I live in a culture that thinks ‘business as usual’ is by default, a good thing. It is part of how western culture expresses its power over nature that it can carry on regardless of what the weather is doing. We don’t shorten our working days when the nights draw in. We put our lives at risk driving through ice and heavy rain to get to work. And if you had an outdoor activity planned and there’s a heat wave, slap on the sunblock and carry on as usual! There’s mounting evidence to suggest that sunblock won’t stop you getting skin cancer. Removing the natural warning sign of sore, red skin, you may get a higher level of cell damage and never know there was a problem.
Go into a pharmacist and you’ll find all kinds of ways to mop up the symptoms of illness. Dry up your cold. Suppress the cough. Hold back the diarrhea and get back to the office. Never mind that these are the means by which your body is trying to get poisons and diseases out of your body. You also need antiperspirant, so as not to smell bad or look damp. Never mind that sweating is a way of dealing with overheating, never mind that sweat smells bad because we’re getting toxins out of our bodies. Sweating is antisocial and should be stopped so that we are better able to be crammed into tight, airless spaces without offending each other’s nostrils.
Triumphing over nature – be that the weather, or our own bodies, is part of what makes modern western culture the way it is. To go faster, do more, be awake longer, travel further, and never stop being busy, we do all kinds of things that are not natural and suppress rather than answering our physical and emotional needs. It’s worth looking at how this manifests in your life.
I use caffeine to push my brain and body when I’m tired and should be resting. I use electrical light to extend my day, despite how much better I like natural gloom and sleeping a lot in the winter. I can’t get enough done that way. I buy some pre-processed food because cooking absolutely everything from scratch takes so long (Biscuits and cakes, sauces, rice cakes, tvp, and other snacks). I use sugar to push my energy levels up so that I can do things that otherwise might be too much. I use pain killers to keep going when I’m bleeding, and St John’s wort to keep going when I’m depressed. I let keeping going be more important than healing, dealing with underlying problems, or resting.
There’s a lot of room for improvement here. If we want to live in harmony with nature, our own bodies are a good place to start. If we could collectively learn how to live with our own bodies rather than trying to triumph over them and make them into smooth, convenient plastic, we might do a better job of living more harmoniously with everything else, as well.