Tell me the place you were born, the lives your ancestors led/
The ground that surrounded the people you love, the streams from which you were fed/
It’s the wind that carries the seed, and the seed that carries the song/
The food that we’re eating is rooted in soil, and it’s soil that is keeping us strong/
Where do you draw the line in Paleo? Is it just a diet fad your gym is following, or do you place a higher importance on healthy eating? Do you keep The Paleo in the kitchen, or does it encompass all health behavior? If it is about health, is it restricted to your personal health, or does it encompass the health of your community? Is it more than just a set of health habits, but a lifestyle and a philosophy of living?
For many people, Paleo only goes as far as practical. They eat the bacon avocado salads, are quick to find recipes for Paleo-pancakes and are happy to be only as strict their tastes allow. Paleo is confined to the kitchen.
For many more, following the principles of Paleo extends a little beyond convenience and diet. These people are willing to endure inconvenience because Paleo isn’t just a fashionable diet that happens to work. Paleo is about their health. They make an effort to eliminate stress, get enough sleep, and go out of their way to find grassfed meat and locally grown vegetables. Paleo extends to the way they exercise and move, keeping things spontaneous, playful, and intuitive.
Some people push Paleo even further (but not many). They allow Paleo to seep out of their ‘health and fitness’ lives. When it does, Paleo starts to become a lifestyle instead of a diet-and-exercise program. It stops fitting in that convenient compartment we have scheduled for an hour in the morning and after work.
But a funny thing starts to happen when you let Paleo expand beyond the bounds set by social convenience. It starts to define it’s own rules of social convenience. It starts to change the way we see the world, instead of itself being limited by the world.
We discover there is intuitive and primal within us that has its own compass and purpose that extend much farther than the rules of The Paleo Diet and Spontaneous Play. Those of us who follow it to this point are guided by principles rather than rules. Having outgrown its bounds, it needs a new label. At this point, I think we could call it Evolutionary Health.
A Revolution in the Human Condition
Evolutionary Health is a theory of living that rejects the notion that we humans are broken. Even more revolutionary in these modern times, it rejects the idea that the human blueprint can be improved upon like so much technology. Instead, Evolutionary Health suggests that we haven’t even begun to discover the depths of our abilities and vitality, and in fact have lost sight of many of them. To achieve our highest potential requires focus, dedication, and deep inner knowledge, a harmony of mind and body, individual and community.
Evolutionary Health supposes that health is the default state, and that disease and dysfunction are abnormal, that the only reason we have to work so hard at being healthy is because our environment is unhealthy, and that is also abnormal.
It is the belief that essentially we are perfect as we are, without all the supports and crutches we call progress, technology, and civilization. It doesn’t necessarily suggest these things are bad, just that they aren’t necessary for health and happiness. In our desperation to conform ourselves to the needs of our technology, we have unwittingly hamstrung ourselves. Technology is fine as long as it serves our needs, not the other way around.
Our Infinite Inheritance
Evolutionary Health is a philosophy of life that implies we are fine as we are, because we have within us, at this very moment, the seeds of great human capability, inherited from billions of years of close communion with our environment. Given the right conditions, we can’t help but blossom.
After all, we are the product of billions of years of evolution, millions of generations of people (not to mention the animals, plants, reptiles, fish, cnidarians and everything else in our distant family tree), trillions of human interactions. We are intricately linked to a countless number of others. We are, in fact, made of them.
I’m being literal, not metaphorical. DNA, as a form of memory, evolves. It is not erased and re-compiled from scratch. Every one of us relies on basic processes that were developed by the first proto-life billions of years ago. We have a physical and real connection to our ancestors and our primordial past. It’s well refined, perfectly tuned for operation on this world, and contains the secret of human transcendence. All that ancestral-evolutionary knowledge is ours, inside us, right now if only we can find a way to embrace it.
We can only do this if we accept the concept of Evolutionary Health (embodied in Movnat, Paleo, WAPF, etc.) as something more than a clever way to prepare dishes or a more fun way to exercise. We need to be willing to see the food and the workout as just a small part of something bigger, something that encompasses moving in tune with skillful bodies, living in close communities full of social value, playing respectfully within the intricate ecologies that surround and permeate us, losing ourselves in the spirituality of our ancestors that lurks hidden in our genes.
It sounds scary, but maybe that’s a good sign .
Drawing the line further away allows us to encompass much more within the philosophy of Evolutionary Health. It allows us to draw on our entire human heritage and to be connected and supported, instead of feeling isolated, cut off by the cold, clean scalpel of human history that is industrialization.
So…where do you draw the line? Would you consider moving it a little further back?
(Photo credit: Retlaw Snellac on Flickr)