28 September 2006

Knowledge vs. Power

A recent concern of my wife's has sparked a series of conversations and investigations that are noteworthy. Our first two children (we have 3) are small in stature and quite thin. They have always been on the bottom rung of the growth curve, although their growth rates have been constant and otherwise healthy. Several pediatricians have explained to us that this is quite consistent with our height and weight and as long as they don't decline in their growth rates, there is nothing to worry about.

Unconvinced, my wife has recently begun seeking other culprits and solutions. She came to settle on the fact that because I am vegetarian we eat no red meat in the house, and relatively little chicken and fish. Otherwise their diet is well-balanced with lots of green leafies, whole grains, fresh fruit, nuts, a decent amount of carbohydrates and relatively low sugar intake.

In her quest to understand the issue better, she has asked a couple of well-known nutritionists and doctors about this matter, and according to her, they have all answered that children must eat red meat and drink cow milk in ever greater portions to grow normally, be strong and healthy. The other day we were at a social gathering with an otherwise well-informed and experienced homeopathic/acupuncture doctor, who promptly responded in this same vein. I politely asked if he was a nutritionist or had any studies in nutrition to back-up such a claim to which he retorted that this is common knowledge.

Sensing no room for discussion, I refrained from answering and tactfully changed the subject. My very well-intentioned wife is now properly armed for her meat and dairy campaign and I am beside myself with wonder at the facility with which our health authorities proclaim ideas about which they are essentially ignorant.

In fact, I am thoroughly convinced that recognized authorities in nearly every field of human endeavor are responsible for cultivating cultural norms that sustain the status quo. Health authorities prescribe reactive chemical medicine that usually creates more imbalance in the body than already existed; religious authorities resort to antiquated dogmas, meaningless rituals and fear tactics to appease seeker's desire for truth; educators force feed culturally dominant ideas in an environment of "child-centered discovery"; farmers and ranchers spray and inject chemicals and hormones that seep into and disrupt our bodies; development and economic experts convert human fulfillment into inaccessible and brainless formulas; and hold me back from articulating what way too many politicians do.

We the people, then, hold much responsibility. Primarily, our responsibility is to educate ourselves and empower others to search for truth, although this carries with it a corollary responsibility: to accept truth when it is found. Seeking truth is common to most everybody, even to all of the leaders mentioned above, but detaching oneself from material and ideological comforts to live by the truth one finds is where most fail.

My attempts to commit to this principle have caused me many apparently significant difficulties, but none as big as feeding my kids liver and milk to help them grow. In this lies our other great responsibility: to understand the process through which humanity, and each human being, matures, accept it, gently and knowledgeably prod it along and most importantly, get a good laugh out of it.

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