TED Talk Tuesday: Surprising study shows living longer depends on your community

Dan Buettner travelled the globe and found societies where many people are living over 100 years. And these centenarians are not sitting at home or in retirement villages, or using advanced health care to get them there. The video Buettner brings back is surprising, and his advice may surprise you even more. Longevity in these regions is not only based on diet and physical fitness. It’s based on our relationships.

The commonalities between the societies include what you’d expect: A plant-based diet with little to no meat. It includes not eating to fullness, and an active lifestyle. In addition, Buettner finds another similarity: These people are self-sufficient. They walk or ride bikes to where they need to be. They are spiritual: They all have a sense of purpose. They respect their elders and put family first. The children take care of their parents when they reach old age. And they interact with the community.

Buettner puts together a compelling picture based on some real life information. The simple fact is, longer life means doing something of value and being valued. And really, this sense of purpose is something we all know. We just…got a little distracted.

“…when you think about it, your friends are long-term adventures, and therefore, perhaps the most significant thing you can do to add more years to your life, and life to your years.”

The perfect backyard and the perfect person.

I was out walking with Jesse the other day. The sun was setting and the western skies were aglow with shimmering orange and yellow and red. We passed a home with a back yard that was carefully landscaped with evergreen trees. They were clustered within neat rings of stone. A decorative stone bench sat at either end of the yard. There was small, neatly trimmed shrubbery flanking the area.

“That yard looks like a park,” I said.

I thought about the care of the owners to ensure that the branches were trimmed. The stones and benches clear of weeds. The grass surrounding them cut. I said, “I wonder what the yard is going to look like in a hundred years. Will the yard even be there? Will it be destroyed? Will the family have moved on, and will there be another family owning the place?”

The transience of life

I think about how much the yard was appreciated. I think of our constant struggle to keep order. Maintaining our hygiene, cleaning ourselves, walking about, working, exercising, cleaning again. Picking out the soap and shampoo that we like, maybe it’s the cheapest, or the one that has best scent, or the one used in all the salons, or the one that’s not tested on animals.

Finding the restaurant with the tastiest dishes, the ones we must have, and we’ll pay for it, because nothing else is good enough. Maybe getting fast food, because we just want to eat something, anything. Or going to places that get their ingredients locally. Or having a garden, or not eating animals because we do care, we care a lot about our actions…

Does it matter?

Eating, brushing our teeth, eating again, brushing again, stopping the rot, keeping the bacteria at bay. Our diligence! Cutting the grass, cursing the rain, cutting the grass again, trimming bushes.

Again and again and again.

Going shopping to replace worn clothes, or just because it feels good. Trying to make more money, searching for that job that will make us comfortable, that income that’s just out of our reach, if only we could get to it.

Until we don’t do it anymore

Until one day, we stand at the gates to be judged. The gates of truth. Our conscience. And we ask ourselves if we spent our time wisely. Did we make an effort to do the right thing, or did we follow the crowd? Did we work too much, too little? Did we care about our contribution, about the consequences of our actions? Did we care about people, about the future, or did we throw up our hands in helplessness? Did we worry too much, or did we enjoy our life?

I looked at the yard and thought all this, because this is what I do. I thought about the big clock. Tick-tock. And then I stopped thinking of that. And I started appreciating everything a little bit more.

The perfect backyard and the perfect person? Neither is possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try for them.

National Defense Authorization Act has been passed: The government has now taken our right to trial

During Hurricane Katrina, martial law (termed state of emergency) was declared in New Orleans while the city streets were cleared, power was restored, and looting stopped. Martial law power was instituted during World War II when Japanese-Americans were imprisoned to protect all of America from the possibility that ethnic loyalties would turn the Japanese violent.

Martial law is declared when the safety of the populace is threatened. It gives military control over an area and military power over you. You can be arrested and jailed indefinitely until the military decides to release you. It is one of the paradoxes of life. We fight war for peace. We have martial law take our freedom, to protect our freedom.

Earlier this month, the government claimed the power of martial law

Congress passed the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) which has declared that American citizens who are suspected of supporting terrorism can lose their right to trial. This emergency measure is to protect us and is only temporary. Like in New Orleans, after power was restored and the roads cleared, martial law was lifted. Like after Japan surrendered to the US in World War II, the Japanese-Americans were released from prison.

But how long can the government hold current martial law power when our war isn’t against a group with a leader or against looters during a natural disaster? When do we win the war on terror?

It’s true, the military is not patrolling the streets, but why wasn’t the wording in the NDAA made more clear than “supports terrorism”? Why didn’t it specify that support is giving information, material, or physical help to a terrorist? Why didn’t the law err on the side of protecting our freedom while protecting us from terrorists? Why did they instead take absolute power over arresting Americans in the US?

A terrorist attack killed nearly 3000 Americans on 9-11.
In comparison, over 28,000 babies born in the US die before their first birthday

In reaction to the attack on 9-11, the government waged war in three countries, created a Department of Homeland Security, and has taken our right to trial.

I think we must ask why they deserve to take such a power to protect us in a war that has no end in sight.

Sources:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/02/president-obama-signed-the-national-defense-authorization-act-now-what/

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20081015/infant-mortality-us-ranks-29th

MLK commemorative post: Dr. King fought against the majority. Today we have the same fight.

Dr. King once said: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering.” And so, today, we too, must sacrifice to take control of our lives once again.

Dr. King fought against the apathy of the white majority and today we also fight against the apathy of a majority

Dr King inspired others to face the powerful and established practice of discrimination. The discrimination which Dr King fought against was based on race, but it didn’t affect the mostly white US population. Society went about its business, just like today, but today our apathy led us to a recession that almost resulted in the total economic collapse of our country.

A corporate system without consumer oversight is a system that will promote inequality

Today we have a cultural acceptance of our powerful financial system, which has slowly grown and allows us to spend less and have more money in our bank accounts. The benefits of this system are for everyone, from the corporation to the consumer. Still, the situation threatens the very structure of our free society.

Power follows money, and today we see a movement of power from elected officials to a corporate minority. This concentration of power has grown so large that when the existence of a few banking and automobile corporations was threatened, the whole country was affected: Regardless if you were rich or poor, we lost businesses, jobs, and retirement savings.

We can reclaim power over the institutions if we follow Dr. King’s advice: Sacrifice.

A sacrifice of personal financial growth. As Dr King sacrificed, we too must sacrifice our way of life to correct the injustices of today: We must turn away the money that trickles down from careless and dishonest Wall Street bankers and the corporations. We must control our own finances and earnings to take back the power we are giving them. We must move our money to local banks and credit unions. Institutions should be dependent on us. Not us on them.

Race cannot be used to determine who is given opportunity, and neither can capital

Today, as in the past, we have a grave danger that cannot be ignored. We cannot continue to be apathetic about the division of the country into rich and poor, just as the population before the 1960s was apathetic about the division of the country by race. We cannot continue to watch our capital accumulate in the hands of the minority. The future of our society depends on our capacity to sacrifice and to recognize the power we have as consumers.

Yes. We can.

Patrick and I aren’t friends anymore

I remember I met Patrick at the Ravari Room. I would go there most every Wednesday, to watch Tony and his jazz trio bang out tunes. After that night, I ended up hanging out with Patrick regularly, but ironically, it was only after he stopped returning my phone calls that I realized who he was. He was a teacher who taught me how to truly value people.

It’s not just what people do for you, but why they do it that makes them your friend

I was lost when I met Patrick. I needed to accept myself and construct my own value system for life. I was selfish and I would use people without appreciating what they had done for me. And I survived off of their attention. Little did I know that Patrick was the teacher that I needed, if only I had been ready to change.

One day I told Patrick that I had given some money to a friend at work who was in need, but I hadn’t realized that I was close to not being able to make my bills for the month. I didn’t want anything from him, I hadn’t even thought about it, but Patrick promptly said, “Let me know, I can help you out if you need it.”

When Patrick’s friend Chris moved into his house, Patrick said it was a little aggravating to always see him at home. I said, “But it’s nice to have that help with the house payment.” Patrick replied, “He’s not giving me anything. Not yet.”

Patrick moves to the ghetto and gets robbed

Within 6 months of moving into a low-income neighborhood, Patrick’s bike was stolen out of his garage and then his HDTV from his living room. Both were stolen because he had not locked his place. It may be naive, but the pureness of his attitude is inspiring because it assures me that he wasn’t a person that needed other people’s sacrifice or trust. He had a confidence in humanity.

It may seem that he sacrificed something, but what did he really lose? Things. Things which he certainly valued, but didn’t derive happiness from. And just as important, what did he retain? His courage, which serves as an example to others.

Patrick didnt compromise his values for money. He treated me like an adult. He helped me when he saw I really needed it, offered money, connected me to his company to apply for a job, among numerous favors.

After a couple of years, I guess he decided he had given me enough chances to develop confidence in myself and become self-sustaining. I regret that my change in attitude did not come sooner, but I’ll always remember his simple, honest, positive approach to life. I hope to live by the example he unconsciously set for me and everyone in his life.

Patrick knew everyone should be given a chance, because humanity is lost if we don’t try to provide an environment that promotes encouragement, trust, and love.

I’m glad he took some time to trust in me.

TED Talk Tuesday: Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy



Why is there apathy? Meslin says it is because our environment encourages it. Apathy is in our nature, just like our determination, selfishness, and kindness. But our environment is a powerful promoter, of both good and bad traits. Meslin describes how society makes it hard to to be active in your community, how media depicts heroism as being for the chosen few, and how the system makes political involvement uninspiring and the political process complicated and manipulative.

“As long as we believe that people, our own neighbors, are selfish, stupid or lazy, then there’s no hope.”

Meslin made me realize that the bigger and more complicated our system grows, the more apathy will creep into our actions. If we can see that the system we are building is making our future both easier and impersonal, we can change it. In effect, we must save us from ourselves. And in a society so free, if we do not, we only have ourselves to blame.

So let’s reach out and empower ourselves. Start buying more from the people in our community. Let’s not give our money to careless and dishonest Wall Street bankers. Let’s vote less for the two parties and more for the third party that hasn’t been compromised by money. We can make the change. As Ghandi said,

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Your neighbor isn’t stupid or lazy.

And neither are you.


Follow me and I will take you away from the everyday.

If this is something you care about, then SHARE it. Let’s get out of the stands and into the game. Let’s interact.

Rituals are funny…and dangerous



Rituals. We follow them without thinking. Some rituals are habits that we consciously try to form, like healthy exercise and diet. Other rituals are generally environmentally influenced… like going to church, going out to eat, or putting up a Christmas tree.

This past weekend, I went out to run, not having exercised the week before. My ritual is to run about six miles over a certain route that takes me through a subdivision and down a main street. I considered shortening the run, given my week-long inactivity, but I didn’t. I also thought about slowing from my usual pace. I didn’t follow that advice either. At the end of my run, I noticed a stabbing pain in my left Achilles tendon. I had injured myself, and it was all because I was accustomed to my ritual, and I didn’t want to change it.

We can form seemingly good habits, like regular exercise or a healthy diet. Some dietary habits are so ingrained in our minds that going against them seems like going against nature, like the practice of eating meat. As we have become more technologically advanced, we don’t need to slaughter our own animals or go to a farm, so we don’t see meat as coming from a living and breathing animal that can suffer and who raises its young, unless we take them away for veal or lamb chops. We don’t see that we have put these living things in factories where they aren’t animals anymore, but units of production on an assembly line. Input: corn, antibiotics, and hormones. Output: meat patty on our plate.

As human beings, we have the capacity to think through our actions and make a plan. Our mindfulness is our most important quality, otherwise, we are at the mercy of our environment and the whims of a culture that allows slavery to exist, restricts people from voting, and allows banks to defraud their customers, almost causing world-wide economic collapse. If we can recognize when a ritual is good or bad, we can make an exception and not blindly follow it.

So stop every once in a while and assess your habits and judge whether they are making you happy. You will probably find something you can change that will drastically improve your life and the state of the world you live in.

The opposite of happiness is not sadness. It’s emptiness.

Over a recent weekend, I had an interesting mix of experiences, one sad and one happy. One was surrounding a loss, and the other a celebration. But I realize at the end of the weekend that the two experiences are related. I came to the surprising realization that loss, the feeling of emptiness, is the opposite of true happiness, and how that knowledge can help me improve my life.

I took part in a friend’s charity run for his brother who died of cancer. As I talked with his parents, I was struck by their feeling of absence for their son. I saw a family that lost a brother, a son, a lover. I then felt that emptiness in myself as well. I felt the absence of my uncle who I had lost to cancer years ago.

The next day, I was at a community festival. It was a celebration. Music was being created as food was cooked and drinks that had been fermented were poured. I met new people and the connection I already had with my friends, who were with me, grew. I was surrounded by creation. I was happy.

We are here to create and connect

Happiness and sadness are states of feeling. Sadness isn’t in any way less than happy. Their opposite is not feeling at all. We aren’t here to live in a state of nothingness, in apathy, observing life go by. We are here to create something and forge personal relationships. But the first step, before creation, is individual acceptance.  

Creation, taking risks, loss, making a stand, connecting with others, and doing something we value is what life’s all about. And these things require sadness and pain, in addition to happiness. The alternative is existing in a state of neutrality, a stagnation in which the only movement is towards death.

We were meant to live it to the fullest.

When are you your happiest? What are you doing?

9-11 is the wake-up call that is still ringing

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. I listened to news reports about the attacks, and grew sad in remembering what happened. Then I tried to think about why those men would want to attack the US.

Ignorance promotes aggression

If you truly knew your enemies, you would not only see them as having different ideas, but as a father or mother, son or daughter. They love their family and try to help provide a good life. They just want to be happy… just like you and me. Ignorance dehumanizes the Americans that are being targeted. And ignorance about the terrorists leads us to fear them.  Fear is a feeling of insecurity. When we don’t know a person, we’re cautious.  And when we don’t know a situation, we are fearful.  But knowledge gives us power over the situation, and it gives us the power to decide whether attacking is justified. Those who call for war sound the most confident, but in fact, they are the most fearful, whether they are patriots or terrorists.

The 9-11 attack is the wake-up call

Did the terrorists surprise you on 9-11? They surprised me. I realize now that the attack is our wake-up call to find out what is happening in the world. The attacks happened in a world in which the US spends massive amounts of money and sells loads of military weapons. In fact, the US is the biggest spender and biggest weapons exporter of any other country in the world. We provide money and arms to different countries and different groups. Some of them have fundamentalist religious beliefs and/or have powerful ethnic grudges. Our money influences these alliances and animosities. After years of involvement, we have developed a worldwide reputation, accurate or not.

With our money comes great power, and great responsibility

How do we stop future terrorism? We start taking responsibility. We start thinking about the consequences of our actions. What do you think we can do to prevent people from developing a mentality that would make them attack us? Asking these questions is part of being an accountable and empowered American.

I know we can do it.

Evolving towards unhappiness?



My days felt sluggish. Have you ever felt like your body was walking through mud?  This is how I felt.  Work was not challenging me, and it had been three weeks since I had been to the gym. I wanted to get back, but only out of habit.  Then, in the middle of my workout, after I’d pushed past the point when my mind had told me to stop, I was overwhelmed, but not from any physical pain.  I realized how much I needed a consistent challenge in my life, and I wondered: Do most people get challenged in their daily lives?

Challenges bring us happiness

I looked in the gym mirror, breathing deeply. I saw past my face and looked into my eyes, and everything fell away. I didn’t worry about what I needed to do later, or what I should be doing next week. Their time would come, but right now, I knew I was ready, and whatever happened, it would be ok.  I took the barbell onto my back smoothly, and balanced it there, feet planted firmly on the ground, and I gazed forward undistracted, but then I thought: Why don’t I feel like this all the time?

Work gives value to our life

Today we have evolved to get things done faster and with less work.  Or we’ve evolved to a point we don’t need to do them at all. In the past, the time we spent resulted in a barn, a pair of pants, or a tasty meal. With exercise, there is nothing tangible.   All we gain is the feeling that we’ve challenged our whole being, our heart, mind, every living part of us. It is a happiness that lasts all day, and can integrate into our whole life.

I think this is something we can all afford to spend time doing.