A Roundabout Answer to a Question About Laser Tattoos
I continue reading Weston Price's Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, the story of a dentist, traveling with a couple of doctors and nutritionists in the early 1930's. It was in this area and right around this time that Shoghi Effendi vacationed and regained his strength from his severe illness.
In the early chapter I am reading, Price and his friends examine the health of members of one village after another in various places in rural Switzerland. At the time, these isolated mountain people were just coming into contact with the rest of the world. Roads were being built connecting some valleys that had subsisted with little or no outside contact for centuries. Price found that villagers in one valley might have vineyards, which allowed grape juice and wine (and therefore vitamin C) as part of their diet, and in the next valley they did not. They never touched alcohol.
But such is the nutritional quality of locally-produced food that it made no difference, almost everybody was fit and healthy. Dental caries varied somewhere between two and four percent, compared to as much as fifty percent in places that had access to factory-processed, imported foods (in such areas, between a quarter and a half of the teeth examined had had a cavity at some point).
This is the reverse of what you would expect. You would think that if you had access to more varied foods that were made with the latest, scientifically helped food production techniques, that it would improve peoples' diet and health. Price found in every case that the reverse was the case. When upon examination a subject had a few more than the usual number of cavities and facial deformities, that they had spent a few years outside their home valley eating the modern diet. As soon as they came back, the cavities stopped appearing.
Price noticed other side effects of this healthful lifestyle. Almost everybody, being properly nourished, had a full, deep, beautiful singing voice. They practiced what we now call sustainable agriculture. On the mountainside terraces runoff topsoil was collected at the edge and carried -- by hand -- back to the inner end of the field. Labour saving devices? These people did not need to go to pay a personal fitness trainer to stay fit, they did strenuous but useful work and felt all the better for it.
Sometimes locals would hold a regional fair where athletic contests were staged. The prize for the winner of a race was a bowl of fresh cream! These Swiss treated cream as a treat, just like we do ice cream. No doubt it tasted much better, with no sugar, no chemicals, no flavouring, no colouring, no junk at all. Just cream from a cow that had spent its life outdoors eating real grass in fresh mountain air. The cows and other livestock were healthier and happier than our poor grain-fed creatures kept indoors in giant factory farms hooked up to Matrix-like milking machines. For our food producers quantity beats out quality.
Price's findings in this book are surely among the most important in dietary knowledge of the 20th Century. His discovery that local diets are superior is something that the popular mind still has not come to terms with. I am sure that if you offered the athlete's prize, a bowl of fresh cream, to any diet conscious modern, they would refuse to eat it, invoking poorly understood buzzwords like "fat" and "calories." How grossly misinformed we are about what is good for us! Misinformation on diet is rampant.
With envy I read about these Swiss peasants and long to go live in the mountains too. Flatlands are boring and un-healthful. Here in North America we have spent decades using bulldozers to erase every hill and valley to build malls and parking lots when if we had a lick of sense we would be using earth moving equipment to do the reverse, to make large, mountainous, valley-filled urban living areas whose deep contours force people and animals to climb wherever they go. That alone might end obesity, which is all but unknown in mountain people.
After Price's dietary discoveries in the 1930's, the economic bullies expunging traditional, local diets and replacing them with commercially based food became more ruthless. All around the world sinister corporations have corrupted the foreign policy of Western governments, which literally at gunpoint forced aboriginal and traditional peoples to have the "choice" of eating local, or eating fast food hamburgers and drinking carbonated sugar-water. The only capitol city that escaped was Havana, which was forced by an American boycott to become the world's greenest city (for more on this, seehttp://thetyee.ca/Life/2006/09/12/UrbanAgriculture/#). More vulnerable poor regions that refuse to "liberalize" their markets face dire, bloody consequences. Instead of learning from the superior diet of these people, unfettered capitalism routinely exploits and preys upon them for ephemeral profit. As a result, today obesity is catching up to smoking and alcohol as the overall worst health threats around the world.
What God must think of our present uglification of the human body, not to mention our planet! So terrible is our diet that obesity is ubiquitous not only in rich lands but is even worse in poor ones. Yesterday I ended the daily Badi' essay with this quote from the Master,
"Man is the temple of God. He is not a human temple. If you destroy a house, the owner of that house will be grieved and wrathful. How much greater is the wrong when man destroys a building planned and erected by God! Undoubtedly, he deserves the judgment and wrath of God." (Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation, 498)
Coincidentally, my nine-year-old son Thomas asked me a question that gave me a chance to apply this quote. He has evidently been thinking about today's fashion of tattooing the body. Yesterday, outside the local tattoo parlour, he asked, in his usual science-fictiony way, "What if when I grow up they invent a laser that will paint a picture on the body without pain? And what if it could be removed painlessly? Should I get a tattoo?" I answered that that would be his decision. If after reflection and your heart still moves you, and you consult with a variety of people, and your local LSA and your parents all agree, I suppose you might decide to get a tattoo.
However, you should consider it carefully. Historically, religion has been very suspicious of images, especially Judaism and Islam. And they have a good point. I myself find images by nature irksome, and I quickly tire of the same picture on the wall. And as the Master says, it is a fact that our bodies are temples of God. They are not our possession but His domain. Myself, I would be very disinclined to mark it up in any manner. I went into a long history of how Islam forbade images entirely, and how that forced artists to decorate temples with designs so ingenious that they actually pioneered new branches of mathematics.
In any case, essentially what happened in the chalets of Switzerland was that the people were not corrupt. They had no choice, so they chose to live well. If they had not made that choice, these mountains long ago would have become uninhabited.
As Price found, even their faces were prettier for having no dietary choice, no choice but to walk uphill so very often. As far as good health goes, the Swiss villagers were surely far wealthier than almost everybody today, even the richest of us. But we should not forget that they were information poor. The isolation of these mountain villages was total. We would think of them as hopelessly unsophisticated. I doubt if I could keep my sanity if I lived there, cut off from news, radio, phones, computers and screens, longer than a month. However, this makes me wonder. Have I become addicted to cheap data in the same way the modern diet has made me addicted to cheap calories and unnourishing fat? As a father, I am witnessing this happening to my children even worse than, at a later stage of life, it hit me. They cannot stand to be away from a screen more than a few hours.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) their data poverty, I envy the rural Swiss. At the heart of our problem, I think, is how we misunderstand and mismeasure wealth. Wealth is not money alone. All the money in the world is useless if you are sick. Wealth is happiness, godliness, a healthful lifestyle full of variety and nourishment for mind, soul and body. The lesson is that purity must come before choice. Otherwise, liberty only undermines health and leads to further corruption. Corruption should not be an option.
Some Swiss villages close by virgin ones had had roads for a while, which allowed them more choices, more contact. They traded with the outside world and chose, for example, to keep their cows indoors, feed them grain and use the milk to make the famous Swiss milk chocolate instead of giving it to their children to drink. The ugly effects on their teeth and bodies were strikingly apparent to Price and his team of doctors.
Given a choice, most, including those who had eaten traditional diets all their lives, would prefer to gobble down sweets, chocolate and ice cream, rather than good food. Given a choice, we would all be happy to let machines do all our manual labour. However, it would be most sagacious to avoid false choices before they come up. We need purity first, then freedom. Corruption cannot be an option.
Without thinking or deliberating, we on the Western diet have handed these crucial choices over to corporations and other centralized institutions. The result is desecration of our body, the house of God. We deface ourselves internally far worse than an external tattoo ever could.
That trend, in a nutshell, is what the open, multi-pronged approach in "mound architecture" would be designed to reverse. You start by building as much surface area as possible into the locality by piling up mounds of earth. Then, place modular buildings and homes into the hillside. This would introduce "labour creating" devices into the lifestyle of all. But it would also increase surface area and aid in locally-grown agriculture and urban agriculture, which could grow the sort of local, healthful food that made traditional Swiss so healthy.
But this project would involve more than an outward reengineering. It would depend upon fundamental improvements in both democracy and capitalism. Mound agriculture would ensure that as many people as possible live in dense proximity (which is easiest on the environment), and in order to do that their whole day would be designed to put purity before license. This would turn as many important decisions as possible over to locals concerned to beautify the house of God. Each neighbourhood would be plugged into an open building code under the oversight of science and a world governing authority.
Mostly, this system would remove the corruptive influence of corporations. Plato called the merchant the "nursemaid of society," but as things are now, our nursemaid is a Frankenstein monster run amuck, whose first victims are children, the poor and vulnerable. Employers routinely downsize and lay off millions of workers every day but rarely if ever do governments consider disbanding a corporation. Even discussing such a blasphemy is anathema in the press. No corporation, no matter how evil or destructive, has lost its charter in America at least three decades. Lately, even banks that commit suicide are untouchable, even at the price of trillions of dollars and are deemed "too big to fail." This is the same blind, self-destructive, ideological madness that brought down communism. Any system that refuses to reform is doomed to be wiped away. We should be thinking about what to replace the carcass with once the stink becomes unbearable.
Abdu'l-Baha saw the Great War coming, and did what He could to alleviate the suffering of those close to Him. He quietly stashed away corn and grain, and later when food was not available He just as discretely distributed it to the people. Such realism, foresight and planning is what our Exemplar did. In our present crisis of global warming accompanied by the collapse of liberal, unfettered capitalism, I believe that starting projects like mound architecture would be just what the Master would be doing if He were alive today.
That is what this Badi' Blog is dedicated to establishing.