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August 4, 2010

Extinct Ideas

Month 8 of my new format featuring a monthly update on me, my community, and the environment.


I’ve gotten a lot of response regarding my Yeats poem and the more I think on it, the more I’m starting to view myself as Oisin. Oisin was the only mortal in a land of immortals, where no one aged: Tir Na Nog. Matthew McConaughey explained it best when he famously said, “I get older, but they stay the same age…” In Dazed and Confused this is meant as a positive, but imagine Oisin’s dilemma of being aged in an ageless society and you’ll understand my situation.

I’m in my final weeks before school begins and I can’t wait. I’m thoroughly excited about attending class, carrying books, reading, doing homework, but also meeting new people and joining clubs. Dixie is not quite as excited since I’m spending all day with her this week and she wants my schedule to remain completely hers.


The house, which I call the Tellum House on account of it’s “party in the front” bar and “business in the back” office, requires a lot of work. I was out in the alley chopping down eight-foot tall weeds with my machete and I was thinking about how there should be a machine for that kind of work. My weed-whacker won’t chop down trees and a chainsaw was overkill. The lawn mower won’t cut anything near that tall so I was in between my existing tool set and had to rely on muscle.

Using my muscles to work in the “field” simultaneously evoked two thoughts. A mere 150 years ago, I would have been borrowing muscle labor to accomplish this task, probably in human muscle. It seems to me as if more time should have passed, but this was extremely recent in our history. At the same time I was thinking of the steam engine and the Industrial Revolution and how muscle could have been replaced by machines more than 150 years ago.

I know this is what John Henry is about, but I never made the connection that people were holding on to their abominable custom when viable replacements were readily available. Did industry end slavery and not human good will? Was corporate greed actively lobbying for a complete and immediate change in the primary way work got done in the South to make a profit? It’s a chicken and egg debate and the truth is difficult to know since industry would claim the answer was humanitarian, but cynicism begs to differ.

I’ve also heard that “fat asses don’t get dessert”, which was memorably proven by a little-known philosopher of ill repute, but I got to thinking that it’s not just the dessert; it’s the meal. I was discussing nutrition, a subject with which I have little mastery, with my sister and her BFF and I was going on about how lower quality foods are higher in fat, sweeteners and salt, but are amazingly inexpensive.

I realized then that it stood to reason that poor people should also be fat. This is a paradox in that at some point poor people should not be able to afford enough food and then should be thin out of starvation, but what is actually occurring is malnutrition sets in while you simultaneously gain weight. Also, when you are making buying decisions using the Walmart philosophy, “Save Money. Live Better” you are increasing your chance of obesity.

In fact, the studies support my thought experiment. The Journal of Nutrition, recently had this to say, “Our results are consistent with a growing body of literature that suggests the relationship between socioeconomic status and obesity is positive in lower-income contexts and inverse in higher-income contexts.” (Google it)

This conclusion answered some questions in my mind about why wealthier people were always thinner while I was growing up. Even as a kid I wondered how they stayed thin and I knew “good genetics” was a crap answer. I know now that by trying to save money on food, I was making a poor choice for my overall health and my physical appearance. Take it from me; the grocery, or when deciding on a restaurant, is not the time to be cheap. If you want to lose weight, eat better (more expensive) food.

I realized that I had been manipulated by statements that used to be true such as “poor people are thin” and the antiquated idea had prevented me from realizing an obvious truth. I think this is perhaps part of how people could continue owning slaves, by mistakenly thinking that there was no other way to get the work done.

Sometimes the world changes and we don’t notice it. We cling to outmoded ideas because they have always been true, but in hindsight our errors will become glaringly obvious. This process is more difficult for our elders, and it’s up to the youth to point out where and how the world has changed.


We used to be able to take as much as possible from the environment and put as much waste back as possible without any negative consequences. This idea is extinct. We now live in a densely occupied closed system. Our modifications to the system are tangible and have measurable effects. We cannot continue to be manipulated by statements that used to be true.

Song of the month:

I set up my sound system and record player and I've been spinning Otis Redding to listen to the full horn section. He was a powerful artist and makes the kind of music that few people can manage. I put these lyrics in here from "Try a Little Tenderness", but I can't impart to you the importance of the horn section in these songs without you actually listening.

     oh she may be weary
     them young girls they do get wearied
     wearing that same old miniskirt dress
     but when she gets weary
     you try a little tenderness