The Adversary

Between the Western separation of body and mind (and spirit,) the American fetish of thinness, and my own experiences with varied ailments and trauma, over my lifetime, my body became my adversary. When there was pain, or a new something to deal with, the thought “why is my body doing this to me?” was the automatic refrain.

I have been befriending my body slowly, carefully, steadily, deliberately, over the past several years. And although that process is far from complete, that refrain no longer has teeth. With this journey into this new territory called cancer, some clarity has come to me about how this journey is to be embarked on – how this new territory is meant to be discovered.

“Fighting” cancer, “beating” cancer, is the most common metaphor I’ve come across. “It’s me or the cancer” this metaphor seems to say. But, in reality, the cancer cells are mine – they are of my body. They are acting in ways that are consistent with their own instructions, even as they get in the way of other processes in my body.

I don’t want to take away the metaphor of the “fight” for others on this journey – we must all choose the metaphors that work best for each of us. But for me, this will not be a “fight.” There is no winner and loser. I will do what I can (including Western medical treatments) to heal, to diminish the cancer’s growth and effects, maximize my body’s vitality. But really, there is just me, the cells inside me, and death, which will come, sooner or later.  (By the way, it is unlikely this particular bout of cancer will cause my death – among cancers, it’s fairly low-risk.)

I had a conversation with a friend this morning about the healing available in being able to face the uncertainty of death, to embrace our fear, embrace how we wish to look away, to deny, to deflect its reality. That is also part of this journey into this territory called cancer. I will see how fear peeks out behind a bush as I round a corner, notice where it arises from the mists in front of me.

I happen to be reading a great book by Cynthia Bourgeault about the Gospel of Mary Magdelene. In that gospel, Jesus said:

Attachment to matter gives birth to passion without an Image of itself because it is drawn from that which is contrary to its higher nature. The result is that confusion and disturbance resonates throughout one’s whole being. It is for this reason I told you to find contentment at the level of the heart, and if you are discouraged, take heart in the presence of the Image of your true nature. Those with ears, let them hear this.

I’m sitting with the notion that attachment to matter is my true adversary. Attachment to matter brings judgement – judgement of my body, my condition, of myself, of others. Right now, I’m looking for contentment at the level of my heart.


“Food Babe” vs. “Science Babe”

lh6dpf6ihthiuqnlqogxThere was an article in Gawker, titled, “The Food Babe is Full of Shit,” written by The Science Babe. It brutally takes down Vani Hari as someone who peddles pseudo-science. The Food Babe responded.

So what to believe? What’s true? They are both right and wrong.

Yvette d’Entremont, aka “Science Babe” says, in reference to Hari’s suggestion that a certain Starbuck’s drink had a ‘toxic’ dose of sugar: “The word ‘toxic’ has a meaning, and that is “having the effect of a poison.” Anything can be poisonous depending on the dose.”

Then there is this quote:

According to Hari, the problem with most of them, including Girl Scout Cookies: GMOs and pesticides. She’s even alleged that an apple can be worse for you than a hot fudge sundae, if it’s not organic.

The basic problem with this whole debate is that it’s about acute (and sometimes carcinogenic) effects of certain chemical additives in food in individual people. Yvette focuses entirely on that aspect of this argument, and, frankly, that is Hari’s focus mostly as well. But the argument is much, much bigger.

First, there is the difference between acute toxicity – something that an amount of sugar in even the most sweet of drinks most certainly does not have, and chronic toxicity. Most scientists who study this stuff agree that excess sugar over time has very deleterious health effects, and is also addictive. And yes, Hari is wrong about the apple. A non-organic, GMO apple is a lot better for you than a hot fudge sundae.

But the real argument, the one we should be having, is about our food system – how food is grown, how large companies control it, how companies add ingredients (mostly sugar) to make processed food tasty and addictive. (As well as look  good and last long.)

Also very important are the ecosystem questions – d’Entremont doesn’t address the massive problems our modern food system (including GMOs.) In fact, although I try my best not to buy non-organic or GMO food if I can help it,  I don’t really worry so much about the effect of those foods food on me. I worry about the effect of those crops on the ecosystem.

I will not defend Vani Hari’s psuedo-science – there is plenty of it. That said, people that question the food system are needed, because the food system is broken, and d’Entremont’s takedown of Hari doesn’t really substantively help the debate.