tomatoes: an ethical minefield.

I find modern tomatoes incredibly upsetting. This isn’t because fruit, vegetable, what? Or because they’re from the poisonous nightshade family, have poisonous leaves, and yes I’ve been accidentally served poisonous pieces before that I had to pick out….no, it’s because of the tomato’s prevalence and complete corruption.

Similar to maize, tomatoes are a New World food the immigrants spread all over the planet and botched up. Once thought poisonous, tomatoes were golden orange and the size of grape tomatoes or smaller, held sacred in some ways by the Pueblo, and native in South and Central Americas. And, also like maize, it is everywhere. Think of a food and it’s likely in it. Tomatoes dice, a tomato slice, ketchup, salsa, spaghetti or pizza sauce, hot sauce,…

Tomatoes belong in Mexican cuisine, but Italian? It drives me crazy how the tomato builds the backbone of modern Italian cuisine. A restaurant in Uniontown, PA advertises the tomato as some holy grail of Italy and I simp laugh because it’s only been there since the 1500s. The Italian use of the tomato is like a slap in the face to natives and the effects of colonization, and now we have these bastard tomatoes to attest to that.

I love small, grape, tiny tomatoes. I hate big, grainy, gooey, pale tomatoes. I love Full English breakfasts with tomatoes roasted on the vine like I had at the White Cliffs of Dover one morning, courtesy of my gracious British host. Like maize, modern genetics have destroyed a once valuable, nutrient-rich native plant. Now, we buy tomatoes to serve our purpose – or more like we are sold tomatoes that maximize profit under the name of ideal cooking ingredients.

Not only are tomatoes an ethical minefield for how they’ve transformed, arrived, altered cultures, and been modified, they’re also a source of environmental ethics questions. It’s more environmentally friendly to grow tomatoes in Spain and ship them to England than to grow them in British greenhouses. The pizza sauce supplier for Dominos, as documented in Bet the Farm, dehydrates tomatoes to ship from California to the Ohio River for rehydration not for saving gas or whatever else but for making more money. Where has the value of a tomato even gone? And when was the last time you saw a ripe one anywhere but in a garden?

The tomato is in my opinion symbolic of American culture, and I wish the original tomatl could be widely revived.

survival vs. hobby.

I have a list of books to read before I begin my volunteer teaching position.  My curriculum includes everything from self-esteem to ethics, considering that I will be teaching 8th grade.  One of the books that came in for my studies today is a book called Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv (ironically published by Algonquin Books).  I haven’t begun it yet, but I’ve been interested in reading in ever more than my other Rethinking Globalization and What Do You Stand For?, etc., titles.  I think I’m going to simultaneously enjoy the book while gawking at its blatant stupidity.  Just in reading the back cover, I get that the gist is: Louv has done a “cutting-edge” study to show how important the exposure to nature is to a child’s development.

Bahahahahahahaha….oh wait, this is a real American problem.  Kids seriously aren’t exposed to nature.  Me, I can’t imagine life without knowing nature…but there are kids who grew up in these concrete jungles who perhaps know shooting hoops after school outside, but then retreat to Huggies and fried chicken dinners from the fast food joint down the street, never even sharing a meal with their families.  I feel like this book is going to make a lot of valid, scientific points on why nature is important to the growth of a human, but the fact that anything else is even remotely considered upsets me.  It truly demonstrates how detached modern society is from nature, and makes me crave even more that I lived in a time 300 years prior so I could just walk off into the woods and neglect all these artificial expectations of my life.

Last Child in the Woods, which describes a generation so plugged into electronic diversion s that it has lost its connection to the natural world, is helping drive a movement quickly flourishing across the nation.” – The Nation’s Health

I’m sorry, but no.  There is no “movement”.  Maybe I would call it an “awakening”.  Like, so many things have become wrong to us that we even feel unhealthy, we are told we are unhealthy, and suddenly we have “discovered” this new lifestyle!  Nature!  Wowwww!!!  Like when Columbus “discovered” America!  Bahahaha don’t even get me started…

Suddenly, nature is a trend and no longer an ENORMOUS part of our existence.  We are so removed from the origin of our food and the realization that we are animals who live in family units that we can be shocked by such a layman study.  I feel like America is the biggest culprit for this blind sort of following and I associate it most closely with the “bread bowl” concept.  The Sioux author Vine Deloria, Jr. likes to advocate frequently in his writing that the “bread bowl” part of America is often a negativity, and that some form of separatism is actually healthy in maintaining cultural identity.  I think this is kind of true because I see America as that “melting point” where everyone kind of forgot what was important to their cultures enough to meld together, in the meantime losing the ability to thrive on their natural homelands.  Traditions are lost and the new, bland, boring “American lifestyle” forms.  The American “culture” soon, instead, becomes wealth and dog-eats-dog practice because everything is corporation and globalization over nationalism and humble life.  In fact, the “humble lifestyle” becomes so obsolete that it is romanticized in country songs.  That’s pathetic, though, isn’t it?

And with people forgetting what humans are, they are also forgetting what their food is.  Food is suddenly a pleasure rather than a sustenance.  It’s whatever it takes to get what you crave cheaply, quickly, and at no inconvenience to you.  Well, food used to be the motivation for society to work.  Now, I’m not so sure.  We call it “luxury”, but I think the real luxury is in understanding reality and respecting nature, not manipulating it for convenience’s sake.  Sure, pesticides and all those other chemicals grow bigger produce faster and easier, but at what expense?  Do we even know how it’s affecting us?  Do seriously so many people not consider this?  It wasn’t that long ago that Silent Spring and the DDT scare happened…what makes today any different?

I’m still not 100% the exact point at which this country went wrong, but sometimes I really hate that it doesn’t give me a choice.  My friends and I like to joke a lot about “I’m sorry because…” in group messages where we list ridiculous things we are “sorry” about.  I have a few favorites, like “I’m sorry because ankle socks fall down when I wear boots”, or “I’m sorry because traffic”, or “I’m sorry because I put deodorant on every day yet I don’t get where it goes because I have to put it on again the next day”… Well, one of my classics is “I’m sorry because I need money to legally live”.  But isn’t it true?  Hundreds of years ago, groups of people were living on this land and they didn’t have that kind of system.  They had one that looked after one another.  It was caring, sharing, and respecting both each other and the land they relied on.  Whatever happened to that?  At what point did we forget that “tinkering” outside in a garden is part of survival and not just some hobby?  That we are animals?  Why do we have to publish books that remind us our children should go outside every once in awhile instead of playing Xbox?  It seriously disturbs me…  Seriously.

my greatest fear.

I’m afraid of heights.  I’m not a fan of tight spaces.  Loud noises and bright lights horrify me, especially in the dark when I’m alone.  I don’t like walking in the woods at night.  People, in general, terrify me . These are simple fears.

Perhaps even bigger than those simple fears is my fear of vastness.  The kind of vastness that makes you feel small in a physically vulnerable sense.  Like being alone in a crowd, wondering if you’re surrounded by an army of enemies or just that one crazy guy with a knife and sticky fingers.  Like outer space, a frontier we pretend we know about but are really just fools for pretending like we can handle and explore it.  Like great spaces in the atmosphere, open stages for gravity and better evolved organisms who can fly.  Or like the depths plunging into the core of the earth, like a void opening and you have no say in where you’re falling.  But even worse, to me, is the ocean: you can drown in a puddle, but the ocean gives you that opportunity a thousand trillion times over.  A water that only makes you thirstier.  A depth so deep it would crush you.  An entire planet – the origin of life – still submersed and unknown and perfectly unaware of our feeble existence.  Waves with uncertain power and height.  The Loch Ness monster.

But no, I don’t fear those things at all.  I fear an underlying factor.  I fear: losing control.

I’m afraid of falling, of being crushed, of being overpowered.  I’m afraid of not having a say in what happens to me or how.  That’s my greatest fear, and truly my only fear.  When they say having one fear and it’s fear itself, I think it might be what they’re trying to say: fear of something overcoming you, out of your control, because that is, in a way, fear.

Fear is my own mind.  It’s my perception, my reception, my curiosity and consequent fulfillment.  Maybe that’s why I like Sylvia Plath so much – she, too, feared losing control, at least until she gained control by shutting her head in an oven.  (Her quotes in bold/italics.)

Is there no way out of the mind? 

I fear my own mind because it’s my greatest critic.  It’s never satisfied, always wanting to learn, analyze, and criticize.  Usually, I’m its only subject.  And as my most intimate judge, my mind pains me when it disapproves – as it does so often.  It’s never enough, I’m never enough, and its thoughts are impossible to escape because they are always there, silent but perpetually heard.  An unspoken speech that you already knew was coming because, well, you made it.

I’m afraid of being left to my own devices sometimes, despite always craving time for reflection – or feeling grounded.  But being alone so much can blur the lines between alone and lonely.  I start to compare myself and wonder if the life I’m living is a socially healthy one – or if being social is in actual human nature, not just the society-inflicted one.  I’m always trying to imagine a myriad of life scenarios, wondering which are the most rewarding.  Knowing I can’t control the outcome of anything.  Feeling that hopelessness and loss of control all over again.  Become evermore aware of my insanity.

And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter— they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.

But gaining control is this odd balance that actually requires letting go of it altogether.  It’s like investing a trust in something and someone else.  Not the kind of trust you hand over, but the kind that is inherently rooted there and which continues to blossom.  It’s being able to walk away from your house with all your doors unlocked and not thinking about it, your house of course being your soul.  And when you find that kind of freedom, and you’re able to carry it across all aspects of your life – well, I think that’s when you’ve finally conquered the fear of losing control, because you’ve embraced it.  You’ve gained control by losing it in the greatest sense of the irony.

I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted to lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free.

When you find a home in what you do and with whom you spend your time, and the only thing you can do in that place and presence is to go as you are, and couldn’t imagine not being yourself, and fear or want of something else is trivial and ridiculous… That’s how it is to be free.

just wonder…

I wonder a lot what the world would be like without people.  I know we’ve only been here for a few hours in the calendar year that sums up the existence of Earth, but in just that short time I feel like we’ve seen so many changes.  Granted, the Earth wasn’t always stabled enough for the life forms we know today, but also humans haven’t been here all along either.  When I Googled “histroy of the world”, I thought it was funny that Wikipedia considers this the “history of humanity” – the time since the beginning of the Paleolithic Era.  And although only a fraction of this history is recorded, I think it’s safe to assume that animal and plant populations had continued to diversify and that the world maintained conditions favorable to human inhabitance.

Maybe species extinction has always been subtly present, with or without human influence on other populations.  Clearly creatures like dinosaurs seemed to disappear rather than to all adapt into other animals whose descendent we still have today.  However, that sudden catastrophe is always credited to some external phenomenon detrimental enough to severely disrupt the static lull the Earth had finally found.  Day in and day out, it’s turned around the same orbits and finally the same rates, establishing environmental equilibria that sustain typical mammalian and other life.  Water, precipitation, seasons, and balancing inter-special competition.  Only something as extrinsic as a meteor could seemingly explain a mass extinction like the dinosaurs.

In sum, I’d like to fault the development of the agrarian lifestyle with the downfall of the Earth and its biodiversity.

It’s hard to knowhow biodiverse the world was at the time of the “cave men”, but it’s safe to say that, while the Cro-Magnums still roamed about, humans were still very dependent on their nomadic lifestyles.  There is evidence of many bones being used as tools or decoration from kills they’d made as well as paintings of animals such as those in Lascaux.  These are not remains of people who tamed animals and cultivated food in small societies.  By the time of the stories in the Bible, however, the latter was the case.  Now people were beginning to define territories, isolate themselves, produce their own controlled sources of food, and eliminate enemies based on cultural divisions.  Surely, as they became less dependent on roaming and more dependent on their own farming skills, this is when humans began ignoring the importance of the world around them.

Not all people adapted to the agrarian lifestyle at this time, however.  In fact, was it not predominantly the Jewish culture using these practices?  The same culture that believed they have “dominion” over the other animals?  Elsewhere, people were still widely migrating by foot to new lands and new continents, far out of earshot of these “developed” cultures.  As this divergence occurred, so did the separation between those who culturally revere animals and the land and those who don’t.  In fact, for those in the Holy Land, it was somewhat blasphemous to not swine as swine when you’ve got a god providing everything for you and assisting you in defeating nations who were vetted against his acceptance.

Fast forward to the last 500 years.  Not much has changed in the big scheme of things until now.  People are still widely divided by those in societies with cultivated crops and livestock and those who are still mostly dependent on the land and who tend to relocate as needed.  However, they don’t seem to know much about each other – and thus begins the era of exploitation.  These “sophisticated” societies with their ships and their tamed horses start “discovering” new territories and conquering them for their resources and to add to their growing empires.  I guess the Holy Land no longer was good enough.  Suddenly, Africa becomes ransacked, India grows into a popular trade route, and eventually Australian aboriginals are overrun by British criminals.  The Americas, of course, are completely invaded.

Time and time again, the plundering societies view the indigenous groups with their “lacking” infrastructure, absence of livestock, and lifestyle choices.  Their foods weren’t always considered palatable and their 4,000-year-old farming techniques weren’t always understood.  However, only perhaps two large famines are suspected to have occurred in the Pre-Columbian Americas, both in the desert regions in established societies.  Disease and hunger became increasingly prevalent as Europeans began occupying the Americas and interrupting indigenous ways of life with their “superior” ways and attitudes.  A land that was once kept healthy and in check by South Americans with their techniques of burning acres at a time was now being neglected and scarred for mining resources.  Rather than peoples taking as they needed and moving as their needs ran short, newcomers because greedily consuming everything in sight – including land – and killing both animals and people for no substantial reasons at all.

I look outside and think it’s hard to believe that nearly everywhere around me should be wooded.  There would be no roads and other impervious materials altering the aquifers and redirecting high-velocity runoff.  There would be no concerns of chemical pollution or turbidity levels in naturally-occurring ponds.  There would be no need to monitor and regulate the numbers of different species or to keep an “endangered species” list.  That doesn’t mean species wouldn’t die out – that’s just a trend in nature.  But those trends wouldn’t be directly correlated to human activity.  In fact, most species’ sufferings appear to be directly correlated to the same species’ activity: humans.

I have friends who get angry if they park under a tree full of birds, or ones who complain about road kill or the dangers of deer, even in the city.  I know people who think swimming outside is gross because there are probably fish and things in the water.  All I can think is, probably the grossest thing in the water is you.  Humans are so filthy!  We are the reason why Lake Erie is gross, not the fish.  The fish are trying to keep living because they have no where to go.  The deer, too, have no where to go.  They used to be controlled by cougars and mountain lions, but oh no the farmer couldn’t lose any more chickens so we had to kill those off.  That means the deer continue to thrive and get cornered in big cities with nicely watered lawns.  Can you blame the deer?  He’s not evolutionarily trained to avoid cars.  Maybe you should be evolutionarily smart enough to realize this, and to respect that he needs a place to go, too.  And birds?  I don’t care what a bird does to your car; can you imagine a world without doves cooing in the morning?  I can guarantee you the same mess that gets on your car is the same mess that reseeds most of your favorite berries.

It’s hard to go through the list of things I disapprove of in modern society and realize how many of those things I do on a regular basis.  For example, work requires me to sit at a computer and use electricity, drive vehicles, and even dress in a certain way that doesn’t seem to permit avoiding factory-made clothes.  I have a phone, and everyone has a phone.  And even at an “environmental” company, I find myself hard-pressed to get pro-environment choices made (although I’m proud to say I’ve finally won the recycling argument for our lab materials, even if recycling isn’t a perfect solution to the waste).

I just wonder what the world would look like if no humans had developed.  Would it be the same story, just minus the people and the infrastructure?  Would it be much healthier?  Would it have dramatically altered into something unrecognizable?  What animals would be the most predominant?  Would any other animal fill in the niche that we would have left?

Sometimes I drive home over all of this asphalt and just wonder…

weather reminder.

Just yesterday afternoon, three friends and I were sitting in the scorching sun at the Reds stadium, eating Skyline Chili and paying $4 just to eat a dripping snow cone that would give us a 3 minute relief from overheating. While sitting beside home plate, cheering on the Pirates, I began recalling all of my favorite memories of summer in the past. They were always revolved around camping, trapshooting, and baseball. I thought, could it be? With the exception of actually PLAYING a sport, hockey is not my favorite. It’s actually baseball. Why? Well, I’ve been playing it longer, my dad played and would play with us in the backyard, and…IT IS OUTSIDE.

In that moment, I was feeling the hot sun and the open ceiling, realizing I was subjected to the sky overhead. Someone shouted, “Wind’s in your favor!” to the batter at the plate and I realized how human and animalistic this outdoor sport can make you feel. In hockey, it’s artificial ice in a closed room as sunlight blocking and biological clock cloaking as a casino. Here, even the wind controlled the game – not just then players.

And then the high wind warning struck, blowing in a horrific thunderstorm that forced everyone into the shelter. Radar lit up the screens, lighting split the sky, thunder threatened to bust out skyscraper windows, sheets of rain drenched bystanders, and a man caught an umbrella midair as it whipped through our huddled section next to Hebrew Nation’s dog stand. We waited and waited and finally it blew over. We returned to wet seats, watching the World Cup on the big screen until the tarps were lifted and the game resumed, the air rising yet again with humidity as the temperature spiked back. The rude people with umbrellas sat back in front of us, removing ponchos.

I love these games, the excitement of a home run or loaded bases – regardless of whom they’re in favor. The nachos with jalapeños, the peanuts. The stupid songs, mascots, and fan trivia. The huge screens with more information than you can process. And also…the earthiness of it all. The reminder that even pleasures in life are not separate from the dangers of a dictating natural environment. We are small, even smaller than a packed baseball field makes you feel with it’s open outfield overlooking the Kentucky banks and its home plate overshadowed by enormous buildings.

I really love baseball.

insurgent.

“But it is difficult to persuade [him] to do something he doesn’t want to do, and even more difficult to justify my feelings with no evidence except my intuition.  So I agree.  But I do not change my mind.”

How do you fight for something you’re convinced is right when someone else stands up against you, convinced you’re wrong?  When their assuredness makes your assuredness feel questionable?  When you start to go back on your logic and figure out how two opinions could diverge so suddenly, when, and where?

I’ve been feeling that way about a lot of things lately.  Little things as well as huge life things.  From small opinions to huge topics.  It makes me uncomfortable trying to understand why there can be such disparages in vantage points.  How can people have such varying opinions?  I’m definitely more favorable of fact-based arguments.  But if they’re based on facts, then shouldn’t the interpretation be the same?

I think the worst disparages have to do with people and relationships, whether it’s what rights someone should have or if it’s about whether or not someone is “meant” for someone else.  What defines those lines?  Morals?  Factual evidence?  Grey lines whose only definitions exist in the mind, through opinions, and by defining a set law of ethics and sticking to them.

My quote comes from Tris in the book Insurgent, second to Divergent.  And it’s basically how I feel about a lot of things right now: Concede but don’t relent.  In fact, don’t really concede.  And, at the same time, question yourself thoroughly.  Am I crazy?

What is crazy?

I’m just confused.