Preserve What?

My facebook feed is packed with nonsense that is hard to decipher. This is peak Facebook, and what I think is the reason I engage on the platform. The only reason I have it is because it's the best way to communicate with students for activities and such. Without it, it was very hard to get student response. They just do not reply to email at all unless they think they are going to fail a course. It doesn't matter what I'm offering to them. If I didn't direct a debate program that engaged in travel, I wouldn't have a facebook at all. 

Currently my facebook is making too much sense, filled with postings of people who are obsessed with preservation of life and time: Endless posts about marathons, half marathons, triathalons, quarter marathons, yoga, whole 30, whole 60, paleo, semi-paleo, carb free, sugar free, gluten free, etc. The list continues to permute itself into a tizzy. Why such obsession with control of the health of the body and the length of the life?

There is a purely selfish reason that I can get on board with which is that doing these things makes you feel better, more alert, and awake during the day. I do think this is convincing. Less convincing are all the arguments about being a good person, doing a good thing, or eating the way we were intended to eat. All of these are rhetorical constructions designed to persuade us of something. Policing our body's environment or our body chemistry is a way of feeling like we are in control, that we are good people, that we have made good choices, and when we see someone overweight we can know we are better than they are.

There is a great feeling of the loss of control right now, in politics, government, the environment, and other systems. It's the breakdown of the persuasive power of ideology in the face of the collapse of institutions' ability to successfully deliver that promise. Faith in institutions is incredibly high, so high that we have turned over our wishes and desires to them in toto. How many failures will it take for the institutional system to collapse? We aren't there yet but we do have a model - the Lehman Brothers collapse. This only (!) included subprime mortgages lent out by bankers who just wanted to make money (this is still the number one reason my students say they are pursuing their choice of major) and didn't notice their desire was collapsing the system that allowed them to do that. Up next: the consumer credit collapse and the higher education collapse. These will not be so isolated. I think we can feel it, so we police our body chemistry in a way to make us feel that somehow we are in control of something. 

Obviously we are told to police our body shape, but this is so we can consume particular things instead of others. We can't have health collapsing consumer markets, so a consumer narrative must be created for those who don't want to participate in the donut and Dorito life. If this were more about health than policing bodies into a particular relationship with their material selves, we'd have legislation against particular kinds of foods, not subsidies for their creation (such as corn). 

I'm still going to keep eating donuts and Doritos. Let the cheese do away with me silently in my sleep. Why preserve my life? So I can increase my risk of dying in a violent mass shooting event? So I can feel sad and powerless in the light of such violence which will inevitably continue as long as I breathe? So I can keep reading about the systemic injustice we perpetrate on others in the name of the good, democracy, and so forth? So I can talk to my future students and tell them cute stories of what birds sounded like? What honey tasted like? What strange varieties of fruit we could buy? When the sky wasn't always an angry, dust-filled red? When the oceans weren't pea-green and steam didn't waft from them during the day? To find out what happens on Young Sheldon? Everywhere you turn there is nothing but the visage of horror. What exactly is the point of hanging around this place for so long? Pass the pasta, let's order a pizza.

At times when I don't feel so crushingly down about the world and being in it, I wonder why and how quickly this happens. Just a few hours ago I was having a great day. I had read on my friend's facebook about his nervousness in the face of heading to an unfamiliar town to do some teaching. He said, "It will be ok because I will do my best." I thought that this was a good thing to hold close to my heart as I approach these stress filled days. It seemed to be working. But if you structure your days like a Jenga game, it's going to be unsustainable. Things sort of fell apart this evening. 

I do face everyday trying to do my best, but inevitably I am torn down on all sides. I think that it could just be perception, but I feel like every pivot I make just puts me face-to-face with another issue to resolve. On other days, this isn't reality. But the slide is so fast, and so inevitable, one has to wonder about where it comes from. I think I need to construct a respite from all the crazy work I make for myself and have one place where I can go and not feel a demand to make things better. I think that place might just be when I read and write.

Why preserve? What is being preserved? Just live it out, and create from decay. The concept of Charnel Ground is a good one to think about. Monks who could not resolve the attachment to life would meditate in the middle of it. Life and death, siblings not enemies, together because they grew up together. They eat together. They play together. We are with them now.