Three News Items on Nature

Here are three news items: first, Noam Chomsky being interviewed on the topic: “What We Really Want”

The interviewer begins saying, in a very self-satisfied way, that he and everybody else is selfish, and all we want is material comfort. Obviously, this is a very silly idea. You only have to contemplate the people who have given up life or material success altogether for a cause.

But Chomsky took a different line, pointing to good evidence that human nature impels us to seek independence, education and cultural satisfaction. He makes some very interesting points, some of which I had not heard before, e.g. that working class men would, if they could afford it, pay someone to read to them while they were working. He also makes out a very strong case that the world of advertising has put a great deal of effort and ingenuity into changing our natural desires, to make us seek material creature comforts.

There is no need to go into further detail, Chomsky is quite inimitable. But that raises a question: why is Chomsky as intelligent as he is? I am sure other people have equal or even higher levels of intelligence, but they are not as rational as Chomsky. He seems to effortlessly weigh all the issues and come up with solid, common sense ideas. Even if I sometimes disagree with him, I never have anything but the highest respect for his fairness, balance and intelligence.

Clearly, Chomsky was born with great intellectual talents. I cannot explain why he is so reasonable, except to say that the tempo of his speech is very moderate. I have said in several other places how important tempo is: a good tempo, not too fast, not too slow, allows the mind and feeling work together. The feeling brings in the element of fairness and justice which is so prominent in Chomsky’s thought, and it stops the mind going off onto silly tangents, and so may account for the common sense he seems to always display.

So, you could do worse than consider what Chomsky had to say in that clip. All that he lacks, although it is a significant lack, is the vertical or spiritual dimension. But to my mind, of non-spiritual thinkers, he is the most normal I have encountered.

The second news item is from The Australian, 22-23 April 2017, page 5, under the heading “Diet drinks liked to stroke dementia”. Based on research published in the journal Stroke, it says that: “Drinking just one artificially sweetened drink every day has been associated with a three times greater risk of having a stroke or developing dementia …”

The researchers stressed that there was a need for more study, as the conclusions were not yet certain. However, they recommended that: “… people drink water on a  regular basis instead of sugary or artificially sweetened beverages.”

Now, one of the things about this is that artificial sweeteners have long been suspected of health demerits. However, as even with this study, the evidence is most suggestive but not absolutely conclusive.

Yet, I am going to give a principled reason for saying that artificial sweeteners are a problem and should be avoided: they are too far from the natural foods we were made to digest.

The problem is our nature (the issue Chomsky mentioned). Nature allows us to do certain things to our food, e.g. to cook it. It also allows us to prepare foodstuffs in various ways, e.g. to remove the husk from grains which would otherwise not be edible. But, as the late great Dr John Lester said to me, we can work within nature, and use her, but not abuse her. Whether we are using or abusing her is always a question of judgment. Given that even sucrose is not good for us, an artificial sucrose replacement must, I would say, on first principles, also be bad.

The third and final item is to do with messing with our natural genders. There are a very, very few cases where people are born as hermaphrodites. Medical intervention may be needed here, but even then, I still believe it should be minimal: adjustments should be internal rather than depending upon operations if possible. Again, Dr Lester said to me that Gurdjieff did not oppose all surgical operations, rather he said: “Be slow to cut”. And that advice saved me from an operation I did not need.

The news item in question is this:

I looked up the web site of the man who wrote this, Walt Heyer. He has had two sex change operations, and regrets that he ever had the first one. His story is quite touching. And it is not the only story of the type I have come across. It is good of him, and selfless, to share his story. The children who are undergoing these operations are among the most vulnerable in society, exactly the type who should be helped with sound natural methods.

So I suppose the message in the news is to keep it natural wherever we can. As Gurdjieff said: “for the man who is working, Nature is a Sister of Charity” (see the meeting of 16 January 1944).

Joseph Azize, 23 April 2017

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