It always puzzled me as a little boy that when I ate bacon it turned into a boy, and when my cat ate bacon it turned into a cat, even when, as was not unusual, we ate from the same piece of bacon. No matter what we ate in common, his food became a cat and mine became a boy.
Many years later I found myself dealing temporarily with an analogous problem. I was trying to write the electrical differential equations of the nervous system to describe how it is, that whatever the temperature outside may be, the human body stays around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
We have all experienced, willingly or otherwise, the tremendous and continuous high level noise from the loudspeakers of rock groups, or the enormous dynamic range of a full symphony orchestra from almost inaudible to immensely powerful; song bird to thunder storm.
The body is like an amplifier so cleverly designed that whether the players play softly or loudly, the output from the speakers is always constant. This is what the body does when it receives wind and snow in winter at 20 below freezing, and hot sun in summer at 110 degrees and no matter what the input temperature, the body output is 98.6.
The pressure of other work put the investigation to one side until recently I was doing my British best to explain some American idioms to a visiting European. He was puzzled by the phrase, “ Take in a movie.” “Does this mean that you eat it in some way?” was his question. Later on that evening his question came back to me and associated with the work on the body as an electrical system, and a new meaning of eating dawned on me.
What do we really do when we eat something? We impose upon the thing eaten a complex system of mechanical and chemical transformations, as we chew it and digest it.
At the end of the process, if the food is assimilated, then it has acquired the same vibratory rate or the same electrical field as the body, and there is an electrical equilibrium.
If it cannot be assimilated, then either it is stored in the body in a state of disharmony or it is eliminated. What can neither be eliminated nor harmonized is toxic to the body in some degree.
Anyone who has been on a serious fast knows what happens when the eliminatory systems of the body are free to take on those toxins that were stored in it under the pressure of continuous food intake.
To think that the black, slimy, evil-smelling stuff that comes out was just sitting there, poisoning the whole system is always a shock to first time fasters. If the fast is a fruit juice fast or a Swedish fast, then there is minimal discomfort and after the third day the person feels better and better as the poisons are eliminated. But the principle involved is worth repeating and can be applied to any system. Here it is again.
What cannot be assimilated or eliminated by the system becomes in some sense toxic when stored in the system.
You can apply this to any system from babies eating flakes of lead-based paint to CB radios and cell phones not being able to process static. But the most cogent and simple application nowadays is in the field of mental disease.
Compared with many other countries, America is disease-ridden. Mental and physical diseases are astonishingly prevalent. People who know or guess my age don’t ask me IF I take medications. They ask me what medications I take. It isn’t very often that we meet really healthy people, and a common definition of healthy is “not sick.”
The toxicity principle explains this very simply. It is pretty obvious how the physical pollution of our environment, including our food air and water, by dollar-hungry business interests, could cause mental disorder by damaging the physical vehicle of the body and the brain. We needn’t go there.
But it is less obvious at first glance how mental toxins can be produced and stored in the psyche by other means.
I used to travel a great deal by bus in Chicago, and I have watched many times as fairly healthy, and relatively happy looking people did a little morning trot to catch up with the bus, got their ticket, and sat down to read the paper. Time and time again I saw depression settle over the reader like a cloud, until little remained of the initial good start to the day, and a bad set of downward spirals was obviously looming ahead at the office.
Yet what did the reader actually do that caused the problem? He, and it usually was a he, read news that he could not assimilate.
He read about dreadful things happening in countries far away that he would never visit, and sometimes didn’t even know about. He read about graft and bribery among officials in high places on whom his happiness seemed to depend. He read about rapes, robberies, and murders that were actually of no concern to him at all.
Perhaps you have done this too without having pinpointed the cause of your malaise. You ate news that you could not use or assimilate, and it was stored away as mental garbage to be used in dreams or fantasies, or to wait until it could be properly examined, evaluated, and eliminated.
If you too read, see, or hear about something concerning which you can do absolutely nothing, yet which has an emotional charge on it, and which actually has nothing to do with your personal universe, you have there in those data potential toxic material for your mind.
I had my first glimpse of this principle in the 1950's when TV was becoming widespread in the UK. The effect on the focus, concentration and games of the youngsters I was teaching was startlingly obvious. And it was all negative. Since that time I have never watched broadcast television in any country. I know that nobody is immune from its effects, even if they know what is happening.
Some mental practices such as meditation and contemplation have benefits equivalent to those of fasting, in that they give the mind a much-needed respite to try to digest or eliminate the piles of garbage waiting to be processed.
In a real sense then, we do eat our environment. The ad signs, political speeches, comments on the TV, soap operas, noises in the streets—we eat them all. And we eat hundreds of times in a day what our ancestors of only a century ago ate over a period of years.
Unless we take the moments necessary to examine the data as they come in, or to control the sources, we may be storing up potential physical and mental breakdowns. That pile of unprocessed garbage can only get so high before it has an effect.
So, look at your environment, your books, your hobbies, your religion, your life generally. Are they worth eating? If they aren’t, then change your diet. Be nourished, or be poisoned is the choice; and it is your choice, nobody else’s.You are in charge of all the off switches in your life.