ah, the sweet taste of relevance
This story begins with a chicken.
(With all due respect to my vegetarian/vegan readers, this is not a promotion for meat-eating...but consciousness.)
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in a 'collective skill share' - a day of women gathering to present and share their talents of quilting, massage, herbal preparation, meditation, hex sign painting, yoga, qigong, and ... butchering.
Hannah Weller is a young, enthusiastic butcher and front store manager of Dundore and Heister in Wyomissing, PA.
Once a vegetarian, she arrived at the conclusion that her concern over the deplorable state of commercial livestock farming and its impact on human, animal and environmental health would be better put to use if she got involved directly to make positive changes.
Hannah's passion and mission is to help others get involved, too, which is how she ended up at this event, showing us how to effectively and efficiently separate a whole, locally-grown chicken.
Before I share my thoughts about that, allow me to digress for a moment, to recall a million years ago, when I began the un/homeschooling journey with my kids.
I learned very early in the process an interesting thing about human nature: that one's desire to learn and the ability to grasp and internalize was directly proportional to the relevance of the topic at hand.
Relevance: "The quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate."
For example, I didn't "teach" my kids to read. Or, do basic math.
When they decided that those indecipherable squiggles might hold some knowledge that they were missing out on, they figured it out (in their own unique ways, of course, and yes, with an endless stream of "Mom! Mom! What does that say?").
Receiving an allowance every week, followed by a trip to a toy store, the boys were given a choice to blow it all at once, or delay gratification to afford something bigger later, or negotiate with each other to pool together for something really cool (all the while, leaving me blissfully out of the whole process.)
To this day, they have a pretty good handle on money and its value, and I like believe it's because those lessons of fiscal responsibility weren't preached to them from on high - they were hard-won from feeling the direct results of their choices... week after week after week.
Relevance. Reality. Life lessons.
How much more do you retain about changing a flat tire, when you've had to do it yourself?
And, how much more would you understand of your own anatomy when you've broken a bone, if you've been so inclined to explore the how's and wherefore's?
If you've ever raised your own food, made your own bread, brewed your own beer, then you know there's so much more to the 'nourishment' you receive than just the ingredients, the vitamins and minerals.
The investment in the process, the direct connection with each phase of development, the more steps you've been personally involved in, and, especially, if you've shared the process and product with others, makes everything taste so. much. better.
It's a taste that lingers long after the table is cleared. Am I right?
Relevance. Appropriateness. Connection.
This leads me to believe that there is an inherent expectation of relevance in our design.
We have a deeper, more meaningful (though, sure, not always more pleasant...) experience when we’re involved directly and physically with others, and with the source of those experiences.
In Katy Bowman's book, "Movement Matters", she reminds us how walking can be a community-building exercise, as well as a healthy one.
The differences between isolating yourself in a car as you ride down a neighborhood street and walking include not only the sensory input, but your human encounters, what you notice, and what you may end up engaging and involving yourself with, especially if you identify changes you can influence if you want it be a more enjoyable journey.
How much more enriching, and yes, again, even challenging those encounters can be, when we choose quality of life over ease and convenience.
Then, there's the late Jean Leidloff, who wrote the book, "The Continuum Concept", in which she shares her observations and experiences of living with a Stone Age tribe of Indians in the Amazon rain forest.
She had this to say about social relevance:
“The number of people who live and work together would vary from a few families to several hundred people, so that the individual would be interested in maintaining good relations with all the people with whom he deals. The knowledge that one will continue to associate with the same people is a strong motive to treat them fairly and with respect, even in our own world, where a fixed group of neighbors, as in country communities or small villages, find themselves thrown together as a society.
The human animal cannot really live with thousands or millions of others. (Boldface mine.) He can have a relationship with a limited number only, and in large cities it can be seen that among the throngs, each person has a more or less tribe-sized circle of work and social associates. The others around, however, have the effort of making him feel that there are an infinite number of chances for new relationships if the old ones are allowed to fail.”
And, this was before social media... furthering that illusion of how many connections we really sustain, while most may very well be expendable.
We are not faced with the tangible reality of investing in our tribe because life outside of it would be unfathomable.
Our actions and interactions - while having impact - do not carry the same relevance as when we would have to live and eat and work beside our tribe members every day. We can flip people off on the highway, tell someone off and walk away, make rude comments on Facebook (not you, of course.. I know you're not like that... :) - and never have to see that person again, much less have to trust them to pull us out of a ditch someday.
You may ask, like with so many things in our modern culture, so what?
As with our disconnection from the fullness of so many other relationships in life, we lose something precious with that level of detachment.
And, as with movement, even if our lifestyles don't currently require it, our biology... and in the context of connection.. our hearts and souls still do.
That precious something is part of our humanness; a purposeful aspect of our design - like the well-being that inherently comes from doing something loving for another. It feels almost selfish, but it’s a built-in positive reinforcement that encourages us to help one another, while we receive the high of the blessing as well.
It's practical. And, I believe it's spiritual.
But, sadly, when you’ve ingested enriched store-bought bread your whole life, you don’t realize what you’re missing from home-made whole grain goodness. Or, why you’re suffering as a result.
Back to my chicken.
Sure. I could have turned to YouTube, which I'm sure has a million videos on how to properly wield a boning knife.
Maybe I would have absorbed that information, even tried it, but more than likely, mangled the bird and/or gone on my way, distracted by the next video to appear.
But, here was this bright, open face; a knowledgeable, passionate presence standing right in front of us, explaining what she's doing, speaking truth to the industry that treats the animals and the workers so inhumanely, and answering our many questions (.. and this, she explained, was another benefit of what she does as well... in maintaining relationship with the farmers, she is able to communicate with them directly with any questions about their animals as they arise).
The relevance for me was multi-dimensional.
While my conscience has nagged at me for some time regarding my choice to remain a carnivore, all the while avoiding the logical starting place of that relationship by conveniently buying store-bought packages of already-processed meat parts, I probably still would not have sought out YouTube videos to learn butchering.
But, this community atmosphere of women sharing skills with other women compelled me to participate. Hannah's friendliness invited me to come closer and make good on an intention that I would have otherwise avoided.
Best part was, we were able to enjoy the deliciousness of that chicken with her and each other afterward. (Bonus!)
Now I ask you for your thoughts.
How can we continue to cultivate appropriate and relevant relationships within our modern lives? How can we narrow the gap of disconnection we have with our nourishment sources, our neighbors, communities and governments, our economy, our livelihoods, our health care?
Consider the differences between: Ease, convenience, disconnection, vs. effort, investment, relationship in each of these areas:
~ Packaged, processed and shipped food vs. Locally grown or home-grown food
~ Purchased goods and services vs. Bartered goods and services, skill sharing
~ Donating money to a charitable organization vs. Making eye contact with another being you are helping
~ YouTube video tutorials vs. Learning skills from a person and a personality you interact with
~ Organizations where leadership is distant and/or immune from the impact of their decisions vs. Communities where all individuals bear the burdens and blessings of their choices
~ Health care based on expert management of stats, numbers and medications/interventions vs. Awareness and direct participation with your own body's processes through diet, movement, and living to your purpose
Can we seek out the relevance and make more choices in favor of those actions which require so much more of us, but give so much more back, and return us to our humanness?
P.S. It's not an either/or or versus.
It's just about making more conscious choices based on what you desire for the quality of your life.