Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wait Time

When I was in college, I had this great professor. I don't remember his name. I don't remember what specific classes he taught. I just remember him. He was a hard-scrabble man with deep ridges in his face. He came from the back-woods of somewhere and spoke with enough directness to make up for any of the bullshit he lacked. So it always surprised me that he taught in the Education Department. His fierce mind seemed geared towards hard research over the social nuances that arise in the classroom. This is probably why I liked him. Although he possessed an intensity, he also carried a concern and gentleness towards others.

One of the things he spoke to us about was "wait time." We were all (although some of us more than others) eager to be teachers and I think he knew such eagerness would be subsequently reflected in the attitudes of our future students (in some more than others). So he spoke to us about wait time, that small instant when we pause after asking a question and look beyond students who consistently participate to see if those who don't always raise their hand might offer some contribution. 

The mind is a "quick-moving" organ. In an instant, it can decide whether to fight or take flight, sense if something's off or respond to stimuli. Although it may not have the same capacity as a computer, it can process whether or not it contains a piece of information at a faster rate. For example, I know I don't know why Julianne Hough is famous but I do know I hate her (but I know I don't know why). So, it sometimes only takes an instantaneous moment for students who don't regularly participate to go past their automatic response (of not raising their hand), think about the question and offer a rebuttal or what have you. Indeed, I was quite amazed at this process. As a teacher, when I got past fears that no one might participate or the class would go crazy at a lull, I was amazed to see which students offered feedback when given an extra moment: feedback that was impressive and creative. I mention this because the same can be said of our appetites.

There's an old Buddhist tale which talks of a ruler going to a Buddhist monk, complaining that his subjects were unruly in his kingdom. "Give them what they want," said the monk. "But they want to overthrow the government," replied the ruler. At this point, as I recall, the monk paused for a moment and replied, "give them what they really want." This is not to be interpreted as subtle argument for or against governments and, to some extent, the specifics of the ruler's complaints escape me but the point remains the same. There are things we want and things we really want and our bodies are no different.

I really need to stop referencing Salt, Sugar, Fat but, really, so much comes back to processed food. The presence of salt in food, of sugar in food and of fat in food (in high amounts) can essentially alter our systems. They create cravings when we may not otherwise have them and they don't really do a body good. In fact, they can go so far as to harm our bodies causing maladies such as hypertension, heart disease and herpes (just kidding on that last point, I just wanted to reference one more thing that began with an "h".) In my mind, salt, sugar and fat are kind of like the "hook-ups" of the food world, they're entertaining but, in the end, leave you a bit empty. While our brains are quick, the neurons they house also work with our bodies to make it wise. Indeed, the term "homo sapien" truly means "wise-man. And the internal organ that houses the second-most amount of neurons is the stomach. To me, this means both our head and "gut" are pretty astute, knowing what we need before we, the homo sapiens, do.

In Cuchillos y Cucharas, I talked about how I believe the body intuitively knows what it wants (what it really wants). To survive, we need the nutrients found in a million fruits and vegetables. Call it Darwinism: our bodies want to be healthy. But this is not always easy. There is a market flooded with steep canyons: foods that provide us with many calories but little fulfillment leading to issues with weight and disease. It's not an aesthetic issue it's a health-related one and while I didn't want to get political earlier, the issues caused by processed foods can have nation wide effects on how the government spends its money (think everything from school lunch programs to health insurance). So healthy eating (eating for nutrition) does not just take care of us, it takes care of society as a whole.

Who's the stomach? Who's the brain? Who the hell knows but, as in Dallas, there's always conflict.

This is where wait time comes in. As I mentioned in my last post, I love sweets, the consumption of which sends my brain into a tail spin of desire, resistance and an internal civil war. Essentially, it creates a Dallas episode in my stomach. And, oftentimes, when I crave them, I know I don't really want them. My mind just doesn't want to be bored or my body is going through a sugar withdrawal or to some extent, I think I may see eating as a form of hoarding. It's not for completely aesthetic reasons that I deny myself sweets when I crave them (although I do worry what I would look like if I ate as I always wanted), in fact, it's to the contrary. Just as I started in Cheers to Ms. Fisher, I'm getting older. Within this aging process has come (some) maturity. And while my body fights for those sweets, I know they're not what I really want. Just as the subjects of a kingdom may not really want anarchy or (as we also learned in our education classes) students ultimately want to be held accountable, my body knows it needs nutrients to survive and thrive. So I wait. I wait through the pain and discomfort and when I feel I can't wait anymore... my appetite awakens, and asks for what it really needs. 

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