- Toothless wisdom -

20th January '17

I've always had an interest in the way that cavemen used to live their lives.

Although evolution hasn't stopped since the emergence of civilisation, not only has it not been around long enough for species to properly adapt to it, but civilisation itself is evolving more quickly than genetic evolution can keep up with. That forces people to live in a manner outside of what their body was created to do, which in turns leads to some undesirable side-effects, namely ill-health.

It's not like our bodies had perfectly adapted to caveman life, and it's not like evolution ever stops. Deviations from how cavemen lived can be beneficial, and I'm not disputing that. But that doesn't mean that you should disregard the lifestyles that our bodies evolved to live altogether.

I've always felt like this, but my interest certainly peaked when I was reading that book on evolution, if you remember, back when I was living in China. That was really the point that I developed a lot of the lifestyle theories that I still abide by today.

I've never had any of my wisdom teeth taken-out, and that's something of a point of pride for me.

Is it peculiar to be proud of such a thing? Perhaps. But cavemen obviously didn't have dentists, but yet their teeth, including wisdom teeth, fit perfectly into their mouths.

They didn't suffer the problem of today's world where wisdom teeth displace other teeth as they push through, the reason being that by chewing enough over the course of your life, your other teeth will be slowly pushed into their rightful place by the time the wisdom teeth emerge.

It annoys me when you get those arrogant know-it-all, my doctor told me so it must be true people, who look down their nose at you if you haven't had your wisdom teeth taken-out.

What, did you think that evolution just made a mistake?

If you need to have your wisdom teeth taken-out, then it's an indicator that you haven't been using your body in the way that it was evolved to be used, and I take pride in knowing that my wisdom teeth fit perfectly into place. It tells me that I've used my teeth correctly over my life.

I also recall how, if you consider hunting/gathering to be work, then cavemen used to work for around fifteen hours per week.

Including time planning/printing/prepping, I'm working more like fifty hours per week this term, and that always annoys me. My job requires me to use my body for the task of work far more than it's naturally suited to, the only possible outcome of which, can be ill-health.

That always brings me back to the supposed Dalai Lama quote (although some people dispute whether he actually said it):

"Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

For health rather than laziness (and my Apple Watch will testify how much more active I am when I don't have work), I would love if I could work an amount equal to what my body evolved to endure, because anything more is ultimately at the sacrifice of my long-term health.

But you have to make refinements based on the reality that you're not actually a caveman, and instead live in an environment virtually void of predators. However, that guideline is still there.

To many people, especially the 'let's pull-out our wisdom teeth instead of using our bodies how they evolved to be used' crowd, it may sound peculiar to use such an archaic model for life, but in my mind, it is foolish to disregard the lives that we evolved to live.

And trying to live a life resembling what my body evolved to live, all the while living in an entirely unnatural environment, it provides challenges.

First and foremost, the most important thing is sleep, and the most natural way to sleep is from dusk until dawn.

Even if you're able to replicate that amount of time in bed, you can't fabricate how your body reacts to the change in natural light between night and day.

I don't even finish work until two or three hours after dusk, so any hope for me to have a natural night of sleep is futile, but I do what I can.

Maybe one day if I'm ever able to work morning shifts at work, it's something I'll be able to remedy.

I'm also aware of how inflexible I am for a man in his early 30s, and I think about how a caveman gathering fruit would have to be reaching up, bending down, continually stretching-out the muscles.

I don't do that so much when I'm sat in front of my computer planning lessons, so it's why I try to do yoga when I can, although time often seems to evade me.

And sitting for these long periods in general is... well have you ever tried to find somewhere comfortable to sit when you've gone-out hiking in the forest?

It's not so easy. There was no lazing on the sofa for hours on end 10,000 years ago; one of the reasons that I say continual moderate activity throughout the day is far more important than exercise.

And when I do exercise, it saddens me a little that I no longer really have the capability to do sprint training in the same way that I did when I had a running track in China. Never have I felt as fit as that, and logic says that a stress-induced rush of adrenaline in order to out-sprint a predator must have been a primary evolutionary trait of our ancestors.

That's what stress was for, but nowadays our bodies use it in prolonged ways indicative of our work. The more you can avoid doing work, the further you can remove yourself from this unnatural form of stress.

Diet is the one place where, fundamentally at least, I disagree with caveman living as, unlike a caveman, I opt to eat only plants. When you dig-down into the specifics though, I would argue that I eat a diet more resembling our ancestors than most omnivorous humans do.

Dairy is perhaps the most unnatural thing that a human being can take into their body. At no other time in history has one animal used the milk of another for their own food. If that's a regular part of your diet, then I have no hope for you.

But even as a vegan, I can look at someone going out into the forest, and killing and eating a boar for example, as totally natural. That's a normal human diet.

What is not normal is the consumption of animals that were born into captivity, living entirely unnatural lives, while being fed unnatural foods.

Forgetting the ethics of it, you're not eating a wild animal. You're eating an unnatural mutant created from the DNA of one animal, but fed the food of another.

What is that?

Even being void of meat I would argue that a diet of plants, organic where possible, is a far closer bow to our ancestors than eating the meat that you'll find in your local supermarket.

But where I'm going in this very long-winded way, is that living a healthy lifestyle, is more or a less a full-time job in itself.

If you want to be a healthy human being, right away you need to lose nine or more hours per day in bed. Fifteen hours remain.

To compensate for not actively going around gathering and scavenging anymore, another thirty minutes should really be lent to yoga, bodyweight exercises, or another equivalent that uses your body in a natural way, that you don't get from being sat in front of a computer.

You might not have to go picking it from trees, but you still have to collect daily food, either from the supermarket or the local shop, and then to survive on a diet other than just salad, it also needs to be prepared. Each day I would say that I spend at least two hours on buying, cooking, eating, and cleaning up after eating food. Some days it's signifcantly more.

And then on top of all of that, you have to work your unnatural, full-time job; a requirement to meet your bizarre desire to live within cities, something that I've always done, but can't really justify why. I guess that it's the desire to have control over my own environment. Apart from the occasional cockroach, I don't really have the worry of other species here.

Whenever I do go and stay somewhere more natural, biting insects are the bane of my existence, to the point that I look forward to getting back to my unnatural, concrete jungle.

But when you live like this, in the name of health and longevity; what more do you have time for?

I'll tell you what: Fuck all.

You can force more into your day, sure, but by doing so adding stress, something which is already a detriment in this world of fifty-hour work weeks. If anything I want to do less in my day, and to keep a clearer mind.

I certainly haven't given-up on learning Thai, but for perhaps the first time since I started, there is nothing regular that I'm doing.

It's now a case of, if I have the time I'll throw in the occasional lesson of some kind here or there... but very little more.

People always talk about how you should be ambitious, whatever that means. They really mean that you should strive to achieve a fabricated status to give yourself an inflated sense of self-worth.

Surely the only ambition should really be living a long, fulfilling, healthy life, which as the Dalai Lama pointed out, is in complete contradiction to working towards wealth and recognition.

Just having those things adds stress to your existence, and that's if you don't die trying to achieve them.

The American dream is basically the dream that anyone can work hard to achieve their goals.

Is it a coincidence that a country that promotes such goals suffers more from obesity than anywhere else?

I've been deep in thought this week, and I'm not entirely sure why; I guess that without my ex-girlfriend to talk to or occupying my thoughts, my mind has no choice and more time to unwrap everything that's floating around, and the devil makes work for idle minds... sort of.

But I guess this kind of... having periods of deep thought is important sometimes, to remind yourself why you do what you do, and where you're trying to go in life.

The world is full of people who'll tell you that you should have your wisdom teeth taken-out; an indicator of woeful short-sightedness on their part. And these same people, while spilling off both sides of their chair, will preach ambitions and goals and achievements. And if you hear the same lie enough times, you can start to believe it. Just look at religion.

I think that I needed this time of thought to remind myself what I actually want from life. That my ambition isn't to kill myself climbing an organisational ladder, rather to sit contently on the bottom rung with my feet relaxing on the floor. The people at the top are the ones worried that they're going to fall off.

I've heard a lot of people at work talking this week about how they're going to go back and study a masters, or they're going to do a PGCE. And in one sense, I'm jealous of their drive and haven't entirely ruled-out such an endeavour from my own future, although once being seriously considered, it's now something sitting away on the backburner as... well right now I'm just kind of content.

Every now and then these thoughts fly into my mind, about whether or not I should be so idle right now. I became a teacher to work as a I travelled, but yet I've lived in just two countries in the last five years. A part of me thinks that I should be out there, exploring the world, and if I was ever to lose my job here, I certainly wouldn't look at such a catalyst to leave Bangkok as a bad thing.

I also wonder if, now approaching two years, my decision to stop drinking alcohol is a good one.

I'm almost two years since even tasting alcohol. That's two years without a single hangover, two years without memory loss, and lest we forget how bad alcohol is for your overall health.

It also means two years of a very limited social life though, because... well it's not so easy to be sociable without alcohol, not when 95% of the activities of your peers involve them going out drinking, and you don't enjoy being sober around them.

I often wonder about that, because you only get one youth. And mine, if not already over, won't last much longer. But at the same time I often talk about wanting to enter middle-aged in good health, because many people don't. That is the age where many people start to suffer more serious ailments, and I don't want to be among them, and alcohol would increase my chances.

It always floats around in my mind whether or not it's a good thing. In times of doubt though, you go with the choice that keeps you alive the longest.

This is really all justification for why, unlike last term, I'm not forcing anything this term.

Last term, I went to a Thai class at my school on every single Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of the term. On most of those days I went to two, and on one I even went to three. Even if I was busy or I was hungry, I'd always make the time to attend one of those classes.

But when you do something like that; not because you want to do it and it fits into your life, rather you just feel obligated, both benefit and enjoyment are limited.

Especially when I forced myself to go on days that I was otherwise very busy, I'd sit in these classes not obviously learning anything, thinking 'why the Hell am I here? I have other things to do.'

So I've changed that this term. I'm avoiding forcing things that don't comfortably fit into my day. But the problem there is that, by working as much as I do; three times more than I evolved to do, by eating and dedicating as much time to food as I do, by exercising as much as I do, and by sleeping as much as I do, well... it doesn't really leave much time left for anything else.

With such a schedule, learning Thai can only ever be an inconvenience. But the difference this term, is that I'm actually smiling, because I'm spending the time that I need to, to relax. I'm not going a hundred miles per hour, all day everyday. And in the grand scheme of things, that's really what I have to do.

The Dalai Lama would cringe at me sacrificing my mood and ultimately my health in order to pursue a language, but at the same time, it's very frustrating to know that I can't spare the time to learn something that I want to learn.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that for now, everything's on hold really. There's little to no point studying Thai if I can't dedicate at least five hours per week to it. So I'm taking a bit of a hiatus, and feeling so much better and more positive because of it. But my hope is that, avoiding any more administerial oversights next term, then maybe I'll have a lighter schedule and the time to start studying again.

Or maybe a school will open that's reasonably priced, and that doesn't require you to study five days per week, although I won't hold my breath on that one.

It's been a week of reflection and... I feel a lot better for it.

Last term I feel like I was charging around at a hundred miles an hour, without any real thought about what I was doing. I didn't have time to think about what I was doing. This term...

Well by putting time aside to meditate, to do yoga, to watch TV, it's... it's just become more rewarding. It's become more humane. It's become more suitable for the evolution that I derived from. And I'm finding the time to smile again.

It's a little bitter-sweet that it has to come at the sacrifice of learning Thai, but like I said, this hasn't stopped forever, it's just stopped until it can fit comfortably into my life without being forced.

Sometimes you need to take a step back and remember that without health and happiness, everything else is worthless. Nothing in life is worth sacrificing them for. After last term, I'm belatedly remembering that again.