Thursday, May 9, 2013

A change of mind

Have you had a dramatic "change of mind" about something, anything, in the past year? The past 10 years? If not, I must either applaud you for having it all so fully figured out, OR express my sorrow for your death of which you may be unaware. I was quite struck when I once heard that if I haven't changed my mind about anything in years, then apparently I am no longer thinking, or growing, or even living. This raises a great question for us to ask one another. So pour two glasses of wine and ask your spouse, or friend, or parent or adult child: "Tell me about something on which your thinking has dramatically shifted (presumably “evolved”) in recent years. Perhaps you will hear about a shocking change of political party registration (and I don't care which direction). Or a change in position on drug laws, or abortion, or same-sex marriage, or the Second Amendment and gun control, or gender issues, or the Middle East (and again, I am not anxious or quick to judge the position; I am most fascinated by the fact of change and how and why it came about.) 

I am happy to have experienced a few dramatic changes of mind on some significant matters. To explain would require much more than is appropriate for a blog post. But this notion of "Oh, how I have changed" occurred to me on an insignificant matter the other day:

I once placed great confidence in my Vitamin C, echinacea, ginkgo biloba, St. John's wort, acai berry, and wheatgrass. At this same time, I thrived happily (and made a good living) in a litigious culture where civil claims for damages were proffered at a rate far exceeding one per second. Some were claims by homebuyers and tenants who alleged injury and damage due to "toxic black mold" which may have been sniffed out by a specially trained "black mold dog" or scientific equipment resembling a Geiger counter. When discovered, the house would essentially be "Red Tagged" and a lawsuit filed.

My life was good, but I now I live differently, in a different culture, in a home where mushrooms grow in the place of non-existent baseboards. (The mushrooms started growing only after I got the upper hand on the mice that previously trampled upon the spores as they ran track around the room perimeter.) So I looked upon these mushrooms growing in my bedroom and thought, "Hmmm, how I have changed, but I feel just fine." BTW: Vitamin C, echinacea, ginkgo biloba, St. John's wort, acai berry, and wheatgrass are unavailable to me here in Rwanda and I do without. In truth, I now think of such "nutritional supplements" as silly witchcraft. I know and respect that many of you strongly disagree, but I simply eat fresh and local, and again, I feel just fine. 

Can you eat what grows up from your bedroom floor?
Post Script: I knew I was making a regrettable mistake as I typed the words "silly witchcraft." I confess that I am prone to strong over statements for which I must later seek forgiveness and better explain myself. Responsive emails came within minutes after I posted those words. 
I certainly do not mean "witchcraft" as in "from the dark side." Nor do I mean that ALL such "nutritional supplements" are totally fraudulent. But I do believe that we are inclined to put much greater faith in their efficacy than is supported by reliable research. Echinacea and massive doses of Vitamin C are not likely to harm me, but nor will they cure my cold in 18 hours (unless I am to get well within 18 hours anyway, in which event I swear to their effectiveness). Indeed, the latest studies conclude our love affair with echinacea and Vitamin C (which began with Linus Pauling) is without scientific basis. I find it most interesting that (1) we spend billions of dollars on such nutritional supplements (billions that could be much better spent), and (2) we use such nutritional supplements with great intellectual pride for living at the forefront of the latest scientific discoveries, as we look condescendingly upon those in undeveloped countries who practice curious traditional medicine. We too practice the same traditional medicine. Some of it may be helpful; some of it is probably pure superstition.