The Teacher Was Already There All Along

Readers, this is an off-topic post. *Very* off-topic. Feel free to skip it.

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Everybody's heard the following saying so often it's become a near-cliche:

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

But I've been wondering about this expression lately. I think it means more than it means.

Think about it: Is it really plausible that the very moment I'm ready to learn something, the universe knows to plop a teacher right there, right next to me?

Right then? Really?

I mean, as much as I'd love to think otherwise, the universe doesn't revolve around me. Heck, the universe doesn't even know who I am. Or for that matter where I am.

And the presumption that the universe not only knows all these things, but also knows my exact level of "readiness" for a given lesson… well, now we're beginning to border on pathological narcissism.

Yet this saying is still true, strikingly so, almost to the point of being eerie. I've seen many, many examples of teachers “appearing” at just the right time, not just in my life, but in the lives of almost everyone I know.

Which is why I think this expression means something completely different, something shocking: It suggests that we are surrounded by teachers, the right teachers, all the time. For everything! It's just that we're too busy stiff-arming all these teachers and all these opportunities to learn. We ignore or reject advice, we use "yes-but" tactics, we react emotionally or with rage, and we shoot down their ideas and teachings with a wide range of ego-defending excuses and rationalizations.

The only reason a teacher occasionally "appears" is because at that time, for whatever reason, we didn't stick out our arms and block the insights--insights that, all along, were right there for the taking. In other words, we were "ready."

So, imagine: What if we stopped stiff-arming all the teachers? What if, instead of letting in a teacher only when we're ready, what if we just stayed ready?

I bet a lot more teachers would appear. After all, they were there all along.


Read Next: Why Can't I Find People Who Share My Values on Anti-Consumerism and Frugality?


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday August 21, 2015

Links from around the internet!

Don't forget! The easiest way to support Casual Kitchen is to buy your items at Amazon using the various links here. Just click over to Amazon, and EVERY purchase you make during that visit pays a modest affiliate commission to support my work here. Best of all, this comes at zero extra cost to you.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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When it comes to losing weight, eating less is far more important than exercising more. (Upshot)

Interestingly, Marion Nestle agrees… except that it's still entirely Big Soda's fault. (Food Politics)

Related: When it comes to banning soda, Marion Nestle fights dirty. (Casual Kitchen)

When the farm lobby supports "Ag gag" laws, it sure looks like they have something to hide. (Jayson Lusk)

Recommendations for healthy eating for long plane trips. (Frugal Healthy Simple)

Know the different types of expiration dates for food. (100 Days of Real Food)

We love our eggs, except for this one highly inconvenient fact. (GlobalPost)

My own little rebellion against gluttony and overconsumption: living happily on a 1,500 calorie a day diet. (Social Extinction)

Useful! How to develop a strong, instinctive frugality mindset. (The Simple Dollar)

A more satisfying life automatically cuts down your desire to doll it up with more toys. (Mr. Money Mustache)

How other people spend has nothing to do with your financial health. (New York Times)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Organic-Dropping

Have you ever seen a recipe on a food blog calling for ingredients like the following?

1 lb organic collard greens
1 cup organic rice
Several pieces of organic (ideally local) kielbasa or sausage
3 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube
black pepper (or cayenne pepper) to taste

Readers, one honest question: Is it really necessary to place the word “organic” in front of collard greens, rice and sausage?

I mean, if a reader wants to buy organic ingredients to use them in this recipe, they will. If they don’t, they won’t. So isn’t the placement of the word in any recipe essentially pointless?

Likewise with “ideally local.” These are needless words. Those readers who want to use local, organic meat are free to do so. Heck, if you want to go full-on Michael Pollan, you can seek out local, organic pork sausage made from local organic pigs finished on acorns in the fall!

Once again though, readers who don’t, won’t.

So why are those words there? What could be the real purpose of food bloggers needlessly using words like “organic” or “ideally local”?

Do you see it as a form of aspirational behavior? A form of identity construction? As in “look at me, look at me! I’m the kind of person who regularly uses organic collard greens and I think you should too!” In other words, is it a status thing?

Well, once you start to look at the world though the lens of status competition, the use of words like these suddenly becomes a lot clearer: they demonstrate what Thorstein Veblen would call “marks of superfluous costliness” which signal not just our ability to pay, but also our high relative position in the status hierarchy of our society. Veblen even invented what would become a famous phrase to describe this type of behavior: conspicuous consumption.

Ironically, this signal shouts all the louder if we conspicuously pretend we aren’t actually giving off the signal.

The interesting thing here is by unnecessarily inserting words like “organic” or “ideally local” repeatedly into a recipe, you get to show, indirectly, the kind of person you are. And you can do so without even making an expensive purchase! Even we here at Casual Kitchen are duly impressed by such a low-cost way to go about identity construction.

Once again: these words do not need to be there. And yet they are there, and conspicuously so.

Readers, what do you think about this issue? Share your thoughts!


Side thoughts:
1) I cannot think of any other plant where buying organic adds less value than with collard greens. Typically, cruciferous greens like kale, swiss chard and collards aren’t typically farmed with the use of a lot of pesticides in the first place, so the incremental benefit of buying organic is essentially zero. Insects apparently don’t like to eat their leafy greens either.

2) Curious about the where the recipe above comes from? It’s from Collard Greens with Rice and Kielbasa, an easy recipe from right here at CK. I didn’t want to pick on any specific food blogger, so I just used one of my own recipes and “needlessly” inserted the words organic and ideally local here for the purposes of today’s post.


Read Next: A False Referent


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

CK Links--Friday August 14, 2015

Links from around the internet!

Don't forget! The easiest way to support Casual Kitchen is to buy your items at Amazon using the various links here. Just click over to Amazon, and EVERY purchase you make during that visit pays a modest affiliate commission to support my work here. Best of all, this comes at zero extra cost to you.

As always, I welcome your thoughts.

PS: Follow me on Twitter!

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The Reidel wine glass company bullies a wine writer for a genuinely funny satire about their incredibly overpriced glassware... and giving us yet another brand not to buy. (Hosemaster of Wine)

Related: Brand Disloyalty

"The industrial food system needs reform, but the most useful criticisms are going to come from people who honestly appreciate the magnitudes of its successes." (John Coupland)

Favorite food podcasts! (Dad Cooks Dinner)

How The Food Hunk unwittingly became a pro-science activist. (Biology Fortified)

Ask people about what they love, not what they do. (HuffPo)

When we're holding onto something that brings no joy to our lives, it's either out of an unhealthy attachment to the past or an unhealthy fear of the future. (Raptitude, via Ombailamos)

Applying the Stoic technique of "postponement" to overwhelming feelings. (Stoicism and the Art of Happiness)

In the name of emotional well-being, college students increasingly demand protection from words and ideas they don't like. (Atlantic)

Why American teenagers aren't working summer jobs any more. (Bloomberg)


Got an interesting article or recipe to share? Want some extra traffic at your blog? Send me an email!


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.

Disease Mongering

Readers, I'd like to share a few striking quotes from the book: The Science of Fear by Daniel Gardner. What I'm about to share isn't just relevant to our health, it's also directly relevant to how we consumers react to our informational environment, and how we react to the various things that are sold to us. Read on:

"It is not in the economic interests of a corporation selling pills to unhealthy people for people to be healthy, or rather--to be more precise--for them to perceive themselves to be healthy. Their actual physical state is irrelevant. What matters is whether someone believes there is something wrong that can be cured with a pill. If so, the corporation has a potential customer. If not, no sale. It doesn't take an MBA to figure out what parmaceutical companies need to do to expand their markets and boost sales.

Critics call it 'disease mongering.' Australians Roy Moynihan and David Henry, a journalist and a pharmacologist, respectively, wrote in the April 2006 edition of the journal Public Library of Science Medicine that 'many of the so-called disease awareness campaigns that inform contemporary understanding of illness--whether as citizens, journalists, academics or policymakers--are underwritten by the marketing departments of large drug companies rather than by organizations with a primary interest in public health. And it is no secret that those same marketing departments contract advertising agencies with expertise in 'condition branding,' whose skills include 'fostering the creation' of new medical disorders and dysfunctions.'"

Of course, this process of disease mongering involves more than fostering new dysfunctions. It also involves influencing symptom thresholds for already existing diseases, or "widening the diagnostic boundaries" of illnesses. And then, it involves making sure that the public is well-informed about these various conditions. Casual Kitchen readers, all of whom are sophisticated media consumers, should see the irony in my use of the phrase "well-informed." In reality, this is anti-information.

Gardner continues:

"This is much bigger than advertising. It is about nothing less than shifting the line between healthy and diseased, both in consumers' perceptions and in medical practice itself... Erectile dysfunction, female sexual dysfunction, hair loss, osteoporosis, restless leg syndrome, shyness: These are just a few of the conditions whose seriousness and prevalence have been systematically inflated by drug companies seeking bigger markets.

Language is one of the most basic means of medicalizing a problem, the critical first step in getting people to ask their doctors for a pill. So 'impotence' becomes 'erectile dysfunction,' an impressively medical-y phrase that pushes away consideration of factors like stress and anxiety as causes of impotence that can be cured without a pill.

Numbers are also key. People with be more likely to conclude they have a condition if they think it's common, and so drug companies push statistics like 'more than half of all men over forty have difficulties getting or maintaining an erection'--a number that is grossly misleading because it comes from a study not taken seriously by experts in the field."

Remember the other week's post about authority figures in advertising? How, as much as we'd like to think it's not true for us, we respond to authority figures so autonomically, so instinctively, that even ads containing phony symbols of authority can dramatically impact sales of products and services?

Well, here are two forms of what should be actual authority--medical professionals and professional journalists--used to reshape our entire perception of medical conditions and disease. What makes this even more sneaky and subtle is that the authorities in question appear to have our interests at heart: "Hey, they're only trying to help! Maybe there really is a condition out there that we might actually have. We really ought to know about these things."

That's when, as a culture, we begin to pathologize what's actually normal:

"'The rhetoric surrounding disease mongering suggests that it will promote health,'" writes Iona Heath, a British physician, in the Public Library of Science Medicine, 'but the effect is in fact the opposite. Much disease mongering relies on the pathologizing of normal biological and social variation and on the portrayal of the presence of risk factors for disease as a disease state in itself. When pharmaceuticals are used to treat risk factors, the vicious circle is completed because anyone who takes medicine is by definition a patient.'"

At this point, the average person will begin shaking their fist at "Big Pharma" and presume, falsely, that consumers are too powerless to fight back against such large, powerful, and deeply misleading opposition.

Once again, however, Casual Kitchen readers know better. They know they have agency in this domain, just like they have agency in the domain of consumer products, the domain of food, and the domain of personal finance. And they know a central truth, a truth that should be far more obvious to far more people: No one can force you to take a pill or make you believe, contrary to reality, that you have a disease.

One final thought. Any numerate person who spends a few open-minded minutes looking at mortality data will see that we're safer and healthier than ever. And yet as a culture, we worry more than ever about our safety and health. (Gee, they ought to make up a new disease.)

But it's not really in anyone's interest to convince us that we're safer and healthier then ever. There's no money in it! Instead, there is money--big, big money it turns out--in using our fears to convince us otherwise.

If we permit it.





Read Next: Why Can't I Find People Who Share My Values on Anti-Consumerism and Frugality?


How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.