After my friend Jasmine spent six weeks in Africa she experienced extreme culture shock coming back home. She as well as so many of us who travel, was unable to process everything she had just experienced. It got me thinking that while humans are great at adapting, we really aren’t made to travel around the world in a matter of a day. The journeys we take today would take months if not years before the industrial revolution. Naturally, we would have those months or years to process what we had just experienced. Now we get only hours and days and we are expected to adapt quickly, and be ready for the next moment. Our clothes still smell like foreign lands. Our bellies are still digesting foreign foods and our minds are still full of new people, new sights and new sounds. There is no grace period for us to adjust and because of that, special moments and profound reflection are lost.
The same can be said when thinking about the automobile. Octave and I walk to the library or the park for a play date and it takes forty-five minutes to get there rather than five minutes in the car. I have time to process what just happened, who I met, what I felt and what we talked about. I come back home and am able to be present because I worked things out in my head before I got back home. When I rely on my body for my transportation, my body is unable to move faster than my mind. The relationship between the two is more intimate. Living car free means that we have to give up convenience but we have decided that the convenience we give up far outweighs the deep meaning we gain. Naturally, the search for meaning, and the temptation for the easy choice among all our modern conveniences does not stop with the automobile.
I feel a similar struggle within our food culture, or lack there of. Fast foods, microwaves, and frozen dinners, are all very convenient but similar to modern transportation, much is lost. There is a loss of nutrients and a loss of human connection when we don’t gather around a table. There is even a loss our digestive system experiences. In massage school, one of my favorite things I learned is that the aroma’s we smell when we start to cook our food actually produces saliva that helps our bodies pre digest our food. The smells created from a home cooked meal prepares our body to absorb what we are about to eat. This is just one of the reasons fast food can be so dangerous. In a matter of minutes you can realize you’re hungry, decide what you want to eat and have it at your fingertips. The natural process your digestive system is supposed to experience gets completely lost.
I love finding parallels in my life and this week I realized that my reasons for not wanting to own a car or buy store-bought bread, are one in the same. I want my days to play a role in my survival. Just because I can do things faster and more efficiently with the help of modern conveniences doesn’t mean my life is going to be better. Now for some, that might not be true. Maybe those modern conveniences do improve their life. Maybe store-bought bread gives a single mom who works two jobs and is hardly able to make dinner come together at all, the ability to have more quality time with her children. Maybe a car is a symbol for survival and the ability for a man to provide for his family and without one his family would go hungry. I am very much sensitive to that fact that one size does not fit all, and I can only comment and reflect on my own life and my own experience.
After lots of thought and little experience I have come to the conclusion that I was made for the slow life. I was made to walk or run or bike. I was made to give my hours to rising dough, soaking seeds, fermenting kombucha, growing vegetables and teaching these traditions to Octave. I was made to take a few steps back from my culture and question. To make sure I truly understand why I wake each morning and make the choices I do. For Octave to not grow up lost in the confusion of pop culture and lazy parenting, I have to ask myself why. I have to weigh my options and make choices that suit my family even if they seem impossible or strange to others. I will make many mistakes as a parent and I already have, but I am determined to have solid responses to all the questions of why. Even if it all changes tomorrow, I want to know where I stand today. A seeker of truth, lover of the mundane and ambassador for the slow simple life, I am. Without a car and without a microwave we will live, and while our friends may wonder if we are turning Amish, I feel more human than ever before.
*Edit: This is no way means that I don’t believe in flying thousands of miles away from home to explore the world. I will forever desire to set my feet on foreign soil. However, I will think about all of the above as I do so!