Health: A Side Effect of Lifestyle
For many years I’ve had this quote by Herophilus, the “Father of Anatomy”, on my email signature.
“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.”
Health is the central pillar of one’s life, closely followed by love (And if you want to explore or rebuff that idea, write to me. I love that sort of thing.). The presence of health gives us the capacity to do all that we dream of doing.
And in order to achieve health we must doggedly eat tasteless foods and drag ourselves into grueling and tedious toil.
But why is it that such a belief exists?
That’s actually beyond the scope of today’s letter.
Health doesn’t come from an unremitting application of will power to do the unpleasant.
Rather, health is the accumulation of every choice, every action, every thought and every feeling day in and day out. And, just so you don’t think I’m heartless, I want to be clear that I’m speaking of one individual’s personal journey, without any comparison to what that looks like for another individual. We all have different challenges to work with.
I should pause and define the term “health”.
One definition of health is “the absence of disease” or “the state of being free from illness or injury”.
I don’t think that’s what health is.
I prefer this definition: “Health is a relative state in which one is able to function well physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually to express the full range of one’s unique potentialities within the environment in which one lives.”
Health is reaching toward harmony within yourself, and within your environment. It’s also possessing the resilience to maintain or return to that harmony in the face of chaos.
This means taking a lifelong deep-dive into the question of who you are. It means trying out ideas and expressions, and finding that some of them don’t suit you. It means creating your own definitions, your own systems, maybe even your own culture.
This accumulation of choices becomes our lifestyle.
Health can be used as the canary in the coal mine, or perhaps the aroma in the kitchen, to guide us toward nourishment and away from danger.
Every single decision can be sculpted by the question “Does this, or will this, support my health or will it not?” Not all health is physical. There are a lot of different needs that we are trying to get met.
I have a great example of this.
When I was somewhere around 25 I was given a book on how to make fancy truffles and caramels. I’d been having fun making a few candies and this was a very thorough book for taking the process farther (which met my need for skill development and precision). I was considering buying myself a couple of molds and a fancy cutter for turning ganache or caramel into perfect little squares. But then I asked myself, “what would happen if I made batches of 50 candies at a time and always had truffles around the house?”. Not to mention all the imperfect ones…
I decided to sell the book and meet my needs with an equally engaging hobby. Maybe it was knitting socks or making lacto-fermented foods. I don’t really remember anymore.
It wasn’t a choice between something fun and something boring. It was a choice between two equalling fun things, but with an eye to long term effects.
Health is central to everything we want to do in life, but it isn’t the goal of life. Hopefully with a bit of following your heart, considering your needs and keeping the long game in mind, health can be the side effect of your lifestyle.