Something that amuses and annoys me at the same time: the use of our ancestors as the model of all we should be doing.
Now, this may sound strange coming from a Druid. After all, aren’t our ancestors the model of our ideals?
My answer: Not really, no. For one, I am not a “Druid by ancestry”; I don’t have a drop of Irish genetics, although I do have some Welsh. I likely worship some of the same gods, although I would understand and envision them in far different ways. While the ancestors may understand the concept behind some of my offerings, they’d likely shake their lime-laden locks and say, “Where’s the beef?” Animal sacrifice wasn’t some horrific demonic act; it made perfect sense in a culture where meat — and wealth — was kept on the hoof. And it’s not just past tense, either. From the Pagan Kalash in Pakistan to the modern practitioners of Vodoun and Santeria in the Western Hemisphere, animal sacrifice is still part of religious offering and practice. If you eat meat, you need to kill the animal. Why not facilitate that death in a sacred manner?
Which gets me to the core of my frustration: food. Whether you’re talking raw foodism, veganism, or the so-called Paleolithic diet, a lot of modern-day food discourse is based on two concepts. One, of course, is righteousness: “I’m enlightened and you’re not!” The second: “This is how our ancestors ate and how we are designed to eat.”
Interestingly, the same type of arguments are evidenced in the so-called barefoot running culture. (I run — albeit with shoes — so I do follow the debate.)
I don’t consider myself especially righteous in regard to ancestral wisdom, but I’ll solve the mystery for ya. What did our ancestors eat? Anything they could get their grubby paws on. Seriously, that’s the answer. Meat, fruit, Snickers bars, fried ants, escargot…. you name it. Think of pandas. As bears, they do not thrive on a traditional diet of bamboo — but they evolved to eat it simply because that was what was available. That’s how the more adaptable critters of nature work.
Our ancestors, it must be admitted, didn’t live to be centenarians. If warfare, bad harvests and childbirth didn’t get them, illness or injury would. Elders were revered simply because there weren’t very many of them. Nature doesn’t have a vested interest in keeping us alive much beyond the time it would have taken to raise our progeny to maturity. Maturity in this sense means the ability to procreate and care for their young, not the completion of an advanced degree or financial solvency.
This isn’t to say that the ancestors were primitive morons along the lines of “Og like meat, Og kill.” The ancestors were, in essence, the same people as today — with the same mix of brilliance and stupidity, adaptability and stubbornness. They invented all the arts, skills and sciences we practice today, from agriculture and cloth-making to home-building and animal husbandry. They did advanced calculations to record the passage of time and predict celestial phenomena. They also killed each other with weapons of stone, bronze and iron, and invented gunpowder and nuclear warheads.
Our ancestors were, like us, a mixed bag. And Nature herself isn’t some evil-minded, fickle hussy who doesn’t do enough to reward her top performers (i.e., us). She’s a brilliant, complex system in her own right — with interests that are different from ours. That’s hard to remember when you’re mauled by a bear or riddled with disease-causing microorganisms, true, but we’re designed to see things from our own limited perspective. It’s the aim of spirituality and mysticism to get us beyond that.
So, when it comes to “right food,” there is no easy answer, at least if you’re looking at the realm of the ancestors. (If you’re viewing things from an ethical, animal-rights perspective, there may indeed be an easy answer, even if it’s hard on your body.) Personally, I’m a fan of the Mediterranean diet for a number of different reasons, one of which is that stuffed grape leaves and feta cheese are just wonderful for the taste buds.
If you’re looking at “right running,” I’d still recommend shoes, since our ancestors were kind enough to invent asphalt, concrete, cobblestones and other hard road surfaces.