Imagine if we were given a car at birth. Free. It would be considered our birth right. Each of us is allowed only one, so it’s got to last our lifetime. But this car is an engineering marvel. It was designed to last 100 years or more with unlimited miles. All we need to do is follow three rules: 1) put in high-grade fuel, 2) perform periodic maintenance, 3) run it right. Three simple rules and our car would last from birth to a century or more.
We would learn about these birth-right marvels at an early age. If we took care of our cars and followed the three rules, we’d learn, our gifted vehicle would take us just about anywhere, at anytime. So wonderful is this gift, that starting at the age of reason, we’d be drilled about the three golden rules so that our marvel machines would last a lifetime.
Imagine now (you saw this coming?) that our bodies are the engineering marvels and we were taught those same three golden rules. That if we use high-grade fuel, perform periodic maintenance, and run them right, we last well into 100 years with little problem.
High-grade fuel. Organically grown, mostly local whole food. The closer to home, the higher the grade. And the further the fuel is from looking like it grew from the earth, the lower grade. Boxes, cans, packages of shelf-life = low-grade. Our bodies may run fine on low-grade fuel for decades. We run with low-grade fuel to economize and nothing seems to be an issue. But after decades of running low-grade, the system starts running less and less efficiently, well below peak performance. Continually running high-grade fuel keeps our machines running at optimal level, cleanly, while accumulating little crud. Thing is, if we run high-grade fuel most of the time, a tank of low-grade fuel once in a while does little harm. Running primarily high-grade allows us those (comfort) times to splurge on buccal pleasures (otherwise known as junk food).
Periodic maintenance. Many states have rules that cars must undergo periodic maintenance. The rules are in place because we become careless and undisciplined about maintenance scheduling. Any machine, including (especially) our biologically engineered marvels, responds positively to periodic maintenance. Everyday stress is normal. Accumulated stress is damaging. Retreats, meditations, reading self-help books, talking with credible people who have “been there, done that,” changing careers, taking vacations, are all forms of maintenance. It’s basic that we take the required time to drain stress and recharge batteries.
Run them right. Early in life, I knew a couple of grease balls who tore cars apart and rebuilt them. They re-engineered the motors and elevated them to souped-up phenomena. Their cars could pop wheelies. They cared for their cars, ran the engines hard, but their vehicles remained pristine. To them, using the motor’s full spectrum of the RPM gauge was essential. They periodically red-lined the gears and knew that if they ran them too timidly, they’d start to bog down. They also knew that going over the tachometer’s redline was as risky to the engine as letting it idle too long. Machines idling too long clog the system. A sedentary system is a clogged system. If we are not routine and consistent about running through the full (safe) rpm spectrum, our systems bog down over time.
Throughout early life, we’d learn the intricacies of each of the rules. We would learn that consistently breaking one of these three rules could be detrimental to our health. We might break a rule or two for a while with no apparent consequence, until we spit and sputter and then wonder why. Break all three rules and we are asking for trouble by driving our machines to an early demise.
There was an article in last week’s NYT’s Real Estate Section referring to homes for health nuts. Obviously the editor was trying to be cute. We’ve evolved to where those who care about the three rules are called health nuts, or some other version of nutty. We’ve reversed the direction of the nut.
A few years ago, I was on a collision course to wreck the system. I was ignoring at least one of the rules and paid a heavy maintenance fee.
Lots of rule-breaking damage can be repaired as we go. But it’s a risky bet going into the garage for a major unexpected overhaul. Better to be a nut. Better to follow the three golden rules, and drill them home at an early age.
Now, where is that candy bar with nuts that I’ve been saving?