Sunday, June 29, 2008

thea p22 obesity and cities

Two Short Theses


More on Potlucks
The Urban Baha'i Environmentalist


More on Potlucks


Yesterday was pool party day at Tala and Tim's place in St. Catherines. Ron lent me his van, so along with my kids, Silvie and Thomas (my wife, Marie, works evenings), we took four Chinese aviation students along (the van did not have 121 more seats, or I would have gladly taken all the Maylan Flight School pilots living in our small town). A feature of the evening was a dreaded pot luck.


I have written before what I think of these affairs. "Occasions for gluttony that should be banished from anything to do with the word Baha'i" about sums up my former position. This is the religion of the Golden Mean, and I do not have the self-control to limit myself when surrounded by food. So the likes of me cannot be a Baha'i and a potlucker at the same time. Nor am I alone. I once mentioned my low opinion of potlucks and a relatively new Baha'i burst into tears, saying that since she declared her weight problem has gone from severe to morbid, and that she has found little sympathy for her plight among other believers.


Anyway, our hosts graciously supplied our guests from mainland China with chopsticks. For the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by people eating their whole meals with delicate sticks instead of prongs and miniature shovels. I had observed on my visits that these guys really do use them at home on a daily basis -- I had imagined that the practice might be something like mead, suits of armor and damsels in long pointy hats are for my English ancestors, a tradition long ago abandoned. Anyway, seeing their example, eight-year-old Thomas wanted to learn, so we requested a pair. He tried without much success. I knew how to use chopsticks but had never seen the point of it. They slow you down to a crawl. Why crawl when you can fly?


Now I see the point of it.


I recalled a Chinese saying I just found in a search I just made through old editions of Star of the West Magazine: "Eat less, taste more." This bit of wisdom is something that this culture takes seriously.


I took Tomaso's abandoned chopsticks in hand and started eating. It was not as glacial as I feared it might be. After a while I took upon myself the challenge of finishing my plate of mostly rice off completely with this unfamiliar handicap. It took a lot of ingenuity. I learned to maneuver the dry, crumbly rice into the more liquid foods. Major brain-strain that distracted from the conversation. However, to my surprise actually is possible to do this, though it took at least three times as long as it would have with a spoon. I was immensely proud when I cleaned my plate completely. Only later did I realize that I had completely forgotten to do what I normally would have done, that is, go back for thirds and fourths and fifths. Now I know why obesity is unknown among these hundred or so young students walking around town. In a comparable number of Western students dozens would be waddling rather than walking. Chopsticks force you to eat slow enough that your natural sense of satiation has a chance to kick in while still on the first helping, and you do not feel the urge to overeat. No need to exercise willpower, restraint comes naturally. I am going to buy a bunch of chopsticks and take them to every potluck I attend in future. I am not at the point where I waddle rather than walk, but my doctor is expecting me to lose weight over this summer. I might even throw out my forks and use chopsticks on a daily basis.




The Urban Baha'i Environmentalist


Shoghi Effendi, envisioning a united world, wrote,


"A world metropolis will act as the nerve center of a world civilization, the focus towards which the unifying forces of life will converge and from which its energizing influences will radiate." (Shoghi Effendi, World Order, 203)


This shows, in spite of the Central Figures' opinion that the country is the land of the soul and the city of the body, that a Baha'i influenced civilization will never say "Goodbye city life" completely. In fact high-density city living is the most environmentally friendly way for humans to live. This is because large numbers in a small space allow economies of scale to kick in. In addition, as Jane Jacobs proved a decade after the Guardian passed on, city living is the most creative; ever since pre-historical times, innovation has always radiated out from the cities into the countryside, not the other way as some used to think. In Shoghi Effendi's image cities are like magnifying glasses where "energizing influences" radiate out from a central focus. This sun-like quality is of the nature of the soul itself, as Baha'u'llah taught,


"...the life of man proceedeth from the spirit, and the spirit turneth to wheresoever the soul directeth it. Ponder upon that which We have revealed unto thee that thou mayest recognize the Soul of God which hath appeared above the Dayspring of bounty invested with manifest sovereignty." (Suriy-i-Ra'is, in Summons, 2,33, p. 155)


This is all by way of introduction to an innovative slideshow about the many innovations on the drawing boards for the city of the future on the Popular Science website; it is called "plan for tomorrow's mega-city," and can be found at:

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Here are a couple more interesting sites that suggest creative uses in the future.


Sound candy wearable motion triggered sampler,



This project looks like something that somebody less lazy than myself could make that would be of use in Baha'i meetings,


Build a Portable Screen

"I do a lot of projection installations, in unique locations, usually with about zero setup time. When I looked into buying a professional 10x7 fast-fold screen, I was blown away by how much they cost. Instead, I decided to design my own, using easy to find materials."


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