Paleof(x) 2017

Paleof(x) 2017

It’s that time again! The biggest and the best Paleo conference this weekend with a fantastic line-up of speakers. Wish I was there but looking forward to catching some of the presentations via the LIVESTREAM

Check out the SCHEDULE.

The following sessions look particularly good!

Art De Vaney on The Paleo Model of Longevity

Chris Kresser on Too Much Junk in the Trunk: The Growing Role of Environmental Toxins in Human Disease

Marc Angelo Coppola on Building Movements: How Sustainable Farming and an Education Based Revolution Will Change Our World

Kevin Johnson on Time In The Void: Flotation Tanks, Shamanic Journeys and the Esoteric Benefits of Floating – I have tried flotation sessions many times and can totally recommend them both from both a physical and mental perspective.

Trina Felber on Skincare. Cancer-Care. Sick-Care. Do YOU-CARE What’s in Your Beauty-Care?

Panel on How to Achieve Permaculture in the Digital Age

Wild Celebration

Wild Celebration

We do not have a large deer population in the Brecon Beacons but numbers in Wales have certainly increased over the last few years and continue to do so (although further towards the Wye Forest populations are much larger). Of our native species, Fallow Deer are the most common in Wales (introduced in the 11th or 12th Century. Roe Deer migrated into Wales in the 1970’s from the borders and are particularly at home in woodland areas. There are a small number of Red Deer in the Beacons (Wales’ largest native land mammal) that apparently originated from a deer farm in the 1980’s. Non-native Sica and Muntjac Deer are present in small numbers and the Chinese Water Deer are yet to become established in Wales. Obviously these increasing deer numbers have to be sustainably managed as they have no natural predators. Venison is a wonderful by-product of this management. The meat has an excellent Omega 3:6 ratio as the deer feed on their natural diet of grass and vegetation. It also has the highest amount of iron in any red meat.

I used my diced venison in a casserole with chestnuts and mushrooms and it was absolutely delicious. It had a very strong ‘gamey’ flavour which I love and was melt-in-the-mouth soft. For more information on game see the following excellent websites:

Taste of Game – fantastic recipes, news and information on this site. They are also promoting Great British Game Week. Check it out!

Game to Eat – Countryside Alliance campaign dedicated to increasing the eating and enjoyment of British wild game with lots of game facts, recipes, news and events.

The Wild Meat Company – mail order game birds and meat from Suffolk.

Wild Harvest Table: a US-based resource for game and fish recipes, nutrition information, and preparation techniques. Founders Moira Tidball and Dr. Keith G. Tidball also call for more research into the following:

1) Determining the importance of wild fish and game consumption to food security in local NYS communities;

2) Evaluating why people are motivated to eat, or not eat, wild fish and game;

3) Examining the importance or “legibility” of nutritional analysis for wild fish and game, and the way labeling influences consumer choices; and,

4) Determining how people learn about processing and preparing wild fish and game, and barriers to finding and adopting this information.

Check out Jeff Shaw’s Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog for a huge resource of game recipes and videos.

We are now in the run-up to Great British Game Week which takes place 22nd- 29th November and celebrates all that is good about game. Game meat is increasing in popularity and from a Paleo perspective, game must surely represent one of the best choices if we wish to eat as closely as possible to a hunter-gatherer template. Choosing our meat sources wisely and taking into account the ethical and sustainable factors in its production is something that I believe is crucial to a Paleo lifestyle. It is sometimes easy to forget about including game in our diets and it is great to see it promoted as a healthy, seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable food (along with 100% pasture raised meat).

I was surprised to see that one of my local supermarkets (Morrisons) is now selling wild venison (Fallow Deer) from The Wild Meat Company based in Suffolk and formed in 1999. It is quite tricky to get hold of wild venison locally unless we are lucky enough to buy some from our friends (although farmed venison is easily available). The Wild Meat Company also sell directly to the consumer via mail order and offer a range of game meats and birds.

Abergavenny Food Festival

Abergavenny Food Festival

We had a great day out at Abergavenny Food Festival at the weekend. The sun was shining and there was a fantastic atmosphere with huge crowds at this increasingly popular foodie festival. The event has been running since 1999 and having not visited for quite a few years, we were surprised at just how big it has become. Set in the spectacular scenery of Abergavenny, the festival showcases some of the best producers in the UK and is a must for anyone interested in good food.

We each paid £12 for a day ticket and although I had reservations about paying that much, on reflection I really think it was worth it. The festival was split over several sites and there was just so much to see (and taste) that it would definitely be a real treat to get a weekend ticket in future. We didn’t know if we could attend until the night before so if we visit again next year I would like to plan the day a bit better and make sure that I saw everything that we wanted. There are also lots of special events and demonstrations throughout the weekend but these are at additional cost. It looks wise to book as soon as possible as so many were sold out, especially if it is a ‘big name’.

Great to meet Juliet from Monmouthshire Turkeys. We purchased one of their organic, free range Bronze turkeys for the first time last Christmas. After much research and a ton of questions to various different producers regarding the welfare of their birds, we happily settled on Monmouthshire Turkeys. Founder Caroline explained exactly how the birds are kept and fed and was clearly passionate about her product.  We were not disappointed to say the least. My Mum thought it was the best turkey she had tasted and she is 85. We shall definitely be putting another order in this year and as always, it is a pleasure to meet and chat with the people that raise our food.

Some very exciting charcuterie producers were at the festival, including the excellent Trealy Farm. We bought some fantastic Fennel Salami, Spicy Chorizo Salami and Wild Boar and Pork Salami. Their cooking Chorizo sausages are just gorgeous. Also The Forest Pig had a lovely stall. I tasted some of their produce at the Green Café in Ludlow a while back and it was very good. (The Green Cafe was such a great find and well worth a visit if you are in the area; using lots of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to produce delicious meals – but be sure to book though). There was also Charcutier Ltd, another artisan producer selling across South Wales with a great blog that I have just discovered and look forward to reading more about. Founder Illtud Llyr Dunsford is so clearly passionate about charcuterie and pigs. I did not get to taste any products but will definitely be looking out for these in the future.

We tasted some really lovely biltong from Big Horn Biltong – no sugar or any nasty stuff and terrific value for money compared to some of the other biltong we have seen around. It is interestingly the first UK product to be certified via the Paleo Foundation. Great ‘ranting session’ from founder Simon Kennedy (see more on these below) .

There were lovely displays of fruit and vegetables from Paul’s Organic Veg from Mitchel Troy near Monmouth and also from Riverford Organics. I was surprised not to see more organic vegetable producers though.

Great to see The Garlic Farm there. We bought some seed garlic to plant out; a mixture of Red Czech, Mikulov, Siberian Wight and Solent White.

There were so many stalls with cakes and pastries and also jams and marmalades. They really were everywhere and must have been the most represented food genres at the festival. However, more fermented products such as sauerkraut and kimchi would have been great, as well as some good sugar free pickles (of course we may have missed them!).

We did not eat at the festival apart from snacking on some Trealy Farm goodies. Richard bought some very nice nuts although these were quite sweet as well as spicy. We found it hard to locate protein meals that were not burgers or sausages, that did not use gluten or that were not wrapped in buns or served on bread. Some of the fish stalls looked good (although with lots of ‘extras’ that we would not eat) but the queues were horrendous by the time we got there. We will definitely try them next year though (I really liked the look of the Welshman’s Caviar from the Pembrokeshire Seafood Company). Overall, not really any suitable hot meals for us which was a bit of a disappointment. A stall selling Paleo/Primal-friendly meals using only meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, good fats, nuts and spices would be fantastic (if we missed them let me know!).

Be sure to visit the Rude Health ranting sessions if you visit next year. As I mentioned we did not plan our day but thanks to a tip-off from Simon at Big Horn Biltong we were able to catch a few.

A great rant on the benefits of ghee from Nick Barnard of Rude Health (complete with some lovely samples of ghee). Good to see the flag being flown for healthy fats.

Rosie Sage of Hurdlebrook Dairy talked about additives and why we should avoid any ingredients that our grandmother would not recognise. She stressed the importance of avoiding ‘low-fat’ products that have had all the good fat removed and replaced with carbs (sugar).

Bill King of Local and Great gave a very entertaining rant on why there should be no vegetarian options on menus. He explained that this is often an excuse for lazy and uninventive cooking, when really there should just be well thought out, exciting meat-free dishes without having to make a point of labelling them vegetarian. Real food for thought here.

Jacques Cop from Coco Caravan talked eloquently about his raw cacao products, something that he is clearly so proud of and which he enjoys immensely – a really thoughtful and impassioned rant. Apparently 75% of antioxidants are destroyed when cacao is roasted and roasting also affects the quantity of ‘happy hormones’ as well as destroying Vitamin C (see here for more). I had no idea about this. Jacques also explained that Coco Caravan uses coconut blossom nectar (a natural sugar that I saw used in products at Paleo Fx last year), which has a glycemic index score of 35 – relatively low compared to other sweeteners.

Arin Kapil of Green Saffron gave a superb talk on spices. We really loved this enthusiastic rant – what a speaker! Arin explained about the importance of using the best quality, freshest spices to get the maximum flavour. Spices are imported whole from their native lands (aiming for a maximum of 8 weeks from partner farms in India to Green Saffron where they are blended or sold whole). As Arin said, we would not grate a lemon, put it in a jar and then use it six months or a year later so why do we do the same with spices?

Simon Kennedy from Big Horn Biltong gave a great rant on the importance of sourcing quality ingredients to ensure quality products. A big-up for Paleo too! Snacks like this need to be in pubs across the land.

I wished we could have stayed for more rants but we had to leave. We also missed the earlier session of the day with a rant by James Swift of Trealy Farm but look forward to seeing them next year!

 

The Festival also needs some coffee stalls that provide a good whack of fat to go with your coffee such as cream, butter, ghee or coconut oil. What’s all this semi-skimmed nonsense about?

All in all a fantastic day! Thoroughly enjoyed it and realised how lucky we are to have such wonderful and passionate food producers here in the UK. We definitely won’t leave it this long again before visiting the festival and looking forward to next year already …

Grazing For Change

Grazing For Change

The videos from the Grazing For Change conference have recently been released and I have been working my way through them over the weekend. Wow! There is so much amazing content and I thoroughly recommend them. The conference was organised by the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management, the Savory Hub for Northern California and the Western Great Basin. There is a particularly lovely talk by Spencer and Abbey Swift from Springs Ranch; the Hub’s learning centre in Fort Bidwell, California. Their Hub partner Dr. Cyndi Daley also hosts workshops on the Guidici Ranch in Oroville, California.

Grazing For Change brought together some truly fantastic speakers including of course Allan Savory, Tre Cates, Christine Jones (great talk on soil), Dr Jason Rowntree, Robb Wolf (advisor to the Jefferson Center) just to name a few. Speakers highlighted the importance of holistic land management to regenerating the soil and supporting the ecological, social, environmental and health needs of communities. However, as well as the theory behind the practice these talks emphasised the passion and devotion with which people are embracing this method of livestock management and the positive results they are seeing each day. In some cases, they have broken away from generations of farming practices and gone against the advice of family, neighbours and community to follow holistic management principles. They are pioneering spirits.

Read more about the work of the Savory Institute here and see my review of the Savory Institute Conference 2014 here. There are currently 30 Savory Hubs and a number of special projects across the world. These dedicated people are spreading the message that intelligently managed livestock can be a tool for environmental regeneration. The UK has it’s first Savory Hub at Vitality Farm, so it will be interesting to see that develop.

The work of the Savory Institute is ground breaking and this must be a very exciting time to be involved in the field of holistic management. There are now a number of online courses available via their newly-redesigned website here.

The forthcoming Artisans of the Grasslands Conference (great name!) in San Francisco looks amazing and speakers will include Allan Savory, Nicolette Niman Environmental Lawyer and author of Defending Beef, Fred Provenza from Behave, Jared Stone Author of Year of the Cow, Bryan Welch Publisher at Mother Earth News, Robb Wolf, Sally Fallon Founder of Weston A Price Foundation and hopefully some of the impressive speakers from Grazing for Change.

Paleo, holistic management and 100% pasture-fed producers are inextricably linked. Let’s hope that we can help to spread the message far and wide…

 

Photo courtesy of PublicDomainPictures at Pixabay.

Noble Ancestors and Modern Selves

Noble Ancestors and Modern Selves

Guests:

 
Bruce Parry: BBC Documentary Film Maker and Author
Daniel Everett: Anthropologist and Author
Sarah Chan: Bioethicist
Janet Radcliffe-Richards: Oxford Professor of Practical Philosophy, Author
Chair: Sean Curran: BBC Editor

 

The debate took place earlier this year at How the Light Gets In, a philosophy festival in Hay on Wye that ran from 22nd May to 1st June. I have been meaning to write it up, but have been so busy these last months that it was delayed. We happened upon the talk by chance and were delighted to see that Explorer and Author Bruce Parry had joined the panel.

‘Thomas Hobbes believed life before civilisation was ‘nasty, brutish and short’ but from diets to lifestyles, some anthropologists think otherwise.’

The debate asked whether we should look to modern hunter-gatherers for lessons on how to live our own lives. Do they have a better grasp on life?  Is this a romantic delusion? What has ‘civilisation’ done for our societies?

The debate was one of the most thought-provoking and interesting discussions I have heard in a long time. There was a definite tension between the views of both Bruce and Daniel and those of the philosopher Janet Radcliffe-Richards as is clear from the transcript below (although that tension was clearly projected from one direction). Both Bruce and Daniel spoke eloquently and movingly about their experiences and the audience was clearly transfixed. I had heard neither speak before and I have to say that I could have listened to them for hours. Their views were neither romantic nor simplistic and both stressed the need to remember that tribes differ greatly. Both men felt there were definite lessons to be learnt from their time spent with modern hunter-gatherers and both had changed profoundly from their experiences. A fascinating and very moving debate; it made a big impact on me. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

Each of the panellists gave a brief statement about their position on the subject before starting the debate. At the end of the debate there was time for a few questions from the audience.

Daniel Everett

Daniel has spent over 35 years living and working amongst modern hunter-gatherer tribes, including 8 years with the Pirahã tribe in the Amazonian Basin. His life has been ‘transformed’ by these people but he stressed that it was important not to think of them as ‘original humans’ as we can never fully know the conditions that our prehistoric ancestors faced. They are instead modern societies. However, in his search for options on how to live life, the hunter-gatherers that he had worked with were happier, smiled more and held an outlook on life that he had not seen elsewhere. He described the tribe as ‘happy societies of intimates’ that know each other (as opposed to modern ‘societies of strangers’) and this affects how people relate and talk to each other that has lessons for us all. Although Daniel did not believe that they are ‘noble savages’, these people do help us to understand our place within the world and how we should live as human beings in complex societies.

Sarah Chan

Sarah noted that philosophers all through the ages have studied the issue of wellbeing and asked the questions ‘What is the Good Life and how can we obtain it?’ Is technology conducive to a good life? Although not all technology makes our life better, much of it can and does.  We shouldn’t presume that rejecting technology will necessarily make our lives better. Sarah stressed that there is a ‘fetishisation’ of the natural which is irrational but agreed that not all products of human invention are necessarily good for us – even if they started out that way. Technological inventions often come with their own concerns such as pollution, sustainability etc. but just imagine a life without modern medicine, transport, electricity, clean water etc. This doesn’t mean that there are not useful lessons to be learnt from societies that are very different from our own but these need to be evaluated critically with our eyes open, rather than assume they are better for us as a movement away from the idea of technological progress.

Bruce Parry

Bruce has spent time with many different hunter-gatherer tribes around the world and as Daniel stated, this had changed his life profoundly and very much for the better. He is especially interested in studying pre-agricultural societies and believes the dawn of agriculture is a fascinating time in human history.

Bruce then talked about the specific issues that interest him. He is concerned with issues of identity and how they have transitioned from the group and the family to the individual, technological (avatars) and media identities and the loss that this has brought about. Also issues of ownership and the transition from a ‘loose’, group, shared ownership towards a much more individualised notion of ownership. A shared, gift economy has also moved towards one in which those who do the least are rewarded the most.  There is usually communal child-rearing (paternal and maternal) and a strong family unit in comparison to much of our society. There is also very little addiction or addictive traits in hunter-gatherer groups. Emotions are shared and expressed with no repression (and the behaviour patterns this induces). Although not able to access the medical care that we enjoy, such societies use plant-based drugs to cure aspects of their being and Bruce’s experience with these have had profound positive effects upon his life. Regarding gender, Bruce stated that we currently live in a patriarchal society but this needs to be questioned. Finally Bruce added that he was brought up to look at Animism as a backward way of looking at the world, when in fact it is now cutting-edge. Looking at the world as as anima and full of meaning is a belief that should be reintroduced to our thought patterns. Hunter-gatherers live in the present (obviously in order to hunt) but perhaps they have a very different way of using their minds, in ways that bring them a perspective of reality that is hard for us to understand. These different ways of seeing the world may be very valuable to us.

Janet Radciffe-Richards

Janet argued that humans always look back at ‘better state of things’ before something came along and ruined it, with a sentimental view of the countryside and the past which is echoed in stories such as the myth of the fall. There is an idea that things that come later – the civilizing, intellectual things – must automatically be at fault, The idea of the noble savage comes from the idea that all our advances have corrupted things. Janet stressed that she is interested in what we can do now. We cannot go and live in groups of 250 in the jungle as there are too many of us. She added that even if there are some advantages, she wouldn’t want to go and live in a hut in Borneo without dentistry.

SC: This ‘romanticisation’ of the ‘noble savage’ is certainly not a new idea.

Bruce agreed that there is a tendency to romanticise tribal societies i.e. Rousseau, and acknowledged the many different theories of why this is so. For instance, this is echoed in a longing to return to childhood.

‘The rise of agriculture is in fact a relatively recent phenomenon as we have lived as hunter gatherers for the vast majority of our time on earth. Although we think of hunter gatherers as looking back they are in fact rather modern.’

Before agriculture, we experienced our world and our place in nature in a completely different way. It is this connection to nature and to something greater than ourselves that makes us feel as if we have lost something.

 

SC: Jared Diamond’s new book ‘The World Before Yesterday’ looks at this issue. Is there anything new about the way we view hunter gatherers?

Daniel stressed that although it is new research, it makes essentially the same points that we have forgotten the good life and replaced it with our neuroses. However, this point cannot be completely discounted. Some tribes have no concept of suicide or depression and although they worry about a few things, but certainly not as much as we do. However, this may not apply to a group living 5 miles away with very different values as they may have other concerns etc. The biggest lesson is diversity. The bigger the difference in people, the more we learn. This is why we can learn much from these people.

Sarah added that diversity is good and it is important to realise how big the world is through inventions such as the internet but that it relies on us being able to travel and experience different cultures. If we all lived in these communities we would lose that diversity.

 

SC: Is this longing was for a real past, or a romanticised version of the past?

Janet stated that it was a worry that people made too much of an inference between where we are now and primitive societies. She stressed the reliance on a romanticised version of events and that the idea that there is an ideal way of living is false. In fact whatever situation one is living in, there will always be the dream of better things. Janet asked Daniel and Bruce if they found this with the tribes they had encountered.

Daniel replied that the Pirahã showed no desire for technology but where other tribes have, this has caused unhappiness. Not because the technology in itself brings unhappiness but because they have learned to rely on something that they do not have the economics to support. So the Pirahã’s rejection of technology has made them happier because in their minds, the adoption of technology has not resulted in them becoming ‘poor’. They do not have a concept of ‘poverty’.

Bruce agreed that exposure to technology promoted insecurity. They initially rush to it – especially the children – but within one generation things change. They realise afterwards that they haven’t got the means to support themselves and have to go to the city to work. On a Polynesian island that he visited, there was one boat a year to the mainland and when members of the tribe did leave the island, they realised that what they had was special. That is very telling – when these groups experience our society they appreciate what they have at home.

 

SC: What can we realistically learn from these people?

Daniel replied that firstly, personal self-sufficiency and confidence in their own ability is very important. They regularly undergo fasting in order to keep their bodies ‘hard’ and this discipline made them more efficient hunters. The main thing is openness to emotions as Bruce said; the ability to express themselves without inhibitions and to talk about things without euphemisms. Also, to know how everyone else is doing and to take a responsibility not just for one’s self but for neighbours and fellow people.

SC: How we can actually achieve this – it sounds as if we need to remake ourselves?

Daniel replied that it is not just about living simply. Look at our friends – what responsibility do we take for them? Our lifestyles today allow us more time to care for others but how much of this do we take? How do we interact socially?

Daniel stressed that the only reason the panel was able to sit talking was that farmers have produced food so that we have freedom from farming and hunting and gathering. Although he enjoyed his time spent with hunter gatherers, he still enjoyed coming out of the society and going home. However, this does not negate the lessons that he learned and how he can apply them in his life. The experience of this is transformative even if the time spent with them is short. It was important to experience the world in a completely different way, including the hardships. The lessons do not depend on us becoming hunter gatherers.

Bruce added that he has chosen to change the way he lives as a response to his experience with hunter-gatherers. There is a realisation that choices made in this complex society have a detrimental effect on these people, on the environment, the air, the water. As he has made these changes – foregoing many ‘luxuries’ and reducing his footprint – Bruce noticed he became happier and that was a shock.

Sarah noted that the issue is quite complex. Our freedom to pursue our own version of the good life is what is important.

Social interaction

Janet warned against looking for some sort of ‘design’ in the world to make people ‘happy’. This is a problem. She asked about the tensions in hunter-gatherer societies i.e. psychological. Daniel talked about a tribe in Brazil where there are problems with suicide (using poison). Daniel told a story to the Pirahã about his step-mother who committed suicide. He thought that it would be a very meaningful story for them but when he finished, they burst out laughing. They thought that he was making it up as they could not believe that people killed themselves – it was the silliest thing they had heard. Although they all kill very effectively, they could not understand why people would kill each other (after watching a clip from a movie). Ostracism is a form of punishment for those who break tribal rules.

Daniel added that it is not just about the way these people live, but how they organise their knowledge and their personal values. They have a have a completely different philosophy. The Pirahã learned how to predict his behaviour even before he was able to. They ask questions all the time.

Sarah mentioned the idea that we are designed for a different age and the current tendency to explain our choices in terms of our evolutionary history. For instance, in relation to the Paleo diet or the idea (‘monkeysphere’) that we evolved to live in societies no bigger than around 30-50 individuals and so our moral compass has difficulty in making decisions based on larger numbers than this. She warned about the danger in making decisions based on scientific interpretations about why we lived the way we lived, as opposed to how we should live.

Change

Bruce then talked about groups that had been on the verge of changing and that had employed people to destroy the forest around them (a tribe in Brazil). However, suddenly they had a ‘wake-up call’ and stopped. It’s not to say that they do not want comfort and luxury in their lives, but they realised that in order to change the price was not worth it and that there would be no security for their children’s future. That is a trend that he sees again and again.

Daniel added that such transitions are too abrupt – any transition needs to be slow and evolve naturally. When societies change very quickly, it rarely works out.

Happiness

Janet argued that we should not presume we are designed for happiness. Can we really have Animism alongside modern scientific education? If you are having to choose between them, it presents a dilemma. Bruce argued that there is a convergence. The subjectivity of us actually being a part of what we are observing is an accepted idea and this happens on both a small and large level. He does not see animism as mutually exclusive to scientific explanation. Janet argued that this is an ‘expressionistic view.’

Bruce asked whether happiness is not something that one pursues but that occurs as a result of other choices.

Sarah noted that happiness was tied to consumerism in our society. The promotion of unhappinesss if we do not buy ‘stuff’ is used as a marketing trick. However, our society would be unwilling to give up the luxuries that it now takes for granted.

Sean asked about consumer culture, technology and media networks and their effect on our happiness. An audience member asked if we should not instead look at things like vulnerability, isolation and feelings of powerlessness that make us unhappy and go from there. It would seem that tribal societies can address these concerns.

Alienation

Another audience member talked about the concept of alienation and commented that hunter-gatherer tribes seemed not to experience this alienation – from their fellow people and from the world around them. In contrast, many people in our society have become alienated.

Daniel warned against generalisation and added that alienation is an issue in some tribes. However in the tribes that he has encountered this has not been the case and people took care of others. Daniel then told a story of a tribe he was staying with. The people were sitting around the fire and they had all taken it in turns to bring firewood. Daniel spotted a very old, stooped man who was struggling to bring a few small sticks of firewood to the group. When he did this, one of the men gave him a large piece of meat to eat in return for the wood. When Daniel enquired of the man why he gave him the meat as the pieces of firewood were so small, he replied: ‘When I was a little boy he put meat in my mouth and now he is an old man, I put meat in his mouth.’ It is not that these lessons are unique to these people, but that Daniel has seen them more with these particular groups than elsewhere.

Meaning

An audience member then asked if we should look for ‘meaning’ rather than happiness. Bruce replied that he came to the realisation that he had previously taken his scientific, Western mind-set into these societies and when they had talked about the spirit world and similar concepts, he had slightly looked down upon such ideas.

‘I was challenged to look at the world through their eyes and when I did, I suddenly saw and felt in my being a whole new set of values and way of interacting with the world. My actions and my thoughts had a reciprocal effect with everything that was going on around me and this was a level of meaning that brought a whole new sense of being to myself. I am still exploring this and some psychologists may say that is delusional and psychotic but if that takes place within a whole culture that thinks the same, then maybe not. Perhaps that is another level of having ‘meaning’. It is not just about believing that you are part of something bigger i.e. nature but taking it to the next level in which everything including our thoughts are part of a bigger whole which has meaning. That may have been the case for earlier people and playing with this idea myself has had a profound effect.’

 

Contradiction

Janet then returned to the point that we cannot believe in witchcraft and science simultaneously. Bruce argued that science as we know it is a method of investigation that currently uses the material realm, but there may be other methods of investigation that could be equally interesting and valid even though they don’t fit into our material system of measurement. Janet asked: ‘So the question is not whether something is true but whether it feels good?’. Bruce replied that he could only comment in the context of his own experiences. He has benefitted from alternative ways of seeing reality that and has found meaning that has changed his life in a very beautiful way. He has seen parallels to this in the lives of some of the indigenous peoples he has met.

Daniel added that we live in a society which has managed to produce science while often holding religious views that are seemingly contradictory. He stated that most people hold inconsistent beliefs all the time and talked about an Amazonian tribe that predict meteorological events based on the perceived movement of constellations. Although the constellations do not move in that sense, but only appear at points in the sky that are then correlated with events on earth, they have a very well developed science that is based on false presupposition. There has been a lot of science that ‘works’ for the wrong reasons but we do not call it any less science because of that. He then agreed with Bruce:

‘There are a number of points of animism that offer satisfying personal choices in life, but can I justify them all scientifically? No. Do I try to reconcile them with science? No. And do I care if they are reconciled? No. If we are going to hold mutually inconsistent beliefs, just admit that they are mutually inconsistent.’

 

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