Wednesday, December 25, 2013

That Little Voice

The Buddhists say guilt is useless, but regret is something you can work with.  To reflect on and improve yourself, not to wallow in, of course.  When you hear that little voice in your mind that warns you away from something, or the much rarer one which urges you to take this chance, do you let it be heard?  Do you usually just do what you think you're supposed to do or are resigned to?

When you're young and ignorant, and mindful of the sanctions that can be imposed if you step out of the conga line to make your own moves, it's harder to trust that voice at all.  You don't have much experience, don't really know what's true and can't spot manipulation or misinformation.  After much experience in life, if you haven't started trusting that voice and taking it into every decision, well, you've aged but not matured.  Thinking about it, I conclude I should have listened to it every time.

My mother believed everyone was allergic to hundreds of substances, and over the years concluded she had the experience to diagnose exactly what those allergies were for those around her.  She forbid my father to eat peas, salmon and lettuce, for example.  When I was a pup, the forbidden food list began with cottonseed oil (a cheap commodity then prominent in many foods such as mayonnaise and bread) and progressed to such things as all nuts, chocolate and citrus fruits.  We all believed it because were the adults in your family not trustworthy (I felt OK not trusting the discount dentist, but kept it to myself)?  Here's the thing, though:  as I grew, read and thought about things, it seemed logical to test these allergies one at a time in the spirit of scientific experimentation, because I had previously eaten some of these things without incident and many others very like me did so regularly, the only difference being the hundreds of scratch tests I had undergone on my skinny back.  To my curious head, it seemed if even a medical professional scratched your skin with a needle and dropped some concentrated liquid on it, there would probably be no other result than redness.  This just did not seem like proof of anything, and a pronouncement by my mother that a bout of sickness or a rash somewhere was caused by eating something so obviously inherently good as oranges or peanuts did not either.

 I had the subject (me), the time to note and observe, and a spare few bits of change to obtain each item and try it.  Of course, I had no reaction to any of those foods once consumed except a little glow of happiness.  They could have the cottonseed oil one -- who cared about that?

That was the first voice I remember saying that something I was told by a higher authority was just made up.  Funny, if I made up a crazy story it just got me in trouble.

When I worked for the science museum, the local Dairy Council approached us with cash in hand to sponsor an exhibit.  They also gave us a giant trade show exhibit about the glories of milk, which took days to assemble and promptly became a maintenance nightmare (no parts list, instructions, schematics, spares or anything came with it).  I did plunder the thing for years for salvage to re-use, so that was really no loss except for time.  I was really salivating to get my hands on the $1500 or so for the small portable unit they wanted based on the famous "food pyramid."  I never did the exhibit and so had to forfeit the money, which never happened before or after.  Why?

The little voice told me the official USDA food pyramid was just wrong, and I couldn't go along with it.  The wide base in the graphic was all grains, as the prevailing wisdom then (and mostly now) was to eat a whole lot of grain each day, with less protein and very little fat.  It seemed reasonable, but the findings since then have shown that all those carbohydrates and empty engineered grains and starches have a whole lot more to do with obesity and disease than good nutrition and health, and good fats don't really make you fat.  I didn't have any of the information on this to go on that's come out since the time I bailed on the exhibit, but somehow I knew it was the right thing to do.  It's odd, but no matter how much you know or don't yet know, that little voice does seem to know.

I can think of job interview situations stretching way back where the voice was pretty clear:  "get out now!"  It was right every time.  I did not, however, listen every time, and paid the price.  And the times I should have listened and avoided any further interaction with some people?  Yeah, you guessed it.

Someone's sitting in the living room right now because I did listen to the most important message sent by the internal oracle over the years:  "She's the one, dummy.   Let her get away and I'm never speaking to you again!"

'Nuf said.


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