Diane’s fall, ignorance, our industrial food system, and butterflies
by Rob Tiller
On Thursday, Diane (Sally’s mom) had a bad fall while walking her greyhounds and got an ambulance ride to Rex Hospital. One of the EMTs on the ambulance somehow got our number out of her phone and let us know. Diane’s symptoms included short term memory loss, dizziness, weakness, and confusion. She thought it was 1929.
After various tests, including a CAT scan, the neurologist concluded that she had a mild concussion. After a few hours, she started improving, but she’s still feeling very weak. Sally has been spending most of the last couple of days with her in the hospital, where she was generally impressed with the professionalism of the staff.
Our brains are so complicated, and yet so delicate. And there’s so much we don’t know . An op-ed piece in the NY Times this week made a case for teaching ignorance. It sounds odd, but actually make sense: we need to understand better how much we don’t know. Relatively little in our world is known with scientific certainty. As we learn more, we also see how much we have to learn. Creativity lies in this ambiguous territory where the known meets the unknown.
This week in the gym during an early morning workout I finished reading (actually, listening to the audiobook of) Michael Pollen’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. It’s a serious but elegant book about food, from the production to the harvesting to the consuming.
Pollen does a great job in the early chapters of summarizing the bizarre state of our food system, with its extensive dependence on corn, which is grown with big government subsidies and without normal market pressures and then transmuted into high fructose corn syrup and hundreds of other ingredients in our food, not to mention our meat.
He does a good job sketching out the problems of our industrial production of chicken, beef, and pork, including the cruelty to the animals, the spread of disease, the massive greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems. He ends up feeling badly about meat eating, but not badly enough to quit. I wasn’t much enchanted with his final chapters about hunting and killing a wild pig and serving it and other forest foods to his accomplished foodie friends.
We all have difficulty with seeing things we don’t want to see, even when they’re right in front of us. That is, most of what we see and think we know is what we already believe. So it’s remarkable when someone questions the well-settled status quo. Last week his week the NY Times had a piece on judges who are questioning long prison sentences and other inhumane features of our criminal justice system. It’s good to see those involved in running the system are having their doubts.
For the first time this week I went up to Durant Park. It’s in far North Raleigh, a 25-minute trip from here, but I was glad I made the effort. By a small lake there were many active butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies, including quite a few that didn’t mind having their picture taken.