Monday, February 1, 2010

The Burden of Enlightenment

I recall seeing a film once which had a scene in which a drunkard complained, "That's the trouble with you do-gooders - you want to spoil everyone else's fun!" I thought of that today when I went grocery shopping at the store I love to hate, Walmart (cheap prices and wide selections just barely make up for the maddening crowds, cranky and inept employees, and store layouts strategically designed to make you spend twenty minutes looking for just one item). In fact, I think of that film scene often, ever since I switched to my sugar-free and healthy lifestyle.

You see, I have dedicated large amounts of my time to researching and studying good nutrition. I can accurately estimate nutrition information on most products without even having to turn the box to the side with the nutrition facts. I carefully scrutinize my menus each week, checking to make sure that I'm eating all the right things. And because of my hard work, I feel great. My migraines have not plagued me in over a month. I sleep better. I'm losing weight. My skin doesn't break out as often. My hair is healthier. Even when I do get sick, like last week, I apparently recover quickly now. And, being a person with a strong sense of civic duty, I now feel like I should be spreading the "good news" of healthy eating to others. Except, I know most people would take offense, so I force myself not to speak (except in my blog, since this is MY podium, mwa ha ha!).

Today was especially hard. I wound up stuck behind a group of giggly college students in one of the aisles. From their sweatshirts, I discerned that they were Liberty students. I wasn't trying to be nosy, just to get past them, when my eyes caught sight of the horrors that filled their shopping cart: frozen pizzas, high-sugar cereal (about 40 grams per serving), cookie dough, Valentine candy, macaroni and cheese, regular soda, etc. There was enough sugar in that cart to kill a carload of diabetics. I shudder at the memory of that cart of horrors.

As I observed the girls loading their cart with more and more carcinogenic, artery-clogging, sugar-laden items, I felt a strong desire to scream at them, "Don't you see what you are doing?! You are killing your healthy young bodies! Yes, those tiny bodies that you proudly display in your skinny jeans and too-tight shirts. Don't you want to keep those bodies? Don't you want to continue to be able to walk into class each day without self-consciously sucking in your stomachs and feeling inadequate around the much-shapelier girls? Don't you want to reach your late thirties without being insulin-dependent diabetics? Listen to me, girls, and PUT DOWN THE SUGAR-LADEN DEATH-FOOD!!! White flour, white sugar, starch, starch, starch . . . Stop this madness!!"

Of course, I said nothing. I walked past the giggly girls, slightly ashamed of myself for letting them continue to kill their bodies with horrific food choices. I tossed a container of baby spinach into my cart, where it rested among the other low-sugar, heart-healthy foods, and headed for the check-out lane. Sometimes being enlightened can be a grave burden.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"