Nick David Wright

Living well, laughing often, loving much.

Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

Portion size

leave a comment »

One thing I recognized early in the fight against my expanding waistline was that I ate way too much at meals.

How could I not? Have you seen the size of the portions you get at restaurants? And that’s not even talking about that unique American contribution to cuisine, the “all-you-can-eat buffet.”

Then take into account that it is rather difficult to make a meal for only two people (they have entire cookbooks dedicated to the problem). And it’s really no wonder I find myself gorging until I’m so far past full it hurts.

It’s fairly common knowledge that Americans stand pretty well alone in this habit of eating till it hurts, and that many other cultures do just fine with much smaller portions.

I recently read Michael Pollan’s book, “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” And he refers to a couple very interesting studies dealing with this problem.

When the folks performing the first study asked people in France how they knew when to stop eating, they replied “when we’re full.”

When they asked Americans the same question, the reply they received was “when the plate is empty.”

In another study some participants were given soup bowls that automatically refilled themselves from the bottom. The diners with the bottomless bowls ate substantially more.

These studies are not all that surprising. Our culture has long demanded that we “clean our plates.” And in the feast-or-famine agrarian society that formed the code, it was logical.

But in our wondrous modern world where a never-ending supply of empty calories which go straight to our bellies are only a snack machine away, the rule doesn’t make as much sense.

I have been making a concerted effort to eat less at meals. But it is a struggle.

Not only do I have to deal with the external forces of plate size, and the looks from meaningful family members who wonder if I’m starving myself. But I also have to deal with my inner demons, I’m one of those people who eat to comfort myself. If I’m stressed out, I want to eat.

I was surprised to find that I was sitting down to eat meals when I didn’t feel hungry. And it came as quite a shock to realize I didn’t know how to tell if I was really hungry or if it was just an emotional craving.

How could I learn to stop eating when full, if I couldn’t even recognize when I got there?

My first step was to master the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Not to say that I never give in to the emotional hunger; I do, and much too often. But at least now I can usually recognize which is which.

The second move I’ve made is to reduce how much I eat. I take less and I try not to go for seconds.

Thirdly, I take longer to eat. Another interesting fact in Pollan’s book is that it takes your stomach 20 minutes to signal your brain that you are full. So no more wolfing down a McDonald’s combo meal (make it large) in 5 minutes.

My Beloved and I are trying to make our meals more of the social occasion they used to be. We talk. And we really try to savor the food. Really, what’s the point in eating if you knock it back so fast you don’t taste a thing? Might as well just hook yourself up intravenously.

It is a constant struggle, but I am making headway. Hopefully I will continue to have to punch new holes in my belt!

Written by Nick David Wright

January 20, 2010 at 5:00 am

Helping people

leave a comment »

I recently watched the movie “Unbreakable” again and a certain bit caught my attention.

Bruce Willis is explaining to Samuel Jackson that everyday he feels depressed. Jackson responds that he believes Willis feels this way because he is not fulfilling his destiny by helping people.

This little exchange in the movie struck a chord with me, because I often battle with depression about the direction my life is heading. I often feel as though I am wasting my life. And I’ve recently been wondering if I didn’t feel this way for exactly the same reason as in the movie.

Not that I’m a superhero or anything, but I love helping people.

It can be as simple as helping a customer find the product they were looking for, but the excitement of it can — I kid you not — give me goosebumps. I look for ways to help people everyday. But I want it to be more of my life than it is. I want to be the kind of person that when calamity strikes, I can hop a plane and be there helping people. The recent situation in Haiti comes to mind.

I also think this is why I have such a love/hate relationship with photojournalism. That profession has such a powerful potential to help, but it also has a great potential for harm as well. I wanted to use my photography to help, even if it was just giving someone a pretty picture to look at on the front page.

But that’s not really what sells newspapers. So more often than not I found myself shoving my lens into folks’ disasters, into the face of their grief. And yes I understand that in some macabre way that can actually help by raising other people’s awareness of a crisis, but it’s not something I feel good about.

So I thought, well if I went to Haiti to photograph the disaster I would focus on the recovery efforts instead of people’s loss. But what I realized was that I’d much rather be the person hauling cases of bottled water to people in need instead of the person photographing the person hauling cases of bottled water to people in need.

The problem is that I don’t know how to do this. The kind of life I’ve chosen to live doesn’t earn much money, and I prefer it that way. But that means that I can’t just hop on a flight to haul cases of water. So how can I make my dream of helping a reality?

Written by Nick David Wright

January 18, 2010 at 5:00 am

Posted in Thoughts

Tagged with , , , , ,

Heroes

leave a comment »

I was captivated last January when a commercial airline pilot managed to safely land an incapacitated jet in the Hudson river saving every single life on board. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became an instant sensation. The news media was all over him. And he is very reluctant to use the label they’ve bestowed upon him … hero.

I recently read his book, “Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,” in which he wrote about his experiences as a pilot, in particular the day he ended up in the river. He demurs from the title of hero saying heroes are the people who see a burning building and choose to risk their lives in order to save others. He says that he was just doing his job. But he fails to see that he made his choice when he sat down behind the controls of that aircraft and put the fate of more than 150 people in his hands.

The story of Captain Sully stirs strong emotions in me and many others. And it isn’t hard to figure out why. We live in a world where we are constantly barraged by the news media. And the news media apparently thinks that the great majority of the news we need to know is bad news.

Wars, murder, crime, corruption, greed, accidents.

It is depressing.

We need good news. But good news doesn’t sell as many papers. Good news doesn’t pull in the viewers (so they think). Good news doesn’t win pulitzers.

And we need heroes. In these bleak times we need to hear about them. We need to know that there are still people out there doing extraordinary things for the benefit of others.

Captain Sully does not want to be known as a hero. What hero does? But I think we can find at least 150 folks that disagree with him.

Written by Nick David Wright

January 13, 2010 at 5:00 am

Scientific reductionism

leave a comment »

If I went in to an auto parts store and came out with only a steering wheel and announced that I was going to drive somewhere you’d think that I had gone insane. Obviously, you need much more than just a steering wheel in order to go places.

Yet that is exactly how scientists treat food. They see that folks who eat food X have less disease Y. Upon examining the food and discovering it has high levels of nutrient Z, they’ll announce that taking a supplement of nutrient Z will lower a person’s risk of disease Y.

But they are making two grave errors. First they are ignoring the fact that food X is not just nutrient Z, it is a whole host of other things that work together to make food X what it is. Secondly, they are assuming that they know everything there is to know about what makes up food in the first place. And if you take a look at the history of nutrition science you’ll see how often scientists find new players in the game of food.

Scientific reductionism, as the practice is known, may make sense in certain circumstances. But it leads to sloppy decisions regarding a subject much too important to be playing chemistry with … our food.

For more information see Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.”

Written by Nick David Wright

January 6, 2010 at 5:00 am

Faith and Fundamentalism

leave a comment »

The early years of my adulthood were consumed by fundamentalist Christianity.

I recently wrote about how I eventually ended up quitting the religion and becoming pagan.

The funny thing was, I spent just as much time arguing with people as a pagan as I had as a Christian. And I had just exactly the same results; nobody listened, it just pissed everyone off. (Debate rule number one: You will never convince someone who doesn’t already want to be convinced.) I had in essence made myself into a pagan fundamentalist.

It took a few years — okay several years — but eventually I realized that it wasn’t the faith that I had a problem with, it was the fundamentalism. In other words, it was the “I’m right, you’re wrong” attitude that has infected every religion to one extent or another. You could even argue that this attitude has infected nearly every aspect of life (Ever meet anyone devoted to a particular brand of product? Yes, I’m guilty of that as well … Made on a Mac).

I recently saw the movie “Religulous,” by Bill Maher, and he makes many good points. But I see two problems, both of which are implied by this quote from the movie:

“Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do.” – Bill Maher

The first problem I see is that he is making the same mistake that I did, Maher has become a fundamentalist of his own point of view. He goes to length to explain that his philosophy is of the “I don’t know” variety. But there is apparently one thing that he does know: People of faith are wrong.

Which leads into the second problem, which isn’t a problem with the movie so much as it is with those people of faith. The Bible says in the book of Hebrews that faith is the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for.

But modern people of faith seem to have forgotten this in their rush to declare that they “know.” And just “knowing” a thing isn’t so bad either. The problems begin when a person that “knows” something finds out that other people don’t necessarily “know” the same thing, and in fact some of these other people might even “know” something entirely different.

Faith is really not the problem, what people “know” is.

Bill Maher “knows” that people of faith are wrong and made an entire movie dedicated to proving his point and making those people look like fools. And what are the results? People who agree with Maher will get to sit back and chuckle at the comedian’s cleverness, and people of faith will be insulted and not hear a word of the message that Maher was trying to convey. A message that I believe, despite it’s poor presentation, is very important. A message that I believe Maher himself has missed entirely.

The message being that people should be free to believe whatever they like. And until we all realize this and quit trying to force everyone to believe like we do … we will never have peace.

Written by Nick David Wright

January 2, 2010 at 12:31 pm

The Fisherman

leave a comment »

Here’s a story I’ve always liked, I have no idea who wrote it:

One day a fisherman was lying on a beautiful beach, with his fishing pole propped up in the sand and his solitary line cast out into the sparkling blue surf. He was enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun and the prospect of catching a fish.

About that time, a businessman came walking down the beach, trying to relieve some of the stress of his workday. He noticed the fisherman sitting on the beach and decided to find out why this fisherman was fishing instead of working harder to make a living for himself and his family. “You aren’t going to catch many fish that way,” said the businessman to the fisherman. “You should be working rather than lying on the beach!”

The fisherman looked up at the businessman, smiled and replied, “And what will my reward be?” “Well, you can get bigger nets and catch more fish!” was the businessman’s answer. “And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman, still smiling. The businessman replied, “You will make money and you’ll be able to buy a boat, which will then result in larger catches of fish!” “And then what will my reward be?” asked the fisherman again. The businessman was beginning to get a little irritated with the fisherman’s questions. “You can buy a bigger boat, and hire some people to work for you!” he said.

“And then what will my reward be?” repeated the fisherman. The businessman was getting angry. “Don’t you understand? You can build up a fleet of fishing boats, sail all over the world, and let all your employees catch fish for you!” Once again the fisherman asked, “And then what will my reward be?” The businessman was red with rage and shouted at the fisherman, “Don’t you understand that you can become so rich that you will never have to work for your living again! You can spend all the rest of your days sitting on this beach, looking at the sunset. You won’t have a care in the world!”

The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “And what do you think I’m doing right now?”

Gotta love it.

Written by Nick David Wright

January 2, 2010 at 5:00 am

Posted in Thoughts

Tagged with ,

Exclusion

leave a comment »

Christianity today is a religion of exclusion, i.e. what we don’t do, who we exclude.

But reading the words of Christ it seems to me that he intended to create a faith of people who were inclusive. He said “Love one another,” and he lived it while hanging out with the “dregs” of society.

Christ came not to condemn (John 3:17), and yet Sunday after Sunday so-called men of God thunder messages of condemnation from their pulpits.

I think it is very important to note that Christ’s only recorded words of condemnation were aimed squarely at the religious leadership.

How have we as followers of this man fallen so far from the ideals that he taught?

I was impressed by a monologue found at the end of the movie “Chocolat;”

“I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do. By what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we create and who we include.”

Written by Nick David Wright

January 1, 2010 at 8:00 am

Posted in Thoughts

Tagged with , , , , ,