What is the perfect day? Where do you stop?
“What is the perfect day?” my friend asked.
I was living in Japan at the time, traveling the world: “Wake up real early, get to the mountain by five or six, snowshoe up, ski all morning, hurt myself, go to the onsen, sit in the hot spring, get back sometime in the late afternoon, take a nap, wake up, make a totally awesome dinner, start drinking, go out, pull game, get back, watch a totally sweet movie late night, go to bed, sleep late the next day.”
Although my life and my goals have taken a very different turn since then, my idea of the perfect day has not. If I ever do get any free time, pretty much what I want to do is: wake up real early, get to the mountain by four or five, ski all morning, hurt myself, go to the onsen, sit in the hot spring, get back sometime in the late afternoon, take a nap, wake up, make a totally awesome dinner, start drinking, go out, pull game, get back, watch a totally sweet movie late night, go to bed, sleep late the next day.
I feel this is what my body is telling me to do. And that explanation makes sense.
Studying medicine has taught me that the autonomic nervous system governs the entirety of our existence. We are wired to expend energy during the day, early, to obtain what we need, or may possibly need, and then to relax hard in the afternoon and evening – to enjoy the company of others, to foster the meaningful relationships with those who matter to us, to rest for the days to come, to experience and learn from art, and to digest the end-result of our day’s most important labor.
I wonder if there is a topic more integral to the human experience. What if all of alienation can be explained by the autonomic nervous system? Think of the perfect day and how far from it we are living now.
For centuries, humans lived in concert with the seasons. The understanding of the seasons, in fact, was once considered the most important province of religious experience, although I suspect the past, much like the present, tended to relegate the hardest questions to the most educated, regardless of their concentration.
Notably, trappist monks worshiped the lord by cultivating plants. Their beer is perhaps the best ever produced. Gregor Mendal was an Augustinian friar who came up with the theory underlying all of genetics through contemplation of his garden. Any thinking person who has ever cultivated plants should not be surprised by this. They most likely came up with the same but failed to share it.
More recently, Henry David Thoreau attempted to live deliberately:
I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.
In ancient times, and up until recently, food was the spiritual interface between humans and the natural world. Our religious holidays were structured around it.
Now we have Soylent. A drink designed to eliminate the inconvenience of food for those sufficiently disconnected from Nature.
I wonder if we’re not completely out of touch with reality.
I remember my drive down to New Orleans: so much road food. So much instability.
To simplify: imagine you’re normally a healthy eater. You know what’s right for you. You’re traveling. Let’s imagine you’re in a strange place, let’s imagine you’re in Mississippi, a surprisingly large state, driving along I-82, and let’s imagine you start getting hungry. You start seeing signs on the side of the road for food. There’s a sign for Frostop, Velvet Chicken, Starbucks, and Bobby’s Fried.
Where do you stop?