The Anathema of Judgement

Lady-Justice-Marilyn-Monroe-Lanoo11It is the desire of the mind to structure the world around it.

It’s not a bad thing. Labouring under the presumption that the entirety of existence is capable of being pigeon-holed has brought us many great scientific realisations. But there is a danger in applying analytical mental associations within a moral or ethical context.

I am, in fact, talking about the perils of standing in judgement of one’s self or one’s environment.

Now, before I continue, let me just define what I mean by ‘judgement’. It may seem a matter of semantics, but I place a distinction between ‘judgement’ and ‘discernment’. To me, judgement is the act of placing a moral, ethical or analytical imperative for one ideal over another, i.e., that doctor is better than that car thief. Whereas I see discernment as the act of consciously perceiving a difference between two ideals, i.e., that doctor is different from that car thief. Though this distinction might seem subjective and differs depending on an individual’s understanding of the terms, I think that it’s an important one to make.

For those of you who don’t know, I used to work as an alternative health practitioner. The alternative therapy I practiced was a form of energetic healing which relied heavily on elements of counselling in order to get people to release their baggage of their own accord. And do you know what my years of energetic healing taught me?

People can be really hard on themselves.

Like, really hard on themselves. The more energetic work I practiced, the clearer it became that many people hold themselves just as accountable, if not more so, than anyone else in their environment. The harsher their judgement of their environment, the harsher their judgement of themselves, and this wasn’t just limited to moral and ethical judgement either. Many people would look at someone with a bigger slice of cake and think ‘that slice of cake is logically better than mine’. As a result, their subconscious would reach the analytical conclusion that it was therefore good to have a big slice of cake and bad to have a small slice of cake. By applying moral and ethical absolutes like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to the analytical spectrum, it became easier to make sense of an oft chaotic world.

So, what’s the problem?

Logically, if you think it’s bad to have a small slice of cake, you’ll endeavour to get a bigger slice of cake. The act of observing the flaws inherent in your situation will only drive you to improve said situation… right?

Actually, no. Not always. A lot of the people that I met through my energetic healing who perceived themselves as ‘badended up vilifying themselves because, from a logical perspective, if their situation was bad then they, by association, were bad also. And if they were bad, how could they possibly fix themselves…?

Has it ever occurred to you that most people who pursue a life crime tend to come from troubled homes? Now, certainly it’s an easy argument to make that they’re the product of their environments. But bearing what I’ve said in mind, isn’t it easy to see how they might largely be the product of their own judgements and the way in which they’ve been taught to judge the world? i.e., if my situation is bad, therefore I am bad by association…

Judgement is an anathema, a poison that is deeply rooted in our society. Judging something to be ‘good’ is symptomatic of the same wound as judging something to be ‘bad’. They are two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other.

I believe that it’s important to avoid judging the merit of everything from a position of analytical or moral imperative. We are just ants, scurrying about our tunnels, hungering after sugar and sunlight. How can we hope to see the full panorama of our existence when we only use our eyes?

Don’t choose to pass judgement, whether on yourselves or on each other. Instead, know discernment. Know that some things are different from other things. Know what you want, and be prepared to work towards it. But also know that no one thing is truly better or worse than any other.

Of course, if nothing is better than anything else, why bother aspiring towards anything? Without the carrot and the stick, how do we now function? No longer donkeys, but something more…

Still, that might be a discussion for another day. 😉

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MSG – Enhancing the Flavour of Intellectual Discourse

msg-of-social-gastronomyI have been known to get a little frustrated with the culture of misinformation in modern  society. There is a common attitude that if a lot of people believe something, it’s probably true. When someone tells me something like ‘everyone knows that’, there’s a quote from the perceptive Sir Terry Pratchett that springs to mind:

The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its most stupid member, divided by the number of mobsters.

Sadly, I’m inclined to agree. People don’t seem to get more intelligent when they clamour together. As their minds collectively bend towards the same outcome they begin running with the pack, like lemmings leaping over the cliffs of free-thinking despair. This is a bit of a fatalistic view, perhaps. I wholly understand that this largely occurs due to a primitive cultural coding which tells us that there’s safety to be found in numbers. It is why people have difficulty empathizing with someone far removed from their cultural or ethnographic circle, but it’s also the same impetus that makes a person want to play cricket with their neighbours and have them all around for a backyard barbeque.

Have I told you guys about MSG?

The story behind MSG is one of my favourite examples of the ingrained propensity we all have for cultural misinformation. For those of you who don’t know, MSG stands for monosodium glutamate and it is commonly used as a cooking supplement to enhance a dish’s natural flavours. It is used most predominantly in Asian cooking and in the 60s it was linked to a health condition known as ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome, a loose collection of complaints symptomatic of allergic reaction or food poisoning. To this day, people still believe MSG to be bad for you.

So, what is MSG?

In the early 1900s, a biochemist named Dr. Ikeda, one of the leading researchers into taste neurosensory, identified a substance called glutamate. Glutamate was a naturally occurring chemical compound which was found in highest quantities in foods such as meat, tomatoes, cheese, seaweed and breast milk. Once he had identified this compound which made everything taste better, Dr. Ikeda used salt as a stabilising agent, or monosodium, and went on to found one of the largest monosodium glutamate manufacturers the world would ever see. MSG is little more than salt and glutamate, two highly common, naturally occurring foodstuffs.

msgSo, how did everyone get this idea into their heads that MSG is bad for you?

In the 60s, a gentleman named Dr. Ho Man Kwok published an article in a journal describing a loose collection of symptoms he consistently encountered upon eating out at Chinese restaurants, ranging from headaches, to neck pain, to palpitations of the heart. Dr. Ho would go on to perform a series of tests on lab rats which involved feeding them copious quantities of MSG. When the rats inevitably developed brain legions, MSG was declared a health risk and has been spoken of in hushed tones ever since.

The part of this story you don’t hear is that Dr. Ho fed them ridiculously high quantities of MSG compared to anything that would be fed to you at Chinese restaurant. The part of the story you don’t hear is how food manufacturing companies, instead of not putting MSG in their product, began to relabel MSG as ‘Artificial Flavours’, and other misnomers, so that we never actually stopped consuming it. The part of the story you don’t hear is how there are virtually no complaints of ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’ in Asia, despite Asian cooking utilising more MSG than any other cultural demographic. Not to mention the fact that that there hasn’t been a conclusive study indicating that MSG is bad for you since the 60s.

And yet, when I type MSG into a search engine, I see just as many websites indicating that MSG is a health risk as ones that debunk these myths. I myself was still under the impression that MSG was bad for me, until I found out what it actually was and the truth behind the matter.

Beliefs can be hard to change, guys, especially when you have large groups of people telling you that they’re right. Don’t base your truth soley on what’s commonly accepted. Be prepared to ask questions of both those around you and of yourself. Because truthfully, I do believe that wisdom is not measured by the times you are right, so much as the times you’re willing to concede that you’re wrong.

Stay gold, Pony Boy.