An Aside: Knowledge and Wisdom

I recently read a quote, the author of which I cannot remember, but it went something like this: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put tomatoes in a fruit salad.” With that in mind, in the last few weeks I have been reading a lot and acquiring a lot of knowledge, but it is only now that a modicum of wisdom has begun to show itself.

Taking off from the previous post, I started getting deeper into the food supply and the effects of different ways of eating on it. The vegans take the high ground on this one (and on everything else), saying that farming animals, particularly cattle, is hugely damaging to the environment, far more so than even, say, air travel. They say, correctly as far as I can tell, that the areas taken up by food for the animals is so inefficient in terms of the water use and the other potential uses of that land (the most common example is the Amazon rainforest being chopped down to make space for delicious Brazilian cattle).

Although they may be correct in this regard (but that depends on who you ask), I also read of so many cases of how a vegan diet can in fact be terrible for your body, depending on your individual body of course. Many people can thrive off of it, but not everybody, the most famous example (because she wrote a book about it) being Lierre Keith, author of “The Vegetarian Myth”. I once met a guy in his early 40’s who told me that his parents, as vegetarians, had brought him up in the same way from a very young age. Up until his 30’s he said he had very low energy levels until somebody suggested that he started to eat meat. When starting to eat meat, like a biblical miracle, his energy levels began to soar, he started to hit the gym, he was even promoted at work. He told me it had something to do with his blood type, suggesting that, again, what works for one, does not work for another. So although veganism might have an environmental point, I do find their militant writings about how nobody should eat meat very frustrating and close-minded. What I would rather see is a different way of supplying such meat, as a way of accepting that no size fits all.

So is it possible to change the system of food supply to cater for widespread consumption based on the “primal” way of living? Can everybody on the planet possibly make 1/3 of their diet comprise of meat, fish and chicken? With a kind of painful inevitability, some say sure, some say definitely not. If everybody wants 100% organic, free-range etc. beef grown as locally as possible, this is going to require a lot of grassland close to big cities, and a huge number of cattle roaming across these seas of green. I am neither a farmer nor a city planner, but this seems unlikely.

This was the stage in my own reading that I reached information overload, and brings me to the point I want to make. You can have a huge amount of information and knowledge at your disposal, which is very useful if you can call on it at will, but everybody with an internet connection also has it at their disposal. And the fact is that the internet is a very loud place, with everybody talking at the same time. One of the reasons I started writing here was that I want to save people the time it has taken me to wade through the very thick waters of information (no, I haven’t had a lot of work recently, thanks for asking). What it boils down to is not the knowledge that you gain, but your approach to the knowledge: this is where the ideas of antifragility really come into their own, especially with what we’re talking about here.

What I have encountered in particular when talking about these things with people is that a lot of people will ask about credentials before they believe what you say: are you a scientist? Are you a doctor? No? So how do you know? Well, first of all a good scientist will always be the first to admit that he doesn’t know. All the knowledge that you can possibly acquire over decades of research and study lead to the same conclusion: there is far too much information, too many ins and outs to possibly comprehend the whole story. Every story I have ever read about a scientific breakthrough always ends with the same words, “but further research is required”. I am not saying to disregard the foundations of our entire scientific knowledge, only that you must always be open-minded, and fully aware that what we know, or think we know, changes very rapidly. It is therefore important for you to have a framework within which all the information that is fired at you can move within and adapt to everything that has come before. This is what I would call wisdom.

With this in mind, I’ve come up with a few rules of thumb when looking at the issues in this blog, that is to say with fitness, diet, lifestyle and, later, what that looks like on a much bigger scale:

  1. There are no set rules
  2. Listen to what your body tells you
  3. Know that nobody knows everything, even doctors and scientists
  4. Be open-minded, flexible and adaptable
  5. Try new things
  6. You are not a machine, so don’t treat your body like one
  7. What works for one, does not necessarily work for another

With that in mind, I strongly recommend that you try new things, and read the other posts here!

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