I’m off to NYC next week to spend a few days at the BEA (Book Expo America) and attend a meet-up organized by John and Melissa. I get a real sense of excitement and anticipation – and maybe a little unease – whenever I leave my pastoral digs in Malibu for the bright lights and big city. I love a good visit to a major metropolis, but the impending trip did get me thinking about the effects of city living on mental well-being.
Those who live in a city (by choice and not just circumstance) love something about the bustle. Where others see mayhem, they see mosaic. There are the people (and people-watching), the cultural offerings, the sporting events, the restaurants, the public space, the public transit, the eclectic neighborhoods, open air markets, street musicians, and general tapestry of cultural, commercial, artistic, and architectural nuances that make for rich living. On the other hand, there are the massive throngs of said people and their vehicles moving at every speed, in every direction. There are the flashing lights from every corner and kiosk. There’s the perpetual roar of traffic, the horns, sirens, and car alarms that go off at 3:00 a.m. There’s the pollution, the crime, the buses that don’t stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.
Unless the afterlife has wifi, I can presume that you’re alive and reasonably well if you’re reading this post, so I’m going to assume you’ve been successfully breathing for some time. You get enough oxygen into your blood to support your physiological requirements and power your limbs, organs, and muscles. You know how to inhale, and exhaling is a breeze. You even know how to breathe through your nostrils like a champ. In other words, you can breathe well enough to live. What could you possibly be missing?
There’s a pretty good chance you aren’t breathing correctly. At rest, when sleeping, while running – you can probably breathe different and breathe better. Okay, you’re willing to accept that, as a whole, we’ve missed the mark on a host of supposedly mundane activities – eating, exercising, sitting, sleeping, standing, washing, heck, even pooping – but breathing? You’ve gone too far this time, Sisson. You’re firmly in the deep end. I breathe just fine.
I consider myself a pretty social person, but I’ll admit I need my “cave” time – those periodic hours away from everyone and most everything. After a long and compact business trip, a joint vacation with extended family or friends, the ruckus of the holidays, or a week of house guests, I hit my threshold – beyond which I slip into an irritable, irascible version of myself. Usually my wife catches it before I do and gently reminds me to retreat for a time until I’m fit for society again. After a brief self-imposed seclusion (usually a day of hiking), I’m as good as new. In short, a bit of regular solitude keeps me civilized.
Olive oil’s reputation has been besmirched. It isn’t the magic life elixir fueling the teeming hordes of Mediterranean-dieting, crusty bread-eating, moderate wine-drinking centenarians, but it doesn’t deserve to be tossed in the trash heap with soybean, grapeseed, corn, and canola oils. I sense that it’s fast becoming a “fallen fat” among our crowd and I think it’s a darn shame. Are a few extra grams of linoleic acid, one or two unfortunate incidents of adulterated oil, and gushing praise from vegans, vegetarians, and the American Heart Association alike enough to turn us against a staple, phenolic-rich food sporting several thousand years of storied history?
Let me tell you a story I recently heard from a friend of mine. My buddy has a pet that is one of nature’s most ferocious and stubbornly independent obligate predators, a creature that quite honestly has no business living among the gentle citizenry of refined society. A creature that frequently enjoys the luxurious trappings of civilization while periodically giving in to base desire. I refer, of course, to the common house cat. The house cat, unlike its larger canine counterpart, maintains close ties to its recent wild past. Feline domestication happened a scant few thousand years ago, and it’s only in the past half century that cats have moved into the house.
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