305. Millicently, it wasn’t something I set out to do. When I launched The Archdruid Report back in 2006, for the first three or four years I had so few commenters that it was easy to get into the habit of responding to them; then it became one of the draws that brought people to my blog, that I’d field their comments and respond; and I also found that the conversations were very often educational for me. As I have Aspergers syndrome, I’m not always comfortable relating to people in person, and I’ve never liked phone calls, but a context like a blog comments page makes it tolerably easy and comfortable for me to have extended conversations with a wide range of people.

    Blue Sun, nah, the next post is going to be on Stoic ethics, and I’m sure it’ll outrage a whole ‘nother bunch of commenters.

    El, yes, and that was part of my frustration.

    Peter (if I may), I hadn’t realized that you and Robert don’t know each other. You live within an easy walk of each other’s homes. Let’s see if we can arrange a meeting this side of June!

    Armata, granted, but you’ll notice that even the most ambivalent deities in the old polytheist faiths tended to be contrasted with beings who were not so much evil as simply inimical to human existence. Would you rather take your chances with Odin, or with the frost giants?

    Lydia, hmm. My actual first response to you was: “Lydia, I’m glad that works for you. I tend to steer clear of books in general when it comes to food, and — as already noted — simply note what foods make me healthy when I eat them.” I’m still not sure why you found that hostile, but we can certainly let that question rest. I’m certainly sorry to hear that you’re down with a virus, and wish you a prompt recovery — assisted by whatever kind of food keeps you healthiest, to be sure.

    Patricia, I suspect I won’t get much of a break. By and large, people these days don’t like being reminded that nobody in the world is obligated to listen to them — and of course that’s a central theme of Stoic ethics…

  306. I do want to say that in my opinion the consciousness of plants, while perhaps considerable, is not the same or as complex as higher animals, and for that matter, I don’t buy that humans are no different than other animals. Obviously, we are more advanced. There are a number of animal species I would not eat due to their close symbiotic relationship with us or their high intelligence. Also, in general when one eats plants either the fruit is taken while leaving the plant alone and which does not need the fruit, or the plant is harvested at maturity after which it would die anyway. In addition, most plants can grow and regenerate when you clip them.

    The really big issue is cruelty. From a spiritual point of view, the karmic repercussions are worrisome. To take a life with respect and gratitude is one thing but the suffering inflicted in CAFOs will have to be revisited upon us, especially if we are aware of it. Not everyone is. It isn’t about some god punishing us, karma is simply a universal law of balance. We are responsible for our thoughts, words and deeds. If we do something, we will have it come back to us until we understand and process it and can then let it go. Good works that way as well.

  307. @Dave,
    my interest/concern was with the spirit or god bewitching the US as it becomes clear that the American dream is dead, and how that will express itself in the same way that Wotan expressed himself as it became clear that the European empire and world dominance came to an end. As I noted, I don’t think that the mechanics of mere peaceful dissolution of the Union would diffuse the spirit or god bewitching the US.

  308. Steve T – have you tried spaghetti squash? Many folks find it a tolerable (and some an excellent) alternative to glutinous spaghetti.

  309. Migrantharvester, fascinating. The comparison was purely an outsider’s view from my perspective — my experiences with evangelism were in very different contexts — and it’s interesting to hear that you saw the same parallel from within.

    Patricia, it’s in process.

    Onething, well, there we differ. From my perspective, the gap between humans and (say) goats is much smaller than the gap between goats and (say) cockroaches, along every possible axis of measurement; thus lumping all animals in one category, and humans in another, makes no sense to me. (When you say “advanced,” by the way, toward what are we supposedly advancing?) Nor do I buy the claim that plants are less conscious — it’s far more likely that we simply recognize consciousness more easily when it’s in forms like ours (such as animals) than when it’s in forms less like ours (such as plants.) But you’re free to hold your opinions, just as I’m free to hold mine.

  310. @Peter and JMG: Yes, I’m looking forward to the June 23 potluck very much, and to meeting some of the other commentors in person.. But it would also be good to get together sometime before then.

    Indeed, Peter and I don’t live very far apart, and I think we probably have some friends in common, but we’ve never happened to meet. I’m something of an introvert and a hermit by temperament, which is probably why we haven’t actually met before now.

  311. Mr Greer and all the commenters,

    What a wonderful discussion. We all have strong feelings about this! Thanks to everyone (even those who show by example the stuff I consider to be twaddle).

    My first thought as I read the original post was about the Stoics and the fact that diet is just one component of well being. I needn’t elaborate as so many others have already done so quite well.

    Another stand-out as I read is the apparent cultural concern with longevity as if it is a virtue in it’s own right. Anything that persists for a long time must be good. (What about a long boring relationship or a long life of suffering?)

    Having reached my three score and ten, as it were, I do know first hand that my body, my appetites, personal vigor and much more change with age. Consequently I eat for well being and daily energy. My body is the best judge of that and tells me right away when I have messed up. Beyond that, today is just as good a day to die as any other. (That really means living without fear and engaging honestly with whatever the new day brings.) I have seen several close friends and certainly others not so close who have hung on to each breath when it truly was so painful for them. The change that comes about when mortality is finally accepted is just magical.

    As to the champions of Weston Price; I think back to the Archdriud Report post about disencis. Yes, for sure, his book was a wonderful eye opener. It may be interpreted as a plan for all but I know one size does not fit everyone. Mr Greer, I have no idea what might be best for you as to diet. Further, should we not agree I am most delighted that you may be exploring a dietary path that I would never consider. Please post your findings. You save me the time of filtering the data. Hopefully I can return the favor. This is about learning from the mistakes and successes of others. Beats the heck out of just feeling good because we all join hands and agree. Boring!

    By the way (backstory here), my diet is quite varied and as a small farmer I do raise animals for meat and do my own butchering. It’s not easy. I’m taking a life so that I may eat. It makes my stomach churn for the few minutes before the kill. Then it passes. I give thanks to the animal. I eat and life goes on. Offered so you might gain some insight into my own way of living

    Cheers, A. Spirit

  312. Well, what a welter of fascinating opinions and experiences! Reminds me of the books I’ve read on placebo/nocebo and the astonishing effects of suggestion, expectation and belief (latest being ‘Suggestible You’ – not that I’m encouraging anyone to read it! :).

    It seems that the natural and innate ‘power’ of our brain/mind/etc. (semantics is so tricky) is amazing, and quite ready and able to seemingly ‘bring about’ whatever we ‘think about’ … to grossly over-simplify. (See ‘mirror therapy’ in Wiki, for one example). I wonder if a lot of the myriad and various ‘effects’ that we each experience might actually have a simple origin in this basic mechanism. (Hope this isn’t too OT… beginning to sound like it to me, also 🙂

  313. @Lydia, J. M. Greer and others: It seems to me that the book of Michael Price engaged in some cherry-picking, and in the presentation of extreme examples. Archeological research has showed that people were in different states of health, depending on the archeological culture and the time at which they lived. Ötzi, the man who was recovered from a glacier in South Tyrol, had multiple health issues, although he was in the forties, for example. So it seems to me that Michael Price has fallen in a bit for the myth of a golden age in the past.

    Shane, your observation of the state of mind of people in the United States is interesting. Outside the US, in Germany, I don’t see so much of a growing mass madness, although the social climate has become rougher in the last two decades. The strange thing is, it seems, as if the West, especially the United States, has becomwe immune to change.

    And, I’m looking forward to the discussion of Stoic ethics. It should become quite lively!

  314. @AuntLili Thank you for the calm, non-defensive laying out of some commonsense principles of living happy and healthy with a long-term, plant-based diet.

    @jmg You come off as unusually strident on the vegan/vegetarian issue, and I suspect your choice of macrobiotic “rules” instead of just eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and adjusting based on feedback from your body may have given you a lopsided perspective on plant-based eating. Still, I appreciate your speaking your mind and experience and opening up this topic.

    Being pretty happy with a pretty strict vegan diet for more than 15 years before more recently falling back to vegetarian with some fish, I’d say anything which depends too much on willpower or social pressures (rigidities under stress) is likely to produce eventual failure. My rule from the beginning was that if I craved meat I could always eat fish (which I would be willing to catch and kill myself if necessary). From there, I found that I had no desire for other meat at all. I strongly suggest people make clear their diet isn’t their religion — or, if it is, acknowledge that and any challenges and fall-backs that position is likely to require. And you sort of need to know yourself.

    Realistically, if you don’t enjoy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables AND if you aren’t able/willing to cook from scratch with natural ingredients (or get a girlfriend happy to fill that roll!), you are not likely to be happy and healthy for long on a pretty strict plant-based diet. Most of the prepackaged vegan foods are filled with crap like massive salt and sugar, and lack the nutrients and PROTEIN you get with lots of multi-colored fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and beans. Trying to go vegan without lots of healthy variety gives an entirely lopsided experience of plant-based eating. Trying to get by with Twinkies, Coke, and occasional steamed rice is more about trying stupid than fairly trying Vegan.

    Again, JMG, thank you for opening up this discussion. It so happens I’m about ready to go back to a much more strict vegan diet to hopefully clean up some emerging health issues. I won’t be relying too much on will — other than not bringing certain foods into my home to begin with and trying to avoid restaurants. And I will be relying on lots of self-grown fruits and vegetables in the coming months. And I WILL need to cook better – I’m hoping I can get reasonably ok with making 5-6 low-fat, low-sodium, sauces to top my vegetables. Any great cooks out there with favorite recipes are invited to submit suggestions. Maybe JMG can gather them up for publication in a book about “Eating Retrotopian”? I rather suspect meat is going to become, again, a relative rarity during the massive die-off cycle you are predicting, JMG, and hamburger is simply not a wise choice without modern refrigeration as bacterial populations explode very quickly once you lyse cell walls.

  315. @ Shane

    Re the future of the US and the spirit of Wotan

    I don’t disagree with your over-all assessment. The collapse of the US empire is going to hit the American psyche extremely hard and the odds are strong (though not absolute) that an extreme reaction of some kind is going to result. Now things can change, and perhaps some acceptance of our decline will filter into our collective awareness, but a lashing out — at others or ourselves — is a likely possibility if things keep as they are. I guess the best we can do is to plant our gardens, raise our chickens (or rabbits or goats), and keep talking about the arc of decline and the world that is coming.

  316. John Michael,

    It may be so that the gap from goat to human is smaller than cockroach to human. When I say that I find humans to be in a new category of ability, I do not at all mean to make animals lower as someone might suppose. In fact I regard all life forms as far more aware and capable than our society generally does. I note that you seem to have a lower opinion of insects than plants.

    Of course you are right that we relate and understand animals better than plants. Nonetheless…plants are less differentiated than animals. But really, they are very different! The encyclopedia of chemical knowledge in plants is awe inspiring.

    So I do not necessarily lump all animals in one category. If we look at evolution it would appear that there are earlier and simpler types of plants and animals. First plants were algae, coniferous trees predated others trees, flowering plants were a later addition. Likewise with animals, there is a certainly a huge continuum, with some of them, such as dolphins appearing to possibly have something approaching a human level of intelligence.

    When you ask toward what are we advancing, well, this is where we disagree! I know that it is a tenet of Darwinistic evolutionary thought that there is absolutely no purpose or goal to evolution, and this is due to the fact that it is atheistic in its approach, so there cannot be any goal or purpose in their universe. To me, you seem to straddle the world of science and even scientism while also holding spiritual views that in this case, to my mind, isn’t really logical or necessary. I don’t find them compatible either.

    If we live in a universe with consciousness as its fundament and out of which the material world unfolds entirely supported by consciousness, then how or why would we assume that there are no goals?

    Part of the problem I think is that the debate over evolution versus creationism is one in which both sides are 19th century and earlier modes of thought, and in which the two camps are both too simplistic to describe reality. I’m leaning toward an endogenous intelligence that drives evolution, that is the life forms themselves have an inner intelligence that does have strivings. I also think that things evolve within patterns and niches that are probably templates. There also seems to be outside forces of natural cycles that drive the leaps in evolution. This does not mean that there is no room for creativity and unique avenues, but neither is it accidental. The accidental theory of evolution in my opinion has already been satisfactorily laid to rest.

    The human being is in a different aspect to his world than other animals both because of high intelligence and also because of our physical form. And, I suspect that our intelligence is actually way higher, and our spiritual abilities as well, as we don’t use most of our capabilities. When it comes to problem solving, several animals are so impressive that I worry that I might not be able to compete. I’m thinking of crows. But our intelligence is of a different order in that we have a global sphere of interests and abilities, whereas that crow is just really, really good at being a crow.

    The insistence on an accidental mode of evolution puzzles me. Why would the only avenue for genetic change be harmful mutations, against which the organism fights mightily and with excellent tools at its disposal that are themselves marvels of intelligence?

    So many of our bodily processes seem to our conscious minds to be sort of accidental and automatic, yet on a cellular and molecular level are astoundingly complex, intelligent and purposeful. Yes, they can be automatic but also respond in real time with changes if there are problems. I’m talking about digestion, cell signaling, the immune system and DNA expression. It has been found, for example, that bacteria faced with a problem and who then mutate, can turn on mutations in specific parts of the genome that are appropriate and when they get the needed mutation, they turn it off again.

  317. Okay, I’m going to chime in again on the issue of how I think different issues are getting confounded.

    To reiterate, I am in agreement with JMG’s position that there is no one correct diet for everyone.

    However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t one, some food stuffs that are probably not really good for any of us, and two, some problems with people eating a bad diet for reasons that have to do with the food system and the culture. These are different points from the one JMG was making.

    Foods that probably are bad for everyone are highly-processed junk foods with little or no nutritional value that were never part of any natural diet dictated by genetic needs. I think that’s part of the point some people are trying to make when they throw out broad statements about how the American (or western) diet is “bad”. That’s a broad over-statement – obviously, not everyone’s diet is bad – but it often comes from a reasonable point about the prevalence, and, I think it’s fair to say, frequent over-consumption of, cheap, easily-available, chemical-laden, nutritionally-deficient junk food. [Disclaimer: yes, there may be some processed artificial foods created for people with special dietary needs, like feeding-tube nutrition, that are a good thing, but that’s not what I’m talking about.]

    As for eating the wrong diet for your body, I suspect that plenty of people do eat a “bad” diet for reasons that have to do with availability and advertising. If you’ve been taught by the prevailing culture to eat a high-salt, high-fat, meat-heavy diet that’s low in fresh produce, and that diet isn’t good for your body – well, then you are eating the wrong thing. (The same way that eating a vegan diet that your body can’t handle is bad for you.)

    Given the American food culture, advice like “cut down on meat” and “eat more vegetables” and “don’t eat so much processed food” may very well be good advice for a lot of people, even if it’s not the right advice for those who are already eating the right balance of foods for their bodies (or for people who have gone in the opposite direction and aren’t eating the meat they need). Not that scolding people about their diet helps much, of course – especially when, when, as noted, so many people keep insisting on only one correct way for everyone – and affordability and access to good food are their own issues. I’m just saying that it probably is true that a lot of people have been taught by the larger capitalist culture to eat food that is high in profit for the producers, but not right for the consumers’ bodies, and that’s its own issue.

    And then there is the additional issue of where food comes from, that I posted on above.

    These are, IMO, all related issues, but one of the problems with these food discussions, not just here but everywhere, is that discussions that start on one issue (e.g., there is no one correct diet for everyone) go off onto all these other issues that are relevant to, but distinct from, the original point, and, well…I guess that’s all.

  318. Hi JMG,

    Amen! I spent my teens and early twenties as a literal bread-and-water, then hummus-and-rice, ascetic, with constant fasting (I’m a failed monk) — pure mind over matter. Not a great move, since as you so rightly say, body wins the intelligence contest hands-down every time. Now it did get me what I was looking for: self-righteous suffering. But it also wreaked havoc with my poor carcass, and hugely aggravated my genetic chronic pain condition (Ehlers-Danlos syndrome). At least the suffering wasn’t wasted though — it did pop me right out of Christendom…

    These days I let my body call the shots. Given my EDS, it’s an extremely strict taskmaster, and imposes an iron framework on my Aquarian-Cancerian lazybones tendency, which I’m very grateful for. It also put me on the primal track some five years ago — i.e., the less evangelical wing of the paleo movement; it prescribes a nice and relaxed 80/20 on-off proportion, and goes for complex carbs and dairy — and it saved my life, quite literally; after so many years of being a whole-grain dependent, fat-phobic mostly-vegetarian by default, my body, and especially my brain, came roaring back online the instant I start giving it what it actually wanted (speaking as a fellow Scots): lots of fatty fish and meat, lots of eggs, lots of veggies, especially fermented, lots of garlic and spices, and intermittent fasting. The chronic pain is always there, of course, but now mostly manageable, and my mind is infinitely clearer.

    The kicker is, I still really do enjoy nice, clean carbs — but within hours of indulging my baseline inflammation spikes wildly and the pain again becomes unmanageable. I still occasionally take the hit, of course (can’t socialize properly without carbs), but boy does my body make me pay. Fair enough: it’s just payback time for all the years I deprived it of lovely, lovely bacon. But there are certainly worse fates than being sentenced to a bacon-centric diet 😉

    The moral of the story: mind over body is a terrible idea when it comes to diet, and leads to crazy imbalances for years after, and perhaps even permanent intolerances, as apparently with most carbs in my case. And mind over others’ bodies, by way of diet totalitarianism, is far worse, and purest sorcery! Talk about creating real demons imaginally (shoutout to Robert M.). Primal happens to be my salvation for now, and I know of quite a few others in a similar, ex-extremist boat. But yes, your point is very well taken: let the body lead, roll with the lifecycle punches, and above all, experiment.

  319. @petervanerp:

    Thank you, Peter. I was trying to be as clear as I could. Clarity about demons seems to be essential if one is to avoid becoming their food or their slave.

    There is one thing I forgot to mention when I wrote that comment this week. The quite natural processes that enable humans to create our own internal demons are the same natural processes by which the small child also creates all of its many selves (both its Waking Self of the moment and its many Sleeping Selves) that I briefly discussed in a comment to last week’s post. There’s a lot to be said about these processes in esoteric terms, but for now it’s just enough to note that a child is born with them, that they need to be in good working order for a child to achieve humanity, and that they begin to operate as soon as the child begins to interact with the ever-changing world around it — probably while the child is still in the womb.

  320. On the religion of progress, it occurred to me recently that this is actually an anti-religion.

    It is the anti-religion of ancestor worship. Which is to say that it is ultimately a creed of ancestor trashing, and contempt for the dead.

  321. Chrisroy–Me too! Nutritional yeast on popcorn, with a little lemon pepper, yum! Until my old hippie friend showed me that, I was mystified by the stuff. You’ve inspired me to smuggle some in the next time I go to the movies (why hadn’t I thought of that myself???).

  322. On the subject of diet … I just found my stored link to this article again:

    I have no idea whether the sicence here is sound, but IF it is, then there are obvious implications for (1) all this week’s discussion of diets and (2) the specifics of the impending collapse that our host has been discussing on line for so many years.

    Any takes on this from people knowledgeable in the relevant sciences?

  323. @mmelvink Your story is similar to mine. I have EDS and consuming the right balance of food helps keep my pain at bay also. I believe that knowing our ancestry can shorten the learning curve in getting to the right general balance. My own background is Irish and Scot and Norwegian.
    I don’t know if it would work for you, but I found that putting on at least 10 pounds of muscle and having a daily workout to keep the muscle wasting in check helps keep me fairly pain free most of the time. Notice I say most of the time. It’s not a miracle worker, but it has improved my life. I still dislocate, but it has cut down on the frequency of that too. I still use a cane sometimes too. Oh, that 10 pounds? Keep in mind I only weight about a buck oh five soaking wet, lol.
    Do you also have issues with extreme weather changes? I do, Texas isn’t exactly my best friend. I miss Monterey where the weather was practically the same everyday with only the most subtle changes seasonally.

  324. Robert, Peter, let’s definitely arrange something, I have both your emails, and will be in touch.

    Spirit, thank you. I’m still quite a bit short of my threescore and ten — to be precise, I’m six months into my twoscore and ten — but I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what my body thrives on, what it tolerates, and what it really doesn’t like; that’s an idiosyncratic mix, to be sure, and it’s also constantly changing. (I didn’t do much with kimchi until falrly recently; now I make it from scratch, according to a constantly mutating recipe, in half-gallon jars.) I have no idea what I’ll be eating a decade from now, but it’ll be chosen on the basis of what makes my body happiest.

    Nancy, and that’s also a point! I’ve noticed that for some people, their childhood comfort foods, even when those are “unhealthy,” are more effective than medicine at treating minor-to-medium health conditions…

    Booklover, seems plausible to me. The myth of a golden age is one of the two great myths of our culture — the other being the myth of progress.

    Just Me (if I may), I heartily second the recommendation of Tinkyada pasta. My wife has celiac disease, so gluten-containing pastas are not an option for us; most gluten-free pasta is pretty ghastly, but Tinkyada is as good as standard pasta, with the right texture and mouth-feel and a very pleasant taste.

    Gnat, you’re right that I tend to be a bit brittle toward the vegan scene, but it’s not a function of my macrobiotic past. It’s a function of being repeatedly assailed in public places by vegans who felt that their diet gave them the right to bully and berate others. Have you ever seen a vegan glance in somebody else’s shopping cart, see meat there, and go into a full-scale screaming meltdown right there in the store? I have — and it was my shopping cart that had the meat in it. (This happened in an organic food co-op on Capitol Hill in Seattle in the late fall of 1999). That was the most extreme situation but it was far from the only one, and let’s not talk about the endless sneering putdowns and the rest of it. Maybe it’s my Aspergers syndrome, but I have a very hard time with that kind of thing, and it left me with an extremely negative take on the vegan scene — not to mention a fondness for eating bacon cheeseburgers with gusto in the presence of evangelical vegans.

    That said, as I’ve commented rather more than once, I also know vegans who are perfectly civil, who don’t push their diet on other people, and who don’t think their diet justifies crass rudeness toward the rest of the world. By and large, they’re also the people who seem to find that a vegan diet really does agree with them. If you’re one of those, and a vegan diet is what your body wants and needs, then go ye forth and do that thing, and enjoy it!

    Onething, yes, that’s a very common set of beliefs these days. I disagree, of course, but I’m sure you realize that! From my perspective, every living thing fills a spiritual niche just as it fills an ecological niche; every living thing is equally necessary, equally adapted, and equally “advanced.” Souls move from one living form to another in the process, as the old triads put it, of “being all things, knowing all things, and suffering all things,” and this form we rather pompously call Homo sapiens is simply one of the stations along the route of the soul’s pilgrimage, no better or worse, no more or less important than whales and trees and blue-green algae. (“I have been all things previously,” Taliesin sang.) It’s easy to insist that human beings are “more advanced,” but to my mind that’s simply because we understand other human beings better than we do other species of animals, and animals better than plants, and so on; our supposed hierarchy of “advancement” is simply a reflection of the very narrow limits of our understanding; we don’t recognize the speech and thought of plants, the signs of their “advancement,” because their chemical languages differs so sharply from our auditory one, and so on.

    But again, you’re as free to hold your opinion as I am to hold mine.

    El, nicely differentiated.

    Mmelvink, I ain’t arguing. Fortunately I got over my strict macrobiotic phase fairly quickly, so avoided the kind of messy health consequences extreme diets can produce; and I’m also lucky enough to have the kind of digestion and metabolism that can handle just about anything with aplomb. Enjoy your bacon!

    Patricia M., nice. I like that.

    Phil K., interesting. I tend to see the myth of the golden age and the myth of progress as two sides of the same fantasy of linear time, each one the other’s antireligion…

  325. Dear Mr. Greer,

    What a lively conversation! At the risk of making it livelier: I note that the same evangelism one notes with regards to diet was once directed against alcohol, and is currently even more vociferously directed against smoking. In the case of smoking, would you say that the same logic might apply?

    More specifically: I have known people to make it into old age in relatively good health while continuing to smoke cigarettes. One of my favorite authors actually lived over a century and never gave up the habit. While I dislike cigarettes for their smell and feel that most people who smoke them tend to overindulge (helped, no doubt, by the addictive additives that tobacco companies put in), I find than an occasional pipe does me no noticeable harm (and rather a lot of mental good), so long as it’s actually occasional. Could it be said that different degrees and modalities of tobacco consumption might not be so harmful as the more strident (and numerous) voices tend to say? Is tobacco really the evillest of evils?

    I understand that there are differences, of course: no one needs tobacco to survive. One finds more of a similarity with alcohol in that respect. Still, there is medical literature on the benefits of moderate consumption of certain kinds of alcohol, while the overwhelming opinion seems to be that tobacco is good for nothing but thinning the population.

    In your opinion, is it necessarily so?

    Nick Ritter

  326. @Phil Knight: Yes, I think that idea has a lot of merit. So much of modern culture is a rejection of the old and a severance of ties with one’s own roots and ancestors. I see that as a central problem.

  327. @ Aubrey:

    Back when I was a long-distance backpacker and had a bit of extra muscle to spare, the pain was definitely less disruptive; but I’m an academic these days, so manage the EDS almost exclusively through diet (including medicinal vodka, preferably potato), which works well enough. Definitely: I too am physically genetically northern European, for better or worse, so fatty fish is my go-to in particular. And I’m in central South Carolina, which is basically paradise on the order of Monterey (but much, much cheaper), so no weather-related effects to report…

  328. Booklover,

    Weston Price did not study indigenous cultures as such. He looked for long-term traditional cultures that were also very healthy. Do you see the difference? He was not out to prove anything about any particular culture or age. He looked for people with good health and sound teeth, wherever he found them. Wanted to know what made people healthy and why he saw degeneration in health happening at home.

    And, for the last time, he did not promote any particular diet or way of eating. But he did note that there were a few common denominators, mostly that they ate foods of high nutrient quality and that all of them provided a lot more of certain nutrients than the western diet.

    Not sure what you mean about extremes. But his photos of parents who ate the old way and their young adult children who ate processed and denatured food were quite stark. We know very little about the iceman. Who knows what his diet or life was like.

    Some of the people he found, by the way, lived in Europe.

  329. John Michael,

    You know, I really agree with nearly everything you just laid out and don’t see it as incompatible, mostly, with my own beliefs. But I also doubt I will be incarnating as an amoeba or insect or even squirrel.

  330. @ Petervanerp, You’ve mentioned that you will be hosting the June 23rd pot luck. Might be a good idea to figure out how many people will attend. There are a lot of people on this blog! 20-30 would be sweet, 200-300 would be crazy, just say’n!

  331. Hello all,

    I must say that I deeply appreciate that while some topics generate lively, honest, and spicy exchanges, it never gets nasty or personal. This alone tends to encourage me to think about points of view I might have previously dismissed out of hand. Thanks for that, everyone!

    This particular thread also makes me grateful for my near corvid-like digestive constitution. Dairy and sulfites (sometimes) give me a burble or two, but otherwise I have many choices. Having choices is good!


  332. Fascinating, as JMG has mentioned, it is the magically illiterate, who do not “believe” in magic, who are most affected by it. Who easier to curse than the wasichu, with their Protestantism and non-magical rational materialism? Indeed, an outlook custom made for the wendigo.
    IDK, that American “can do” attitude that sees every predicament as a problem to be solved is part of the problem. Any one individual’s magic is limited in what it can do, especially if everyone else is getting possessed by the wendigo, say. The power is with the wendigo, not the individual fighting against it. I remember JMG saying that in the case of a society going mad along the lines of the Holocaust, there isn’t much one can do but leave. JMG had also mentioned that in the occult there is a belief that there is a karmic debt that what was perpetrated against the natives must in turn be perpetrated against the invaders.

  333. @ JMG & all
    I´d like to recommend a book that deals with food just like it´s been meant in this blog, presenting a path to self-trust and self-exploration: The Yoga Of Eating by Charles Eisenstein.

  334. @Booklover,
    oh, the madness seems to be exclusive to the US, not any other country. I’ve spent considerable time in Canada, which is about as close culturally to the US as you can get outside the US, and they are not bewitched at all like the Americans. Their primary anxieties are external–with the madness in the US, but internally, within Canada–all’s fine. I mean, a Trudeau is prime minister, how could things not be okay?

  335. @Booklover: I think you meant Weston A Price, not Michael Price. Your theory is incorrect on a number of points. First, he never said that all traditional societies had perfect health, nor that all of their diets were equally good. In fact:, he found a lot of variation from one group to another: For example, in Africa, he found the Masai to be in excellent health, while the Pygmy groups in the Congo much less so. Also, as I mentioned in one of my posts, of course earlier cultures had to deal with many factors besides diet: weather changes, crop failures, invasions and wars, epidemics, and many other things. Life was no paradise then or now! Also, Price had no reason to cherry-pick. He did not begin his research to prove any point. In addition to being a researcher, he was first and always a dentist. An exceptional one yes; long before he embarked on his travels, he became the first research director of the American Dental Association. But his passion was dentistry, and he wanted to find out why his patients had so many dental problems: cavities, infections, crooked and crowded teeth, jaw malformations, etc. He was working at a time when the world was opening up. His son worked at National Geographic magazine, which profiled many isolated cultures around the world, and those articles always commented on the strong, even white teeth of those populations. Dr. Price had an idea that nutrition was involved, and so he set out to see if this was so, and if it was, what were the elements in their diets that offered protection against tooth decay, and how did that compare to the diets of people in our culture. His work was surprisingly scientific for its time (1930s). His studies amounted to the closest one could get to a randomized, controlled study, today’s “gold standard” for scientific research. If you’d like to know more about his research, google “The Scientific Approach of Weston A. Price, by Chris Masterjohn for a very interesting article.

  336. Dear John Michael Greer,

    Thank you for replying to my question about why you would spend so much time fielding comments from your readers. Once again, I express my astonishment at finding myself checking in again (and again) on these comments– there is no other of the several excellent blogs I follow whose comments sections I would bother to scroll through, except on rare occasion. Many of the comments here are quite interesting and informative but, on the whole, what is more interesting to me is the way you respond to them and maintain, as you put it, “polite discourse.”

    And again, I am very much looking forward to reading your next blog post.

  337. @gkb,
    you know, by all estimates, many people in Europe were well aware of what was going on and opposed it in any way they could. I have no faith that the US will be exceptional in combating a descent into madness. Indeed, the Europeans probably had the upper hand and were better positioned to oppose mass hysteria than we are. They weren’t cursed with the internet or social media.

  338. Nicholas, I think the same logic definitely applies. I loathe tobacco — growing up with a two-pack-a-day smoker father, and spending car trips getting ill in the back seat from the smoke, will do that to you — but my take is that the crusade against it is heavily influenced by virtue signaling and puritanism.

    Onething, good question. Have you already incarnated as those things?

    Bonnie, I also appreciate the relative calm we’ve managed, even when discussing some very heated topics. (Of course you haven’t seen the trolls whose screeds got deleted out of hand…) Thanks to everyone for their efforts to keep the conversation cordial!

    Shane, true enough.

    Pamouna, thanks for the recommendation.

    Millicently, thank you. One of the reasons I keep with it is that the conversations are so good!

  339. @Onething, good for you! I’m sitting over here in Japan, totally shocked at all the Weston-bashing. Where on Earth did that come from? He documented his observations–so? I’m afraid to speak up for all the land mines.

  340. @onething,

    “Weston Price did not study indigenous cultures as such. He looked for long-term traditional cultures that were also very healthy. Do you see the difference? ”

    Exactly, and that is the problem. He cherry-picked healthy cutlures, looked at what they ate. Which only says, if you eat what they ate, it’s possible to be healthy. He did not look at cultures that ate in the traditional way and were NOT particularly healthy. Do you see the difference?

  341. @ mmelvink
    I didn’t realize the extent of the weather related issues until I moved to Washington State. So glad to hear you are in a good area. The west coast really did me a lot of good. Helped me listen to my body better really. It is my hope that after my husband retires that we can move and make a home somewhere with a calmer climate.
    I cannot imagine being an academic. I have to space out my writing and quilting with work in the garden and hiking. If I don’t take enough breaks from the chair I end up not walking for a few days.

  342. @Shane: I was not positing that a whole country would be exceptional; I was suggesting that *you* might — if you chose to view your situation as an opportunity instead of a time to panic. Or, rather, that anyone might. What is heroism or leadership but people doing exceptional things in difficult times? Of course, if you prefer to leave rather than lead, that is entirely your choice. In future, I would greatly prefer that you refrain from attributing to me attitudes I did not express and opinions I do not endorse. I merely offered you a couple of different perspectives from which to view the situation you described. If this caused you more pain and fear, I apologize. I already regret having spoken at all, and will certainly not press the issue.

  343. @ redoak – the thought has occurred to me. I have hosted up to around 40 in my yard. I have some thoughts in mind: one, start early and end late, so there will be coming and going; two, there are two public parks 5-7 minutes walk away to where we could decamp; three, I’m keeping that a secret. I will soon be posting a sign-up sheet, so that I have some idea what we’re in for.

  344. @ Lydia (and I guess Onething also), if you’re still listening, I had an insight in reading back over these comments. It ties into a larger issue around diet I’ve observed over the years that mostly goes unnoticed. I was going to mention it before but I figured it’d get lost in all the back and forth. My observation is that most diets today labor under what I would consider a blindness: the underlying unquestioned assumption throughout all of them is that they are all for adults.

    It became clear to me in reading JMG’s response to Travis. Notice what he said: “Whether or not you choose to eat a pound of sugar a day, with a spoon, straight out of the bag, is of no imaginable interest or concern to me. Nor is it a moral issue — it’s just a matter of what you, in the privacy of your own kitchen, choose to do.”

    Those of us who have young children would agree with this statement for other consenting adults, but not for young children. That is where the moral issue comes in. JMG has said elsewhere that he doesn’t have children, so I realize that it’s not on his radar, but allowing young children to eat a pound of sugar a day, straight out of the bag (depending on their age, and the frequency it occurs, of course!) is a moral issue, in my opinion. First, because they are not old enough to make an informed decision. And second, because they could (depending on frequency and particular circumstances) potentially do permanent harm to their bodies.

    This is not the place to debate whether this really is a moral issue or not, but the point I want to make is there are some people who believe diet in children is a moral issue (mostly those of us who have children, like myself, Sally Fallon, and I would guess you as well).

    I also believe diet in children is a special case that most “diets” simply ignore. That is one of the reasons Weston A. Price is so fascinating to people like us. He originally set out to find what was causing all this dental decay in young children. However, we must acknowledge and deal with the fact that even though Price never started a diet plan, due to the simple fact he was American, anything he said about nutrition (and particularly anything his more zealous followers said about nutrition) got wrapped up in the whole American diet scene. And thus his complete lack of identity as any kind of diet evangelist got buried under a tidal wave. Besides never offering any diet rules, he studied reproductive, gestational, and childhood nutrition. What American diet evangelists ever talk about those subjects? None, to my knowledge, except Sally Fallon. She picked up on this unique attribute and ran with it (and in the process became the first childhood nutrition evangelist that I’m aware of, but I assume there must have been others….and she also took on hostile food-processing corporations, so I can understand how she could become so cranky….but I digress….).

    And so anyway, this is yet another complicating factor to add to this whole diet discussion …….

    (Sorry JMG, I know I said I wouldn’t post another comment, please forgive me this one)

  345. Onething, I didn’t read the book of Weston Price. My suggestions had to do with the discussion about the book in this thread and the feelings probably attached to them. With regard to the iceman, scientists have found out quite a bit about the conditions under which he lived – my point was, that a traditional lifestyle doesn’t guarantee good health.

  346. Hello, here is a video fitting to the theme:
    Lets Cook History: The Medieval Feast (Medieval Documentary) | Timeline

    “In contrast with the common representation of the middle ages as a gloomy era haunted with famine, this episode provides a more positive view on medieval cuisine. Throughout Europe, medieval kitchens were often filled with innovative, healthy and savory dishes. Enjoy the elaborate information on the preparation of bread, meat, wine and herbs consumed in castles, monasteries and the growing cities.”

    Then this off topic one:
    Has it began?

  347. Pamouna, I’ve read Charles Eisenstein and enjoyed doing so. Don’t think I own any of his books but after I tidy the kitchen come the books so I might.

  348. You know, I should probably chip in my two cents on the “what’s happening to America” discussion.

    There’s a concept that I ran into a while back (IIRC back when I was trying to parse Fundamentalist Christianity) that sounds suspiciously like athe general form of Greer’s Law: when a person’s core myths are providing a bad model of the world, one common response is to double down and try to forcibly remove evidence that the model is failing. (Doctor Faust making more deals with Mephistopheles, anyone?) That’s especially true for myths of the “do this and attain utopia” variety, where the response typically is flavored as “you’re not pure enough for utopia” and/or “I’m in utopia but this doesn’t feel like it, so traitors must be taking it from me!”. Unfortunately, the traditional mythic narrative of the American immigrant, by my reading, is a utopian one, namely the immigrant escaping or transcending the problems of the Old World by coming to America. Like other utopian myths it survives reality testing about as well as the proverbial whelk in a supernova, and American history is littered with the results of doubling down.

    There’s a complicating issue at play. A few years back, I touched an entity that I suspect is the spirit of North America (or something similar). One of the overriding senses I got from that entity was that its native idiom was the cycle or wave – things going around the diameter of a circle from a point back to something like that point, merging into larger things which in turn make the same journey around their own circles and merge into larger things and so on. That viewpoint doesn’t mesh well with Western/Faustian linear expansion into spacetime, and the dissonance isn’t helping matters.

    My assessment is that the current American situation is another layer on top of all that. By my read that’s mostly due to a society-scale version of the same problem: both sides of the current American political divide achieved something that they thought would usher in utopia (the fall of the Soviet Union for the right, the election of the first black President for the left) and the promised utopia promptly failed to appear. (Compare the completion of Manifest Destiny under Polk, or World War I from the German/Japanese perspective, or Communist revolutions in general.) The response so far on both sides has been firmly in the double down category. I don’t see that ending well.

    (To quote a warning I got from an entity a while back (not sure which one unless it’s the spirit of North America I mentioned above, but whatever it is when it speaks I *listen*): “There is exactly one issue that matters in modern American politics, and it is this: the assignment of roles in a Rescue Game of national scale.”)

  349. Thanks blue sun for eloquent mediating..

    I want to add more of my understand of archbishop Prices work if I may. And why I insist on the term template. Im gonna approach this from the vantage point of diet pre and during conception.

    So if you want to build a house, you need a certain amount of building materials. Lumber, pipes, vindows, bricks, tiles, cables etc We have a drawing of a house and the materials needed.

    If you want to build a zebra, there is a certain amount of minerals, proteins, fats, sugars that are needed to build that zebra.

    Nature build things to be as strong and functional of possible. and that entails the golden ratio. Everything has a certain proportion and architecture that makes it strong and robust. So the zebra has a certain proportion of leg to body ratio, head to eye size ratio.. That nature has worked out to produce a strong zebra.

    What happens, if the builder of the house doesent have enough building materials? He will have to build a smaller house.

    What happens if the zebra mother experiences a drought when she is pregnant with her baby? She will build a smaller zebra.

    If the pasture for the zebra is extra poor, the baby might be born with severe deficiencies and not be fit for life on the savanna.

    To build a Full zebra there is a certain dietary template that needs to be in place.

    The same applies to humans. What we see today is that the template is not being fulfilled, and we humans with less full bodies. Narrow faces, needing glasses, braces, having to remove wisdom teeth from lack of a full jaw and face.

    There are many small narrow houses walking around struggeling, Because the mama and papa houses diddent eat enough doors, bricks, and timber to build a full functioning house. They need to learn about the proper template to build a full house.

    This is what prices work made startlingly clear for me. He made note that traditional cultures diet had 10 times the fat soluble vitamins and 4 times the minerals than that of the american diet of that time. Myself I am a product of my family straying from our traditional diet template. Which has its downsides. But also has given me vigor to reclaiming this power.

    We have to find something to belive in and work towards. For me the reclaiming the relationship with plants and animals to create a foundation for life is a nice driving force.

    JMG, what you are advocating in terms of diet. Is to me, to weak of a stance to address the severity of our degeneration happening right now. It is not taking it seriously. And I feel compelled to speak out. As I hope to reach out to people here. I am happy to see that there are many others who have fathomed the profound wisdom in Prices work. I respect and appreciate your work and I feel thankful and happy to share myself in this arena.

  350. Re virtuous breathing, virtuous defecating: It was either Camus or Sartre (I forget which) who posed the question, whether we could draw even a single breath without committing murder. But when it comes to eating and sexuality there’s significantly more volition involved, as well as significantly greater effect upon other beings. From your earlier response to my comment from days ago, you seemed to downplay that distinction.

  351. John Michael said,

    “Onething, good question. Have you already incarnated as those things?”

    No doubt! Although some people seem to believe that the human trajectory is separate from the animal, I tend to think that your interpretation is more likely. So yeah, what I was implying is that there is an increase in complexity and difficulty of lessons to learn, and that those life forms were probably transcended for a human a long way back. I doubt humans incarnate as animals very often, but if they do it would be something a bit more advanced and there would be specific reasons why they take that sojourn. I did hear a credible story of a human that reincarnated as a snake, though.

    What is more worrisome, is the nagging sense I get that I have been human, all too human in some prior lifetimes(s) and done some awful things. I have a horrid suspicion about the inquisition, perhaps it is nothing but imagination glomming onto a horrible possibility, but I suspect I have done very bad things, and also that I suffered a lot having to wallow in it in the between lives state.

    I now have a very strong reluctance to take anyone’s life or hurt anyone. I think I could pull the trigger in self defense but it would deeply ruin my day. I would be aghast at having been put into such a situation where I had to do that. All my life I have been a tad troubled by the fact that I am not entirely against the death penalty but I knew that I personally could never administer the jolt.

    I’m always amused by the endless speculations of people whether they are the reincarnation of Cleopatra or Einstein. What about all those millions of soldiers of fortune, pirates, lackeys for Stalin or the Gestapo? C’mon people, fess up.

  352. I believe the digestive system is more active than most people believe, and I agree it can put up cravings to help direct you. It will pluck what nutrients it wants from the passing food stream. Also since so much effort went into obtaining and chewing food, the wild omnivore put on fat rather than abandon available excesses. An omnivore must take what it can get, and make the best of it. Hence, a varied diet that *can* supply what we need is important: we must get the things we need from our food. Furthermore, over time an omnivore will evolve to *depend* on a varied diet. Specialists will have facilities for converting a single raw input into everything they need, but a generalist diet can allow the genes for those facilities to atrophy and so grow dependent on the diet (see vitamin c for an example of that)

    This theory explains why a modern eater can be both obese and malnourished. Modern food systems optimize for growth rate and shipping resilience, not for nutrient density. If we lack something from our system-provided diet, the craving won’t go away. While waiting for the desired nutrient to float by the food stream, the body figures it might as well store some of the excess for future hardship, after all, effort was ostensibly used to obtain and chew that food, and it would be foolish to just pass it undigested (nevermind the effort and chewing are negligible now…)

    Humans are even adapting to industrial food-systems already. My wife can eat carbs much more freely than I can, and I think it has something to do with her being european. People there have a long history of eating carb-heavy meals, but my mixed north-american/metis background means every carb-heavy meal goes right into the (proverbial) spare tire. If this system persists (hah) we’ll eventually evolve back into grain-eating specialists by simply granting metabolic syndrome to anyone who doesn’t have suitable genes.

  353. Sgage,

    “Exactly, and that is the problem. He cherry-picked healthy cultures, looked at what they ate.”

    Why yes he did…because he was interested to find out how societies that were healthy were eating. That was, like, the whole point. The use of the accusation “cherry picking” is not appropriate to this case. That there may be less healthy cultures was not the point. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to study health and study what works. Cherry picking is when you falsify data by manipulating it so that it gives a false impression.

    A lot of the things they ate, we can eat. A lot of them we can’t. He was looking for overriding principles, because the people he studies were all over the planet, from the arctic to the jungle. There were quite a few useful principles that we can take from it. You don’t have to eat grasshoppers, there are lots of options. One of the big points in his book was the wide variety of healthy diets that work.

  354. I have tried very hard to keep out of the whole diet quagmire within this week’s comments, but something in TorgeirN’s recent comment crystalized for me just what has kept my teeth bared in a silent snarl and my hackles raised very high indeed all this week:

    “We have to find something to belive in and work towards. For me the reclaiming the relationship with plants and animals to create a foundation for life is a nice driving force.”

    No, *we* don’t have to do anything of the kind, TorgeirN. There is absolutely nothing in the universe that (almost) all people *have to* believe in and work towards: never has been, never will be. That way lies madness, and great evil follows in its wake.

    Dissensus is the single most important thing people can cultivate in any time of crisis, not consensus! And not any community in belief and action!

    It has not been anything about the content of Dr. Price’s book at all, at least not for me. It has been a visceral reaction to what has felt, to me at least, like a stronger push toward consensus and community than is usual here.

  355. I remember being cornered once by a woman – an acquaintance, who lectured me at length on the Horrible Evils of Milk and the nasty things it did to one’s digestion. I listened patiently and said “I’m of Northern European ancestry. They kept cattle for thousands of years and mutated to digest milk quite nicely. But I do understand” about lactose intolerance, and sympathize.”

    Her response was to double down on the Horrible Evils of Milk. Sigh. Scots-Irish, German, Norman English, and what-all that ended up in Buckinghamshire before coming to America…pour me another glass, waiter, and cheers!

  356. @TorgeirN and blue sun, It has made my heart happy to read others’ comments who appreciate Price’s work. TorgeirN, I love your explanation of the human dietary template as the building materials of a house–brilliant! And blue sun, I’m so glad you added the point about children and pre/post conception proper diet for them–so important to Price, and to us all. I also loved the quote from St. Francis–thanks!

  357. @Nick,
    Antismoking efforts are a manifestation of the US’, and the West more generally, biophobia. From an economics/business strandpoint, it marks big sickcare’s victory over big tobacco’s

  358. I recommend we start a pop culture phenomenon, like the Tide Pods thing: the “sugar challenge”–sit down and eat a whole pound of sugar out of the bag!

  359. One thing before I go on to individual comments.

    At this point the Weston A. Price fans have dropped into one of the common habits of people trying to push an agenda on an unrelated forum: carrying on long discussions among themselves about whatever their agenda is, without reference to the point of the forum, and applauding each other loudly. None of the latest round of WAPper comments here have been relevant to the theme of this week’s posts. I am therefore drawing a line under that part of the discussion; all further comments about Price and his theories will be deleted. Enough is enough; if you want to have a private conversation about your favorite dietary theory, please go do it somewhere else.


    Now, on to the relevant comments…

    Simo, a medieval cookbook would be entertaining — I bet everyone would find something to criticize in it.

    Voice, that seems like a useful analysis to me.

    TorgeirN, I wonder if you have any idea just how exactly you’re mimicking the more fanatic macrobiotic people I knew back in the 1970s. If I had any reason to doubt that the Weston Price thing has turned into a full-blown dietary cult, you’ve just removed it — and “degeneration”? Dear gods, do we have to do through another round of that toxic rhetoric again?

    Phutatorius, no doubt.

    Onething, good! Back in the day we used to talk about the “Cleopatra Criterion”: the more glorious the past lives somebody claims, the more of a doofus they turn out to be in this life. I think it was the occultist Francis King who commented that he knew seventy people who all claimed to be the reincarnation of Aleister Crowley, and he believed them all, since each of them had about 1/70th of Crowley’s charisma and wit…

    Christopher, that’s valid. I’ve noted that the diets people thrive on often, but not always, reflect the diets of their ancestors. (Me, I’m an exception to that trend — I’m healthiest on what amounts to an east Asian diet.) As opportunistic omnivores, we’ve evolved the ability to assimilate a lot of things, and since Darwinian evolution focuses on the species rather than the individual, the fact that some of us aren’t well adapted to the diets available to us — even to the point of getting sick — is just one of those things.

    Patricia, I’ve fielded that same lecture.

    Bonnie, you’re most welcome.

    Shane, you do get a rush out of, ahem, manure-stirring, don’t you? The challenge I’d recommend instead is getting people to eat, page by page, whatever diet book they spend their time praising… 😉

  360. “Would you rather take your chances with Odin, or with the frost giants?”

    Why Odin of course.

    The moral ambiguity I described is based on the present moral and ethical worldview of mainstream Western civilization, particularly in North America. It’s basically a dumbed down derivative of Judeo-Christian morality.

    As Spengler and other scholars have pointed out, other cultures and civilizations have often had quite different systems of moral and ethical values, including ones in which very different things are considered to virtuous or immoral and systems where the morals of the gods were considered to irrelevant because the gods simply are what they are and we humans are incapable of fathoming things that are far above our level of consciousness. I believe it was Iamblichus who said that all things which happen, without exception, serve the purposes of the gods, even those things we consider to be evil or senseless.

    As the 500 year old experiment in Christianization in North America winds down, we will see different systems of religion, morality and ethics arise. I believe that one of the reasons why Asatru has a bright future ahead of it is because it will be much better suited to the realities of life that are coming both in Vinland and Europe.

  361. Armata, my point exactly. A deity — or anything else — doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth one’s enthusiasm. As I see it, one of the great negative impacts that Christianity has had on the western world is the extent to which it’s fostered the bizarre notion that what is good in one sense has to be good in every sense; I don’t believe that’s true of deities, and I’m quite sure it’s not true of anything closer to the world of human experience!

  362. Don’t post….
    Having just read both Hali book in the last week or so, and WP two plus years ago, I say the degeneration he is talking about is almost the exact opposite of the kind you wrote about. But thanks for stopping the WP war. It was getting boring.


  363. Fantastic topic! My personal experience with a radical change in diet begun when my gal bladder became a health issue. After getting it removed there were a number of things I could no longer eat because they would make me sick. Paying attention to what my body craved and what my stomach would tolerate was an interesting sync I hadn’t had to do before. Nowadays I feel more in-tune and it’s easier for me to hone in on the best meals.

  364. @ voiceoftaredas

    Very interesting observations. Carl Jung pointed out that the land of North America has its own distinctive influences, what might be called morphic resonances to borrow from Rupert Sheldrake’s terminology. Jung pointed out that gringo cities unconsciously reflect Native American influences (the skylines of modern American cities bear an uncanny resemblance to pueblos from the Southwestern US) and white Americans have a Native American look to them that they are incapable of perceiving but which is unmistakable to perceptive foreign visitors. Franz Boas and Oswald Spengler noted the same thing.

    So it seems to me that a big part of the problem is that we have people from the European diaspora trying to impose cultural patterns that conflict with the underlying patterns of the land itself. Attempts to impose a linear perspective of time don’t help either. The Faustian concept of linear time is itself a derivative of the Magian concept of time, but stretched and distorted, something Spengler goes into great detail in The Decline of the West. The underlying reality throughout the universe and not just in North America is cyclical and not linear, so its not surprising that Western attempts to impose a linear model on everything has resulted in disaster on such a consistent basis.

    At some point, the Faustian pseudomorphosis that has been imposed on North America will go dissolve and new ways of life and ways of thinking that are more appropriate to the land will emerge.

  365. This has been a fascinating topic and lots of great comments. My own wife has gone head over heels for various diets. The one which she keeps insisting is the best and was rather pushy with was a raw food diet. I always found an incredible amount of holes in that. The most astounding though is the idea that you can get all the nutrients you need from the sun.

    My feeling though has been, and even more so now after sifting through some of the comments, is that this need to push a diet on people is due to people lacking any tradition, spiritual or otherwise, with which to follow. As has been mentioned, this whole world is going through a craze. Most of it can be attributed to a lack of connection with the world around them.

  366. @gkb-

    (If I may)- I very much appreciated your comment of Feb 4 at 7:59 pm in reply to Shane. It has given me a lot to think about, and I hope you don’t regret the comment after all. It seems to me that one of the true mysteries in human experience is that we are never sure what shores the ripples begun by our actions will ultimately reach. So I want to thank you for taking the time to make such a thoughtful contribution, even though it wasn’t originally aimed at me.
    –Heather in CA

  367. TorgeirN said:
    “We have to find something to belive in and work towards. For me the reclaiming the relationship with plants and animals to create a foundation for life is a nice driving force.”

    I think this is a statement worth meditating on, especially the first sentence. I do NOT believe that he’s saying “we have to find something that we can agree to believe in…” (though others may plausibly have read it that way, and still others may say similar things with that intent). What he’s pointing out is that many people appear to define their “selves” in terms of some arbitrary, simple identity: The Vegan has appeared many times in the comments above, and The Social Justice Warrior in previous discussions. The Football Fan is unlikely to appear here, but there are both collegiate and professional teams within a few miles of my home, and I can see markers of fan identify whizzing by at 60 mph. I don’t have a handy, dismissive label for TorgeirN’s chosen identity. In fact, it appeals to me. Whatever the identity one chooses, too much focus on that identity leaves one prone to evangelizing it.

  368. @Isabel: Yeah, the porn comment was mostly a joke, although I do think a lot of guys these days acquire a pretty skewed idea of average endowment that causes a lot of unnecessary insecurity before it’s unlearned. What I was really trying to say was that if there’s anyone out there pushing a narrative of masculinity as inherently violent, controlling, and brutish it’s not feminists, at least none I’ve actually encountered.

  369. The relativity of things and the limits of ethics when applied to the ‘divine’ are the theme of the well-known (Sufi) tale of Khidr (the ‘Hidden Guide’, the ‘Green One’) and Moses: without going into details, Moses gets to see him by chance and hitches along while Khidr goes about his business in the world, – proceeding to do all kinds of utterly unethical and quite shocking things things.

    Moses protests at each instance, and is eventually dismissed by Khidr, essentially for having over-estimated his perceptive capacities in spheres beyond his understanding.

    The measures to be applied to the gods are clearly not those of everyday morality.

  370. PS The notion that there is a single set of correct beliefs and behaviours to which everyone should adhere is surely reminiscent of ‘Soviet Man/Woman’ and ‘Fascism’.

    This way of thinking did not, to say the least, produce ideal societies and relationships…..

  371. I’d like to suggest one alternate possibility for an indigenous spirit that may be stirring in the American unconscious: Tezcatlipoca, the Aztec god of – quoting Wikipedia here – “a wide range of concepts, including the night sky, the night winds, hurricanes, the north, the earth, obsidian, enmity, discord, rulership, divination, temptation, jaguars, sorcery, beauty, war and strife.” If you squint, you can see parallels with Wotan, right down to the self-mutilation in pursuit of a mythic goal and the association with magic and divination. The wiki article mentions a pair of anthropologists who describe him as “the embodiment of change through conflict”, and one of his titles translates to “Enemy of Both Sides” – certainly an apt description of the madness pulling Americans into opposite sides of a vast culture war.

    Just one hypothesis, of course!

    @Simo: The Dow plunge is concerning, no doubt. Especially with the money quote, from the White House no less, literally saying “the fundamentals are strong”…

    @Shane: Not sure I follow the logic re: tobacco. Wouldn’t it be in Big Sickcare’s interest to have more people suffering from cancer and emphysema? Anything that improves people’s health by changing their behavior rather than paying for treatment reduces the health industry’s bottom line.

  372. @Xabier: Thank you very much for the tale of al-Khidr and Moses, which I had not heard before. It’s a keeper, and I’m keeping it. I am of much the same mind as the Green One in that story, but somehow I had never run into it..

    Also, you seem to me to be right on target in reminding us of the totalitarian push, on the one side, toward the new Soviet man/woman, and on the other, toward the Aryan/Nordic ideal of humankind. The old left was alive, well and strong in Berkeley in the ’50s when I was a ‘teen there, and it led me to develop an enormous aversion to every sort of utopianism and idealism.

    That did drive my over-the-top reaction to ThorgeirN’s post. Lathechuck points out that ThorgeirN probably did not mean it as I took it, so I want to apologize for my misunderstanding.

    Lathechuck is surely right about people who define themselvs in terms of some simple identity (vegan, Patriot’s Fan, warrior for human rights, supporter of Sanders, or of Trump, etc.). I don’t do that, myself, so I didn’t pick up on that implication of ThorgeriN’s post.

  373. @Fred: I think that, to Shane’s point, “Big Sickcare” can benefit financially both from cancer and emphysema on the one hand, and from jacking up smokers’ insurance and pushing (and charging for) “Quit Plans” on the other. That latter side of the coin is one I’m familiar with as someone who is reasonably healthy, moderately athletic, but who nevertheless persists in occasional pipe-smoking: the Health Care and Health Insurance industries (or should that be “industry”, singular?) make their dime off of me one way or the other.

  374. @gnat (hoping I’m getting this in under the wire): Is peanut butter too high in fat? Because if it isn’t, I have a good recipe for maafe (African peanut stew). I don’t have my commonplace book here, but I seem to remember it’s 1/3 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup tomato paste, a tablespoon or so of berbere spice blend (if you can’t find berbere anywhere, you could probably substitute chili powder with a bit of sweet spice like cinnamon or cardamom, or sweet curry powder), a chopped onion, a couple cloves-worth of minced garlic, a teaspoon or so of minced ginger, and broth/water to thin as needed. Oh, and thinly-sliced jalapenos if the berbere’s not hot enough for you. I’ve had it with all kinds of root veggies and different kinds of greens, but I’m sure it’s good with just about any vegetable. Serve with couscous or injera. I believe maafe is West African, but I’m also working on some Ethiopian recipes, since they have a great tradition of meatless “fasting” foods.