I’m still angry.
Or rather, I’m disappointed. But I don’t take disappointment well.
It’s this whole epiphany thing.
There’s a great scene in Terms of Endearment, when Jack Nicholson has had just about enough of Shirley McLaine’s bitching and nagging and nitpicking. She makes dismissive comment about all his NASA paraphernalia (his character is a retired astronaut) and it proves to be the final straw. He explodes: he has every right to be proud of who he is and what he’s done and the membership in the elite club that is Those Who Have Been To Space. “There are a hundred and six astronauts in the whole fucking world and I’m one of ’em!”
It must be amazing to be a part of a club like that. But then, it must be a more than a little frustrating, too. How on earth (yeah, I just did that) could one possibly explain the experience of space to someone who has never been?
We all use cues with which we are familiar in an attempt to build an understanding of that which is unfamiliar; my personal favourite is the image of God as a toga-wearing, buff Santa Claus, peering down through a hole in the clouds. How else do you give definition to that which is, by definition, beyond definition?
But putting issues of faith and meta-physics aside and just keeping within the natural, normal, everyday world of the know universe, there are somethings I believe can only be experienced to be understood. You may tell me that walking on the moon is kinda like wearing a special drysuit and bounding around the bottom of your pool, but I won’t believe it. I think there’s a little something that you’re only going to get by being there.
Down here on Earth, parenthood is a lot like that, as well. I have learned, when talking with young parents-to-be, to explain that the only thing I can tell them about what it’s like to have a child is that there is nothing I can tell them about what it’s like to have a child. Perspective changes everything.
My experience thus far of my Whole30 fast has been something like each of these.
Sugar (in its many forms) has come to define our interaction with food in ways we cannot begin to imagine without experience. When I explain that I am eating only animal-based protein, vegetables, fruits, natural fats, and no sugars or anything the body mistakes as sugars — meaning no breads, no wheats, no grains, no dairy, and the like — people look at me as if I’ve just told them God isn’t a totally cut, toga-wearing Santa Claus seated on a cumulonimbus for a peachy bird’s-eye view.
“What do you eat?” they ask, as if I hadn’t just explained about the animal-based protein, vegetables, fruits, and natural fats. So I go through it again. “But what is that?”
And their faces are scrunched up, totally flummoxed.
Now let’s be clear. I’m not talking about quantum mechanics. I’m talking about broccoli.
But I may as well be talking about quantum mechanics and the wonderful riddle of electrons to a bible thumper adamant that the Devil put dinosaur bones in Montana to confuse us. Sugar is the new religion. It is, quite literally, the opiate of the masses. So important is sugar that we have even created Not Sugar — aspartame — to worship in its place, like an icon to remind us of a power too great for our control. To challenge that sweetness is not essential to flavour — indeed, to happiness — is to speak heresy.
And so, less than two weeks in to this little adventure, I already feel I share an understanding with those men who have walked on the moon. Not as regards the experience itself, but rather the inability to communicate fully with the uninitiated.
I can’t begin again to the list of ways in which we are killing ourselves slowly (though less and less slowly) with our First World Probs. I can’t begin to list the ways in which my teenage daughter, sans sucre, has become a new and improved everything of herself in just twelve days. I can’t meaningfully tell you, “Life is better.” You don’t know.
I just have to shake my head and wonder at evolution’s irony: that cavemen had better teeth than us, and just how much that simple fact says about our hubris.