Do you ever sit back and wonder: How did things get so crazy in this world? Whether it’s the medical system, the food system, media, politics, the planet and ecosystem, the way we interact with/are controlled by technology or (from my perspective) how we ended up so disconnected from the natural world, the answer often lies in the boiling frog…
Place a frog in a pot of boiling water and it will leap out immediately. Place a frog in cool water that is slowly heated it will be cooked over time without even realizing it…
The Boiling Human
Place an ancient human in a concrete covered metropolitan city and he will run for his life. Place an ancient human in a field and then slowly build a city around him and he will become a modern city dweller without even realizing it…
Both the frog and human are metaphorical situations but I hope it stimulates some thought as to the paradox of human existence. We now live in a artificial world completely disconnected from the natural world that, by many accounts, threatens our well being from nearly every angle just as the boiling water threatens the frog being dropped into the pot. For those of you who remember the movie Encino Man, although completely fictitious, it’s the perfect example of the frog dropped into boiling water: panic, confusion and utter chaos (or comedy if you’re a Pauly Shore fan). But similar to the slowly cooked frog, real humans have been so slowly acclimated to the rising heat of modern life we don’t even realize how hot the water really is. We can’t see how disconnected we are from natural human experiences and how strange it is that we literally don’t experience anything humans are adapted/designed to experience.
Whether it’s our feet slowly getting disconnected from the ground, our bodies slowly getting disconnected from moving or the food system slowly moving away from real, whole, local food, we are being boiled alive year after year. As an example: The more that people, who are outdoor, interactive and communal by nature, continue to live in communities with strangers, work inside buildings and cubicles and withdraw from one another, the more they begin to search for things to fill that person-to-person void. The community and interaction vessel they find it in is technology, namely computers and TV. Absorbed and enthralled with other people doing and showing them the things they are missing because they’re disconnected from the community. When you don’t get interpersonal and group connection from real people, you’ll seek it out in whatever way you can find it. We love TV and the internet because it pseudo-connects us back together. That’s like the frog starting to search for ice water when that pot starts to boil. Technology is our ice water BandAid. We’re still boiling but it cools us off just a bit. Having a great night of fun with friends, laughing and catching up on the latest is like getting out of the hot water. It helps address the root problem.
Unless you’re Brendan Frasier’s unknown newly thawed out iceman relative, you don’t go from living in active, outdoor based communal groups of hunter gatherers to living in a suburb, waking up to an alarm, scrambling to start your day, commuting through rush hour, eating fast food, sitting down all day, getting Twitter alerts and falling asleep with the TV on having never seen the sun or gotten some fresh air all in one day. That’s the same as dumping frog in a pot of boiling water that jumps out because it doesn’t want to be there. But when it happens over thousands of years, even hundreds of years, even tens of years, even every year- that slow rise goes without notice, we get used to it and ultimately it cooks us.
When you look at the world from this perspective it helps explain a lot of things, particularly in the areas of health and society in general. Change usually happens slowly and quietly but we, as individuals and as a society, need to keep aware of the detrimental changes that sneak by undetected. In essence, awareness is like giving the frog a thermometer, he’ll be able to see the water is getting hot even if he doesn’t notice it.
The Boiling Pot Has A Silver Lining
Typically the boiling frog concept is used in a negative context to explain how something really bad ends up happening but we can also use this idea as a way of making positive changes in our lives. No time could be better than now, as we look toward the new year and making healthy habits a reality. For instance, making a dramatic dietary change is often very difficult but if you were to slowly make small incremental changes then after a while you would end up with a big cumulative change that you almost wouldn’t even notice. When you change big things immediately, such as trying to become vegetarian overnight or trying to get back in shape by running 5 or 10 miles the first time out, that’s getting dropped in a pot of boiling water- it can be so shocking to your system, equilibrium and comfort zone you rebel against it and hop out of the boiling water. To avoid the shock, start small, gentle and under the radar and before you know it you’ll be flying along at new heights without even realizing how high you are.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!
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