Selective Absolutism

Every couple of months I will see a friend post something on Facebook that has to do with the healthiness of certain every day products.  This causes cancer, that causes autism, etc.  I catch this most frequently when the product they’re targeting is artificial sweeteners.  I’m a sucker for Splenda in my coffee.  There are really two issues at work here: one, people believing some crap they read on the internet and sharing it without verifying it.  We’re all probably guilty of that to some degree so I won’t throw stones at that one.  But two, many people act like absolutists, when in reality, they’re being very selective about their absolutism.  So, let’s unpack that one.

“You put Splenda in your coffee?  You’re gonna die!”  Okay, so that’s exaggerated, but only slightly.  I’ve had numerous people over the years lecture me about this.  At first, I was genuinely concerned, so I went out to see what the scientific community had written.  There are indeed white papers that say artificial sweeteners cause cancer.  If you look a little deeper though, you’ll see most of these were funded by the sugar industry.  Hmmm, wonder why the sugar industry would do a thing like that?  Every scientific study I could find that was unbiased and looking for the truth had inconclusive results.  So, we don’t know that Splenda won’t give me cancer, but we don’t know that it will either.  

I always start here, with the evidence on the particular claim. However, a lot of people don’t believe me.  Feeling smarter than someone else, whether you’re right or not, is a powerful drug. If I don’t know the person, I then start asking question about their lifestyle.  If I know the person, I start tearing apart their lifestyle.  “So, let me get this straight.  You’re lecturing me about putting a little Splenda in my coffee that we have no strong evidence about, but I know for a fact you have a pack of cigarettes in your car?”

That’s not hyperbolic, I’ve actually said that to at least one person throughout the years.  That guy also lectured me about eating apples because of the pesticides sprayed in orchards. I asked him what he thought they sprayed in tobacco fields.  He switched to American Spirits after that.  

The reality is that we all take risks every single day.  Some of these are known risks; we smoke, we eat fast food, etc.  Most of these are easily avoidable, but eating a Big Mac a few times a year as a treat isn’t going to hurt you.  Eating one every day for lunch is another story.  Some risks are inherent, we don’t know what’s in the air we breathe or the water coming out of the faucet, but we don’t have a choice in the matter.  Most of us also don’t have a choice about being in an automobile and on the roads every day.  If we don’t drive, we’re still susceptible to those who do unless we stay in the house all day.  You can walk, bike, or take the bus, but you’re still out on the roads.  

If you want to have a conversation with a loved one about their smoking, horrible eating habits, texting and driving, etc. please do.  But please don’t act like you’re perfect and high and mighty.  Even those who obsessively read the ingredients to everything and worry about everything, they’re not healthy either.  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a real thing.  

We’re human.  We’re going to be imperfect and we’re going to view the world through a selfish lens. I’m defending my use of Splenda, when in reality, I should drink my coffee black.  The difference is, I know I am doing this, I do not think that I am better or my habits are better than someone else’s.  Before we go around criticizing others’ choices, we need to be aware of our own contradictions and hypocrisy.  

Life is All About Conflict

Once upon a time, life was nothing but conflict and struggle. Struggle to keep yourself and your children alive, struggle to find food, struggle with disease, struggle to stay warm and dry in the winter, just struggle and more struggle.  In modern times, we’ve solved many of these issues that we dealt with for thousands of years but what we cannot solve is the fact that we’ve evolved to overcome adversity.  If there is no adversity to overcome, we need to create it.  This is why many people run marathons, do crossfit, take incredibly challenging jobs and this is why many people hunt.  These people have found healthy outlets for their need to struggle.  However, there is a growing segment in our society that wants to deny their nature. I won’t go into all the areas where this is happening, because you could write a book about it, but there is a general emptiness and unhappiness that resonates from people who deny their nature in the name of “progress” or modern times.  Sometimes their goals are well intended, but you don’t undo hundreds of thousands of years of evolution just by saying, “this isn’t the way it should be” and then getting mad at those who don’t comply and calling them nasty names.

There is infinitely more peace and freedom in accepting your nature than in trying to deny it.  

Paraphrasing John Lennon, peace is here if you want it.  I don’t mean it in the same way he did, I don’t have the same faith in human nature that I think we will end all wars, but I do think internal peace is here if you want it.  And who knows, maybe if more people find that internal peace, we can end all wars. But you have to have some peace in your own heart before you can make peace out in the world.

We crave that conflict and struggle.  But instead of looking inward for conflict, we glue our eyes to social media to find out what crazy thing Donald Trump or Maxine Waters has said today so that we can get outraged.  We crave those dopamine hits from the anticipation of our anger no differently than a drug addict or porn addict crave their next hit.  We focus on the brokenness of the world so that we don’t have to face the brokenness of our own hearts and lives.

Life is about conflict, but you have the choice of where to go to battle. You can go to war with the world and you will continue to struggle and never get ahead.  You will never find peace because you will never conquer the world, in fact you will only sew hatred and vitriol as you fail at saving the world.  Or, you can go to war with your own heart.  You can heal yourself, find your true nature and embrace it, becoming a happier, more loving and better human being.  Not only will your life improve, but you will improve the lives of the people around you.  

I cannot tell you what this looks like for you, only that I can easily tell the difference between those who go to war with the world and those that go to war with themselves.  I can tell you to look at biology, evolution and history for clues, but there are too many variables and one size does not fit all.  I can tell you that all human beings are spiritual creatures and you should pursue that, but, in spite of my own beliefs, I cannot tell you which path to take.  I can tell you that you should put down the phone and turn off the TV and the laptop every now and again.  It’s good to ingest as much knowledge as possible, but unless you spend some quiet time in reflection, your ideas are not truly your own, but rather a regurgitation of something you heard or read somewhere.  Go get quiet and make up your own damn mind.

I can also tell you that while you alone cannot change the world, you can change the world around you.  Redirect some of that energy you spend on politics or sports on your children, your spouse and your friends and family.  Your relationships will improve which will provide you with a happier and more emotionally stable life.  

Hunting is one way I exercise my true nature.

Hunting is as human as sex.  Those who would tell us to give up hunting are the same ones constantly pushing sex in our faces.  Sex is part of being human, it’s part of being a mammal, but so is hunting.  We are, thanks to technology, more often predators today than prey, but sometimes, we’re still prey.  I live in bear country, but every time I go off into the mountains and sleep in a tent, I inevitably hear from multiple people, “Aren’t you afraid of bears or wolves?”  Usually I answer, “no”, but this hunting trip I’m about to go on, I have to admit that I am a little afraid.  If all goes well, I will have an elk on the ground and I will be focusing on dressing and butchering it to pack out.  Bears are looking for one last meal before hibernation and it doesn’t get much better than a dead elk.

That fear makes me feel human.  And feeling human, truly human, is one of the most liberating feelings there is.  Rather than running from that fear, or letting that fear control my life, I am embracing that fear.  When I am in the mountains with bears and wolves, I am at the place in the food chain God intended me to be.  I am not in some high-rise apartment in New York protected by armed guards having my food delivered to me.  I am taking risks that others cannot or will not take and because of that, I will have rewards that others will not reap.  

I’m not really much of a 21st century man, but I’m trying to be where it makes sense.  My wife is currently the breadwinner in our family and I do my best to support her.  I usually am the one who quits work early to pick up our daughter and my ego is not bruised by any of this.  However, though I pray I never have a need to, I will not hesitate to resort to violence if necessary to protect my family.  I will leave my family for a period of time to go hunt.  I will be the Christian leader of the household God calls me to be.  Not everything that has been done for eons needs to be replaced.  In fact, I’d argue, we need to keep tweaking how we do things, but in America at least, I wouldn’t call for an overhaul of any institution or cultural more.  

Conflict is natural.  Conflict can be good.  Conflict, when handled properly, is how things grow.  So, the question you have to ask yourself is, “Am I engaging in conflict that is going to make me be a better person?  Or, is the conflict I’m engaged in really only designed to make me appear like I’m already a good person?”