The Journey Begins
With one hand on the wheel and the other holding fast to the last line keeping your boat in its slip, you stare after the dock manager as he slowly walks away. You glance over at the other young man and see him doing the same. You're both slightly dumb and waiting for an answer that will never come.
Suddenly, your attention is wrenched into the present as a gust catches the bow of your boat, causing it to twist in the slip. The transom drifts closer to the pier. Without thinking, you toss the line in your hand and reach for the throttle, throw the engine in reverse and crank the wheel to direct the thrust to oppose the drift. The side drift slows as the boat begins backing slowly out of the slip. And so the journey begins.
As your bow clears the final pier you realize you must now master two worlds, the dark world of the water below and the ever-changing world of the sky above. Looking over the boat you see that all you have to do it with is a keel, some sails and a rudder. You'll spend the rest of your days plying the interface of two worlds that without you are only ever opposed.
Out For a Sail.
Life is like a sailboat.
Imagine if, before you were born, you agreed to take a voyage. It was a one way trip with a beginning and an end. You weren't told what to expect other than you'd be given a boat to sail across a vast ocean. That's it. There's no time for training, no life jackets and no backing out. Backing out would put you right back at the start on a different boat. You can get started right away. Anticipating an opportunity to experience something grand, you sign up.
Instantly, you find yourself standing at the edge of the water with hundreds of other people. They're all there for the same thing. They agreed to the journey and are ready to take their boats. Looking out across the marina, you see the sun just beginning to rise. You hear the clinking of the rigging. Hundreds of sailboats are docked in their slips, rising and falling with the gentle swells. Looking closer, you notice that no two boats are the same. Some are big and some are small. Some have their sails fully set, while others seem to have no sails at all. A few seem to be riding dangerously low in the water.
Just then, a voice calls out from the dock, "All right everyone, let's get this thing started. When the whistle blows you will line up at the dock and I'll hand you a slip number as you pass. That's your boat. Once you find your boat, get in and get going. There's no time for discussion and no one may board another boat. Once you're on your boat, get going."
The whistle blows and you jump in line. Your heart races with anticipation, your palms sweat as you look out across the marina. You wonder, which one is mine? Is it that big one? Is it that small one? You hope it isn't one of the half-sunken ones. You look around at the people with you. They're all wondering the same thing.
After a few minutes of waiting you reach the dock. You take your slip number and head down to slip 44. Along the way you watch as others take to their boats. You hear their expressions as you pass, "Oh my, what a beautiful boat", and "Hey, my sails aren't rigged", "My motor won't start" and "There's a foot of water in this thing." and "The bilge won't run". Your pulse quickens. It seems that some of the boats have issues. You wonder what you'll find when you get yours.
You reach slip 44 to find an old wooden sloop-rigged racer. It has a tall mast, a clean cabin and shiny brass bell mounted in front of the wheel. Climbing aboard, you check out the lines and notice the sails. Everything's fully rigged and ready to go. Ducking into the cabin you find a stocked galley, a clean bed and a small cast iron stove. Tucked into the bow you find a spare set of sails with what looks to be new lines and a heavy anchor.
Satisfied that your boat is well stocked, you run a quick check of your batteries. They're fully charged. Behind the steps sits a small diesel motor in good condition. The fuel gauge reads "FULL". Kneeling down you pull up a panel in the floor and inspect the bilge. It's dry.
Satisfied that your boat isn't about to sink you go back on deck, fire up the motor and begin untying your lines. Standing at the helm, you realize just how lucky you are. Your boat is dry, well stocked and ready to sail. Looking out over the marina you notice some boats already pulling out. Others are still in their slips, the new owners struggling with the rigging or trying to repair the sails. One guy is bailing water from a wreck. Suddenly, a voice cries out from the next slip over, "My sails! Where the hell are my sails. How am I supposed to sail with no sails?"
Looking over, you see a boat similar to yours with a young man standing on deck with tears in his eyes. You are about to call out when the dock manager walks up. He gives you a stern look, stares you in the eyes and says "No, those are your spare sails. They won't fit his rigging. He gets to figure it out on his own just like you." He steps closer and lowers his head. His voice softens, "Everyone's boat is exactly the way they're supposed to be. Don't worry about him, he'll be fine and besides, you'll be wantin' to keep those spares," as he turns to walk away, "you're gonna need 'em."
Pleasure vs. Happiness
One day you'll hear a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig.
To watch the video - go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zx-QrilOoSM. It's heavy on science.
He's a pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF. The lecture covers metabolic syndrome and the link between fructose consumption, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, insulin resistance and obesity. He'll tell you that there has been a coordinated effort to hide the connection between sugar consumption and the development of diabetes and all the things that go with it.
To sum it up, the simplest thing we can do is cut the fructose out of diet - limit fruit and avoid sweets altogether.
We can also avoid alcohol, corn fed meats and make sure we get adequate levels of fiber to feed the bacteria in our guts that make our digestion work.
You'll look into his ideas and hear the single most important insight into why we fell for this simple dietary substitution which has led us to the brink - pleasure is dopamine, happiness is serotonin.
Okay, that might not be an obvious connection but he wrote an entire book about it called "The Hacking of the American Mind".
Simply stated - pleasure is short-lived, visceral, experienced alone, involves consumption, and is only achievable with substances. Since pleasure involves the release of dopamine in the brain - extremes of pleasure can lead to addiction.
On the other hand, happiness is long lived, ethereal, experienced in community, occurs through giving, and cannot be achieved with a substance. You cannot overdose on happiness. In fact, happiness leads to contentment, a state of mind experienced in the present moment as a calm one could easily equate to peace.
Therefore, pleasure is excitation and happiness is peace. The two are negatively correlated which means the more pleasure you seek, the less happiness you'll have and the more happiness you have the less pleasure you'll seek.
As someone who has recovered from addiction you'll know the consequences of too much dopamine. Once you recover you'll search for happiness and it's only when you're engaged with your fellow man in a purpose that enhances the lives of others will you'll begin to understand happiness, contentment and peace.
Dr. Lustig points the finger at the cultural drivers represented by Las Vegas, 5th Avenue, Silicon Valley and Washington DC. He asserts that the corporations of the world have conflated the concepts of pleasure and happiness and made it easy to buy pleasure through the promotion of hedonic substances and technology.
He dances around issues of mind control, collusion between industries and the possibility of conspiracy but he's clear on his assertion that we've been tricked. He says corporations fed us false information (propaganda, not marketing) to enhance our willingness to buy products which ultimately harm us.
Our own food and medical industries have engaged in a systematic effort to hide the truth and promote false information under the guise of academic scientific pronouncements and deliberately misleading dietary guidelines. Sadly, some physicians willingly participated in this effort but most were just doing what they do best - following the guidelines they've been trained to follow. Sadly, the truth has been available to us the whole time, we just chose to ignore it. We deferred judgement to panels of experts we never should have trusted.
We've been led down the primrose path with a candy cane in our mouths - all the way to the pharmacy to buy the drugs to treat the diseases we got from the food we ate.
In the end, happiness comes from cutting the crap (fructose, excessive alcohol, tobacco)and joining with each other to lift each other up and hold each other accountable based on social connection, integrity, responsibility and compassion.
Get Cold and Go Hungry.
Follow your hunch about the benefits of regular doses of physical stress. You'll re-discover the principle of hormesis - the theory that physical, emotional, or existential stress in survivable doses has the effect of increasing capacity and enhancing recovery.
You have access to the finest in creature comforts. You work indoors and live in a heated and cooled home. You have all the clothes you need. This reduces your exposure to environmental stress. Balance this out with repeated doses to physical stress to maintain your primal survival ability.
You've always enjoyed the cold weather. Now take it further and go against your natural tendency to bundle up against the chill and immerse yourself in it and get cold. Feel the cold seep into your bones. Embrace it. You'll quickly (less than 2 minutes into the chill) notice a change. The pain will lessen and the freedom of being alive in the cold will transform you. Reconnect with the days of your youth when you worked and played outside regardless of the weather.
Wim Hof has already done the scientific work and has explained the benefits. There's no reason to repeat it all here. Just know that your hunch to embrace the cold will transform your life.
Going hungry allows your body to consume its excess stored energy. Regular short term fasts (16-20 hours - 3 days) paired with a low carbohydrate diet allows your body to convert from burning sugar to burning fat. You'll drop several pounds of 'baby fat' and achieve a new level of mental clarity and physical health.
When you do eat, don't eat processed sugar, processed foods or industrial wheat or oils. Stick to the ethically produced animal products and seasonal vegetables.
Pushing for ketosis or going full carnivore is an option but isn't necessary to achieve the benefit of a low carbohydrate diet.
Enjoy not eating and be grateful that your hunger is by choice. Never forget the blessings in your life.
Others know hunger and cold without choice.
You'll reach a point where you won't know where to turn for reliable information. You'll feel lost, but only for a moment.
You'll pass through a desperate state when you discover the sources you were taught to trust (newspapers, TV, and popular culture) have shown themselves to be highly contrived. You'll witness first-hand the role of marketing and money in 'the news' and how power is expressed by controlling the flow of information.
You'll see that 'the news' is used to promote your tendency to consume and follow.
You'll opt out of that scheme and search for a different method of making decisions.
You'll cycle through endless 'expert opinions' and perspectives.
You'll learn to trust your gut and follow your heart. You'll learn to listen to your thoughts and let them pass. You'll measure your feelings and choose your path based on a hunch.
That hunch will be vague at first. You won't trust it. You'll worry that you've made a mistake. You'll make mistakes. You'll learn through experience.
Eventually you'll move into a new paradigm where you use your 'hunch' as your primary decision tool.
Your 'hunch' (what a cool word - it's a nonsense word for sure) - is your unique combination of inspiration, thought, gut feelings, and whatever bias you've brought to the mix.
Just go with it. It will prove much more reliable and consistent than trying to think your way through your day.
Matthew H. Evenhouse, MD is a board-certified Emergency Physician, published author, private pilot and international educator.