We’ve likely all felt it at some point in our lives – those depressing days (or more) when we walk through the world feeling like we’re traveling on a separate plane of existence from the rest of the happily coupled and connected human race. For some of us, however, these blips in social well-being take on a chronic trajectory, an ongoing emotional journey of their own. Loneliness can seem like a self-exacerbating condition. We’re isolated, and we’re unsure how to break through it. Some of us enjoy lifelong proximity to extended family, intact partnerships and childhood friendships that take us from grade school to grave. For many of us, however, we socialize more on Facebook than at our kitchen tables. We might have a strong core (“nuclear”) family but no friends in our current locales that we could call on at 2:00 in the morning.
Pretty much every post on Mark’s Daily Apple takes up the question of how we can be happier, healthier and more productive in the modern world. We eat well, exercise effectively, play frequently, sleep deeply, socialize meaningfully, create freely, de-stress religiously and sun ourselves daily. They’re the tickets to a well-rounded and healthy life today, and they all not-so-coincidentally supported the survival of our ancestors. They’re the primal stuff of life – of what it means to be physically and cognitively human. I think we’d be remiss to not include in this list the also very human concept of giving.
In her book about human-animal relations, Made for Each Other, Meg Daley Olmert tells the story of C.J. Buffalo Jones, a 19th Century frontiersman who, in her words, “witnessed one of the last demonstrations of the natural order that shaped the logic of our ancestors” and left record of it. “On a hill in Canada’s Northwest Territory,” she explains, “he watched herds of caribou congregate until all the eye could see for ten of miles around was a giant mast of animals whose antlers became a mighty forest. For several days this living landscape flowed past him day and night.” The number, which Jones estimated at 25 million, absolutely staggers the modern imagination.
Whether or not his approximation was accurate, still the size and force of such an experience seem beyond comprehension. Yet, it’s exactly the kind of natural event that inhabited our ancient ancestors’ communal consciousness and, not surprisingly, directed their cosmology. As Olmert suggests, it’s a major mental stretch for us moderns “to fathom a world in which we were not the top predators.” Yet, we evolved not in a state of dominion but coexistence, observance and even reverence for nature’s many forces.
Turning 60 a few weeks back was quite a trip. It’s one of those milestones that prompts reflection as well as plenty of celebration. (My wife, Carrie, is always good about getting me to do that part.) I’ve known for many years that hitting 60 wouldn’t be the bleak event our culture often makes it out to be. Personally, I don’t feel like I’m slowing down any. Nor do I have plans to. I don’t feel like life is shifting into retrospect. Doors of opportunity and innovation aren’t closing. Honestly, I find life to be more full of possibility than ever. A huge part of this, I believe, has been refining my life’s purpose. As always, I want to be a good father, husband, son, friend, etc., and I feel more deeply and confidently about these roles at this point. In terms of my vocation (because it’s much more than a job for me), I feel like I’m just getting going. I’ve been involved in health and fitness all my life, but in the last several years I’ve come closer than ever to feeling like I’m centered in the crux of that vision. I’m interested in helping people get healthy and thrive to their fullest potential. That’s exactly what I get to do each day, and it gives me satisfaction – and purpose. The whole reflection got me thinking about the physiological (and maybe even Primal) connection: does a sense of personal meaning translate into health and longevity?
It’s inevitable at some point. Beyond the safe and sympathetic community of MDA and other like-minded cadres, we move through the rest of the world on a day to day basis. It’s likely we even stick out at times. Some of us go barefoot when/where it’s socially unacceptable. Some of us (not me, thank you very much!) sleep on the floor. A few of us have squatting toilet accessories in our bathrooms. A number of us have assembled small CrossFit style gyms in our cubicles. Others store an astounding supply of lard or homemade jerky in our homes. We tend to skip the bread course in a restaurant – perhaps the most controversial of all choices…. When people notice what we’re eating or not eating, how we’re exercising, when and where we’re sleeping, they might begin to wonder (especially if we’re wearing a “live long, drop dead” t-shirt). When they begin to wonder, they often want to ask. Many do. Some, scandalized or seized by concern, may caution, direct or cajole. Sometimes they mean well. Sometimes they’re just mean. How do we deal with the naysayers in our lives? Who are these people, and how do our responses vary given our relationships? Think for a minute. Then sit back with your Primal egg coffee and entertain these possibilities.
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