I guess I hadn’t stopped to think that one reason why government seems so insane right now is that the “governing” they’re trying to manage across wealthy, huge institutionalized structures like music, media, money, pharma, education, transportation— are fast becoming super-decentralized. All of them are fast evolving due to a tectonic shift in control. In this way, Governments themselves are just another “Woolley Mammoth System” like them. Like it or not, their Ice Age is ending. We’ve all watched various forms of power-decay impact these systems. Have you stepped back and wondered where all this is headed? That’s not what I anticipated talking about with this week’s guest, Jordan Greenhall. I thought we were going to talk about Nootropics. That’s where we started but Jordan quickly aimed the conversation at the dead center of these trends.
Before a lot of expensive orthodontic work, my mouth was an accordion of crowded teeth in the front and impacted teeth in the back. I remember being a kid thinking about having my wisdom teeth extracted and thinking how unnatural it seemed. Honestly, it’s not a topic I spent too much time thinking about after I had all my work done. In fact the entire dental marketplace of corrections, straightening, flossing, brushing, invisaligning, headgearing— really the whole category— is something I’ve spent most of my life trying to avoid.
That’s why Peter Ungar’s book, really caught my attention. He’s a professor at the University of Arkansas and he studies the environmental dynamics and anthropological view of teeth over vast stretches of time. The book is, “Evolution’s Bite: The True Story of Teeth, Diet and Human Origins.” It digs into what our ancestors ate, and what their their fossil remains can tell us about their diet and evolution. Not to mention what teeth are like for modern hunter-gatherers compared to ours. Why are they so straight? Why don’t they have the same wisdom teeth problems that we do?
It’s a fact that god created the universe, reality is in three dimensions, India is a developing country, you need to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day, that when you meet the right person it will be true love, and if you eat fat you’re going to get fat. These are indisputable facts. There’s no place for opinion, or feelings in any of this, right? If you opened your brain and added up all the time you’ve spent fact-gathering, how much time do you think that would add up to? How much of what’s in your head are anecdotes that you repeat and how much are simply true? Even if they’re not, who’s got time to figure out what the truth is, where to start, and how to see it?
Certainly, Science is true. That’s the bedrock of our culture. It’s always been true and it always will be true. That is, until you look to the past and realize it’s a modern invention not at all shared around the world. It blows up the closer and closer we get to it. That’s not anti-science sentiment just that we do need to take a closer look at ourselves, our minds and how we perceive reality. The closer we look, the more we realize there’s some pretty big gaps.
Food is #1. If you’re an American, there’s no dodging it— from turning on the tv and seeing that juicy hamburger, to reading article after article about how to lose weight, to gym memberships, to following crazy diets or eating philosophies, or hell just look at the most popular things on the internet. It's food and there’s a million points of view on it. In fact, if you haven’t had a conversation with a friend about how your pants are fitting or whose fat and how they look— you’re probably not living in our society.
I wanted to take a step out of that whole crazy zoo and look at things from more of an objective “zookeeper’s” perspective when it comes to what we eat, why we’re compelled to eat it, and what we can do if we want to outsmart our brains in this insane, food-focused environment.
If you listen to this podcast it’s not a surprise that I love bizarre. What better way to extend that lens then to look beyond people? So when author Matt Simon was recommended by a listener as a guest for Grow Big Always, I thought it was a great idea because he’s a science writer at Wired and specializes on Zoology, specifically some crazy fucking creatures.
It’s hard to describe his book, The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar, because it’s a fusion of the insane things creatures do and also incredibly funny. Where else can you glance at a title of a section that says, “Adventures in having a six inch long clitoris.” Actually, don’t answer that.
As we begin to heal on the other side of a painful presidential election, we're left with deep cultural divides that frankly have been growing there for a while. So it's worth taking a giant step back and examining ourselves and the insulated bubbles we've put ourselves in. As comfortable as this social insulation is, it--along with a culture of intense sensitivity that lobotomizes what we say for fear of offending others-- keeps us from the free exchange of ideas. Instead we perceive someone with even the smallest deviation from our point of view as "one of them.” While those with extreme liberal views fight for a unrealistic level of absolute inclusion which flies in face of our objective differences, extreme conservatives feel their side of the coin is just as right and they passionately defending their own strict point of view and seek inclusion as well. Both sides arm themselves with friends and Facebook feeds which reinforce and fuel what they already believe. It’s worth taking a step out of that fray and examining ourselves and yes— fearlessly climbing out of our safe and comfy pods to try to understand and accept people who are different.
Ever notice how frequently the word “addict” is used? Just do a Google News search on the word and you’ll be shocked just how often it’s used in a headline. Articles are plastered with mentions of drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts, food addicts, shopping addicts, work addicts and internet addicts. “These people” are painted as out-of-control and often menaces to society who need to be stopped, jailed, medicated or otherwise cut off. But what if those diseased people weren’t sick at all? What if you suddenly realized you were one of them? Well, that’s what happened to me. In preparation for this podcast, I realized I’m an addict. I’m an addict who comes from other addicts, who has passed it onto my kids, too. I’m constantly looking for a way to not be with myself, a way to avoid the pain I have of not having meaningful bonds. In this chat with physician and best-selling author, Gabor Maté, we talk about the shocking truth about what causes addiction and the things we can do to address the problem. What’s cool about Gabor is that he avoids quick-fix thinking when he tackles things like addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall. Rather, he shines lights on the often uncomfortable truths that live at the root of these things.
Language used to evolve slowly back when we were far-flung. Wide-spread human contact was made through one civilization taking over another. That’s drastically different, today. New words can take over the planet literally in minutes. While that speed is incredible, it’s even more so when you stop and think about the fact that new words and analogies are little shift our points of view— gay vs same-sex, criminals vs justice-involved, murder vs honor-killing. While new words flow like rapids, filling new spaces or displacing old ideas, and as English becomes a global platform— our human experience is shaped and reshaped within even within our own lifetime. Anne Curzan studies the history of English, the evolution of slang and it’s migration over time. She’s the author of several books on language including her latest, “Fixing English: Prescriptivism and Language History” as well as co-hosting “That’s What They Say” on Michigan’s NPR.