A beautiful poem and reminder from the famous W. Livingston:
A beautiful poem and reminder from the famous W. Livingston:
On The Wall: Making the Human Connection
What is it that makes a person truly free, where does one separate freedom from anarchy, and how does one differentiate determinism, free-will, and liberty? Undoubtedly, it is those distinctions that create the framework of our lives and define all of our social interactions. While it can be safely argued that Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” is a political allegory, specifically focused on illuminating the post-war political aspirations of the time period when the poem was written, simultaneously Frost is gesturing to a deeper fundamental aspect of human nature. Frost truly examines society and human behavior on the deepest levels, and through the use of imagery and structure of the poem, he alludes to the division and ideology that is founded in the framework of human society. Through literary mastery, Frost builds cognizance and awareness in to the mind of his reader, and the poem gracefully parallels the actuality of what it means to be human. “Mending Wall” is indeed a metaphor for the process through which society is built, and the poem encompasses all the emotions and struggles encountered as humans juxtapose control and freedom amidst their primitive notions.
“Mending Wall” approaches the existential conflict of creating boundaries and protecting freedoms through deep allusions and careful diction. The poem presents this struggle at the very beginning, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” (Freeman 10). Here the poem opens with an ambivalent speaker expressing his emotion over the cerebral tension he is facing over the seemingly pointless annual springtime task of repairing the wall between his and his neighbor’s property. This opening statement assumes that there is something inside every human being that longs to be completely free and unrestrained, physically and mentally, and walls appear externally to only be a hindrance to freedom. For example, by Frost using the purposefully vague term “something,” he suggests that a dislike for boundaries is a fundamental yet somewhat unidentifiable part of existence, not just a specific entity. Moreover, the use of “doesn’t love” in place of the word “hate” suggests a conflicted feeling towards boundaries, such that walls may be needed but not desired. Consequently, walls are an integral part of human society, and the speaker is inspired to discover what motivates his desire for mischief and freedom apart from those walls.
However, as the poem unfolds, Frost uses playful but insightful imagery to reveal how the paradoxical task of capturing freedom is an arduous one that evokes primeval emotions in the heart of the speaker. First, the narrator begins by explaining why he and the neighbor must repair the wall. Curiously, how the gaps are made in the wall is a mystery to him because he goes from blaming the swelling “frozen-ground” to censuring “the work of hunters” chasing rabbits “out of hiding” with their “yelping dogs” (Freeman 10). These bright and energetic images of nature, untamed and completely free, evoke strong feelings of primitivism in the mind of the reader. The reader is automatically drawn to imagine a primitive, hunter-gatherer society with an embryonic social structure that innately intensely questions the necessity of walls. After all, it is out of the wild that society was created. Nonetheless, the speaker cannot understand how the gaps are made because “No one has seen them made or heard them made” (Freeman 10). Much in the same way, human society intrinsically has boundaries built into it that often breakdown and erode for reasons that people may not always be able to identify. Nevertheless, the speaker divulges the fact that he is the one who initiates the wall mending ritual every spring with his neighbor, who lives “beyond the hill,” so that he and his neighbor can “meet to walk the line and set the wall between (them) once again” (Freeman 10). The image evoked in these lines is of a man reaching out to his distant neighbor to meet so that the two men can walk along together and repair the broken wall that makes up the boundary between their properties. The deeper connotation at this point in the poem is that boundaries are essential, for a reason not yet known, and equal work is required on the part of both parties in order to maintain those boundaries. Whether the boundary is upheld or deteriorates is exclusively within the control of both neighbors. The speaker says, “We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each” (Freeman 11). What is important about this task is that it involves both parties, equally yoked for the same purpose. Each person is responsible for the faults on his side of the wall.
The rest of the poem is devoted to describing the actual task of mending the wall and revealing the underlying sentiments and intentions that are stirred up in the mind of the narrator. The process of picking up and placing the “boulders” back on the wall humorously nearly requires a magical “spell” on the part of the laborer to “make them balance” (Freeman 11). The speaker sees the process not as only a “rough” laborious task, but also as a “kind of out-door game” (Freeman 11). From these lines, the reader is drawn to imagine a fairytale-like world where a child’s imagination is free to build, tear down, and create anything his heart desires. However, as the task at hand reveals, that child is forced to grow up and become a hardworking, productive member of society. Frost depicts walls not just as childhood toys, but he also imagines them as a necessary tool for a child’s rite of passage to mature and matriculate in to adult society. Nevertheless, the free-willed spirit of the narrator is apparent as he deliberates on the purpose of the task. The narrator says, “We do not need the wall” because “He is all pine and I am apple orchard” (Freeman 11). This profound metaphor, illustrates that the wall is pointless to the speaker because although the neighbors are nearly opposite in character, they will never be a nuisance to each other. The neighbor is a stiff and stringent “pine” tree while the speaker is a “mischievous” springtime “apple” tree, and the speaker argues, “It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall (Freeman 11). Character differences and space appear to be a sufficient boundary for the speaker, and he believes that his faith and sense of trust make the wall unnecessary.
However, as the speaker attempts to explain his argument to his neighbor, the poem’s iconic line is revealed. The neighbor responds to the speakers reasoning with his “father’s” old prophetic proverb, “‘Good fences make good neighbors’” (Freeman 11). This line presents the opposite of what the speaker has been arguing all along. Still, the speaker’s itinerant mind begs him to question his neighbor’s reasoning, “Why do they make good neighbors” (Freeman 11)? The “mischief” in the speaker’s heart longs to put a new “notion in his (neighbor’s) head” (Freeman 11). Walls serve a purpose to keep livestock out as he says, “But here there are no cows” (Freeman 11). It is possible that the neighbor’s stoic response to the “notions” the speaker is throwing at him discloses the fact that the neighbor sees the value in the speaker’s argument; however, the neighbor is stuck wrestling with his own emotions, and he is struggling to express his true feelings about the wall mending process. The neighbor has intrinsically believed his whole life that fences are a necessity to protect his space and freedoms, yet perhaps now, as he and his neighbor go about the mending process, he is beginning to grasp how the wall is building a connection with his neighbor, the speaker, and not just “walling (him) out” (Freeman 11). Still, the true intention of the neighbor is never fully revealed because the reader is only left to ponder and accept the neighbor’s brief and quaint utterance as the neighbor’s primary source of wisdom.
Next, Frost brings back the image of fairytales when he says, “I could say ‘Elves’ to him, but it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather he said it for himself” (Freeman 11). Much in the same way, a child often has faith in certain things that adults cannot relate to because, as adults, they are so far removed from their childhood beliefs, and most adults no longer have the same imagination as a free-spirited child. By bringing out this strong image of “elves,” there is something innocent stirred up in the mind of the reader that longs to empathize with the speaker’s childlike purity. Furthermore, the neighbor’s actions and reasoning are so foreign to the speaker because the speaker even goes so far to call his neighbor an “old-stone savage” that “moves in darkness…not of woods only and the shade of trees” (Freeman 11). These lines evoke images of a great stone castle surrounded armored knights from the Middle Ages or of a primeval caveman wielding a stone club in his hand, and by characterizing his neighbor as an “old-stone savage,” the speaker effectively personifies his neighbor with primitive creatures in order to alienate himself and protect his own whimsical ideas. Even so, in the end, the speaker almost mocks his neighbor for being unoriginal by having used his “father’s saying,” “‘Good fences make good neighbors,’” as his only defense for why they are out mending the wall (Freeman 11). In human society, tradition can be a source of protection for many people. The speaker sees his neighbor being stuck in his old ways by sticking to his response. Similarly, humans often cling to their heritage which can sometimes alienate others who do not share the same traditions.
Lastly, the carefully balanced symmetry of the poem meets its climax when the poem concludes with the repeating of the neighbors echoing remark, “‘Good fences make good neighbors’” (Freeman 11). In concluding with this final remark, Frost has effectively balanced the two opposing arguments. Twice he says, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and twice he says, “‘Good fences make good neighbors’” (Freeman 11). Frost elegantly exposes the speaker’s true antithesis: freedom against regulation. And the questions that are then left to resonate in the mind of the reader are: which side of the wall is truly justified, or is it possible that both can be achieved together? Frost uses symmetry to uncover the argument that freedom is not possible without regulation.
In its entire context, “Mending Wall” reveals many of the profound intricacies that are built into human society. Needless to say, society encompasses a wide variety of spheres, but in the plainest terms, human society is the interconnectedness of all human beings through commonality in experiences and beliefs such as politics, interpersonal relations, tradition, growth and maturation, and individual cerebral experience.
Mary H. Freeman, PhD and Co-Director of the Marifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts, explains in her research paper on “Mending Wall,” “Across the relatively long history of human culture, tension exists between conservancy of conventionalized strategies that preserve the relationships of intermodular activity and the multiple flexibility of change needed for the mind to adapt to the challenges of new stimuli in producing unconventional relationships” (Freeman 4). Freedom is a fundamental desire in the hearts of every person on earth, but freedom often battles the fact that society is built on relationships. Relationships can sometimes infringe on freedom, and how those relationships grow and persist or wither and die is all based on how people approach their own cognitive definition of freedom and contrast their feelings with the differing opinions of the people around them.
In addition, Freeman points out that Frost has truly captured “the value of opening up the imagination” in “Mending Wall” (Freeman 3). She says, “the gaps in the physical wall become identified with gaps in nature, gaps in the human mind,” and “one can also see the poem iconically invoking images of boundary walls from the reader’s own experience,” creating “the semblance of felt life” (Freeman 3). Much as Frost has created “gaps” in this poem, humans encounter gaps in their everyday lives. For example, she says, “It is the poet-speaker who distinguishes between the ‘gaps’ caused by human agency in the work of hunters and the ‘gaps’ made by ‘something’ no one can see or hear” (Freeman 4). The image of the hunters creating gaps in the wall alludes to the gaps that are created in human society by human mistakes. Furthermore, she says, “When linguistic forms are brought into mimetic correspondence with this act of imaginative creativity, iconicity results” (Freeman 4). In the poem, Frost spreads out human society with all of its flaws, and his artful imitative prose debunks all arbitrarily conflicting claims that freedom is merely restricted by boundaries and that humans are only truly free in a world apart from boundaries.
Moreover, according to Freeman, Frost uses mimesis and structural balance throughout the poem to implant mental images in the mind of the reader to create a more profound meaning. Freeman illuminates the insightful imagery Frost uses: an “unseen, unheard” wall; “introducing light” by creating gaps in the wall; adding “natural living organisms” such as rabbits and dogs; and creating shape, “movement, and precarious balance” with the “handling” of the boulders that become “plant life” “loaves” “‘as they (are) set (upon) the wall’” (Freeman 6). Freeman further delves into the psyche of human experience rendered by Frost:
Having created these mental images of the activity of wall mending, Frost has prepared the way for his speaker to ‘put a notion in his [neighbor’s] head’ as he has put mental images in ours. The ‘notion’ challenges the need for a physical barrier. It asks the reasons why and, in wondering what might cause walls to fall, invokes the assumption of invisible natural forces and the resulting inevitability of change. It expresses the human ability to cognize, to imagine the existence of things neither seen nor heard, to acknowledge and accept the idea of change (Freeman 6).
Human society is constructed based on the goal of either freedom or limitations of freedom. In a democratic society, people have inalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and the goal is to protect freedom and those inalienable rights: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense” (Freeman 11). In dictatorships, preeminence is given to restricting people’s freedom: “Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top in each hand, like an old-stone savage armed” (Freeman 11). These are the two extremes, and what Frost examines about humanity is that the walls of life are in constant change and frequently require people to “walk the line and set the wall between (them) once again” (Freeman 10). Also, there is a great amount of effort that is required in order to convince another that change is a good thing. People walk a fine line of balance in order to invoke compromise.
On another note, the title is also a significant topic to point out. Choosing “Mending Wall” over “Mending Fences” creates the ability of networking and togetherness. As Freeman notes, “‘mending fences’ is an idiom for restoring communication and harmony’” where as a “wall divides but it also connects” (Freeman 7). Fences serve merely as a “barrier to divide one space from another” whereas walls are “built” between people and serve not just as a barrier but also as a refuge (i.e. rabbits), and it is something that people share in common (Freeman 7).
In this sense, good walls do make good neighbors because the wall is a place that brings neighbors together for a common goal. As Freeman says, “It (language and the wall) opens up the possibilities created by the gaps between our conceptualizations and our experiences of the world” (Freeman 7). According to Freeman, “Frost saw himself in both characters” (Freeman 10). Each character held a different point of view on the necessity of a wall, but on a deeper level, building relationships in society is a process that requires frequent “mending” on both sides of the wall.
Moreover, Douglas L. Wilson, the George A. Lawrence Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of English at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, took several decades of his life, traveled from New England to Scotland, and analytically traced the footsteps that Frost most likely walked when he was inspired to write “Mending Wall.” During his journey, Wilson remembers something that Frost said that reveals something provocative about the mindset that Frost was in when he wrote the poem. Frost said, “ ‘I wrote the poem ‘Mending Wall’ thinking of the old wall that I hadn’t mended in several years and which must be in a terrible condition. I wrote that poem in England when I was very homesick for my old wall in New England’ ” (Wilson 74). This quote by Frost is significant because according to Wilson, when Frost initially went to England, he was discontented with his life in the United States, and Frost was looking for a place to get away from his old, despised way of thinking. Wilson says,
I conceived an hypothesis about the writing of “Mending Wall”: that Frost’s experiences in England had brought about a dramatic change in his attitude toward rural New England and the life that he had lived there; for the people and the places that he had left behind thinking he hated, he discovered that he now felt something like affection; he grew homesick for the life that he had so gladly left, and this experience issued in a series of new poems that were far better than anything he had written previously” (Wilson 70-71).
Wilson’s main argument is that “One could…emphasize the ways in which we are the victims of our experience, limited or, to heighten the metaphor, imprisoned by its iron precincts. Or one could…with equal validity emphasize the liberating character of experience and stress how every new experience frees us from the limitations of our former condition” (Wilson 65). Frost was truly liberated by the experience of leaving America and living in Europe, and the personification of his liberation is seen throughout the poem.
Wilson goes on to explain, “So much did the young schoolteacher think himself a victim of his circumstances” (Wilson 74). However, Frost’s attitude began to change from his experience in England because according to Wilson,
In England, he began to see his experiences in a very different and what we may legitimately call a liberating perspective, as is perfectly illustrated in his confessed homesickness for the old wall. The extent of this change is measured rather precisely in “Mending Wall” in the difference between the point of view of the poet, who understands the wisdom of the neighbor’s view, and that of the speaker in the poem who presumably does not (Wilson 74).
Finally, after completing decades of exhaustive research on the poem, Wilson concluded,
Whatever disputative equilibrium the poem has may be said to be achieved by a balancing of all the advantages of the speaker—the central point of view, the wit, the humor, the arguments, the invidious depiction of the neighbor—against a simple statement whose full authority is undiminished by all that the speaker can say or do. A more fitting authorial commentary on the poem, to my mind, is a celebrated remark of the mature Frost, which appears in the preface to his Complete Poems. He is describing what he calls “the figure a poem makes.” “It begins,” he says, “in delight and ends in wisdom.”
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”
“Good fences make good neighbors” (Wilson 75).
The true “wisdom” that Frost is seeking to share with the reader comes from his own experience (Wilson 75). Much in the same way many people go through life building up judgments about others, Frost was imprisoned by his shortsighted view on his life in New England. Frost originally thought that he was a “prisoner” of his experiences; however, ironically, it was his experiences in Europe that truly enlightened him and allowed him to relate and recapture his love for his life in America. It was not until he experienced homesickness, while living in Europe, that he was able to fully understand the other side of the wall. In “Mending Wall,” Frost shares his wisdom and experience of cognizance, and he urges the reader to examine his own life, experience, and relationships and challenges the reader to take a different viewpoint on life.
On another note, Charles N. Watson Jr. wrote an article in The New England Quarterly, and he says that although most readers argue that the speaker’s neighbor in “Mending Wall” is the blind and ignorant one, Watson argues that it is actually the speaker himself who is unknowing and oblivious. Watson goes through and carefully points out several areas where the speaker is quick to point out the flaws of others because he is trying to validate his own point, but in the process of pointing the finger at someone else, the speaker becomes unaware of his own flaws and actual similarities he shares with the people he is condemning. For example, Watson points out,
While the processes of Nature gently spill the upper boulders in the sun, the hunters and dogs crash through the wall with a careless brutality. It is a crude violation, almost a rape. Significantly, even the speaker (no friend of walls) comes after these trespassers, apparently on his own initiative, to repair the damage they have done. But just as he recognizes no difference between the hunters and the frozen-ground-swell, he fails to perceive a similarity between the hunters and himself. As the hunters unthinkingly tear down the wall to get the rabbit out of hiding, so the speaker wants to tear down the wall to ferret out the neighbor-presumably to please the “yelping dogs” within him which refuse to let his neighbor alone, which try to force friendship on someone who doesn’t want it. The wall may be a barrier to friendship and communication, but it is also a protector of privacy-a protector even of the integrity of the self against the world’s efforts to use that private self for its own ends and ultimately to twist it out of shape (Watson 655).
The speaker’s neighbor obviously sees the good purpose of having a wall because the wall is something that protects his “privacy” and “integrity” from being “raped” by the cruel and harsh world (Watson 655). However, the speaker is so bent on breaking down his neighbor’s walls that the speaker fails to recognize his own resemblance to the punishing and unforgiving world that his neighbor is trying to protect himself from. If a person is unwilling to respect another person’s protective boundaries, the end result is often even greater alienation and cynicism.
Moreover, in Watson’s mind, it is apparent that the speaker is blind to his connection to the people he bashes throughout the poem. Watson explains how the narrator is so focused on other people’s mistakes that he completely fails to make any connection with his neighbor. Watson concludes,
It is the complacent and condescending speaker, even more than the neighbor, who “moves in darkness.” The full line is significant: “He moves in darkness as it seems to me.” The neighbor appears in this poem always as he “seems” to the speaker; and the speaker never manages to penetrate behind “seems” to discover “is.” We have only the speaker’s word for it that the neighbor fails to understand him. But surely the central failure of understanding belongs to the speaker himself (Watson 656).
The key point that Watson points out is that if people are so focused on other people’s flaws, people will never be able to make a genuine connection with one another. However, if a person is willing to take a step back and completely analyze the situation, he may see how there are ways that all human beings are connected even if they are seemingly opposite in nature with great walls built up between them. People will never be able to understand each other if they are unwilling to see the other side of the wall for what it really is.
Likewise, George Monteiro, PhD and Professor Emeritus at Brown University, takes a close look at “Mending Wall,” and he offers some profound insight on the meaning of tradition and communication and their effect on society. Monteiro examines the proverb, “Good fences make good neighbors” and says,
Current in America as early as 1850, “Good fences make good neighbors” derives ultimately from the Spanish, “Una pared entre dos vezinos guarda mas (haze durar) la Amistad,” which has been traced to the Middle Ages. In this form, Vicesimus Knox translated it for his compendium of Elegant Extracts in 1797, and in 1832 Emerson recorded it in his journal—“A wall between both, best preserves friendship” (Monteiro 467).
The fact that this proverb has a deep connection with the Middle Ages further connects the poem with the time in human history when stone walls and social identification struggles were preeminent. Monteiro goes on to say, “Speech in proverbial form surfaces as the poem’s final ‘wall.’ Since the message the proverb carries is sanctioned by tradition, the poet’s neighbor can retreat to safety. Resorting to a proverb enables him, moreover, to have the last word in the exchange” (Monteiro 467-468). Tradition is a crucial founding part of human society. The poem effectively takes the reader back to the source of tradition by transporting him back to the Middle Ages.
In addition, the neighbor’s use of the proverb also reveals something primitive in the neighbor’s thinking. Monteiro says, “The neighbor employs his proverb to win his point, even as it is employed today in some African tribes, for example, where participants are allowed to use proverbs in litigation” (Monteiro 468). Debates and arguments will always be a part of human relationships. Tradition is sometimes a good source for influencing opinions, however, as was the case in “Mending Wall,” tradition served to separate individuals. Monteiro further explains,
What finally carries through in Frost’s poem is the idea that the stock reply—unexamined wisdom from the past—seals off the possibility of further thought and communication. When thought has frozen into folk expression, language itself becomes another wall which cannot know what it would wall in or what it would wall out, but which blindly carries out a new, and perhaps unintended, function. Meeting once a year and insulated from anything beyond simple interaction by their well-defined duties and limits, these ‘good’ neighbors turn out to be almost incommunicative (Monteiro 468).
Tradition usually serves a good purpose to connect families and communities; conversely, there are also many cases where individuals, families, and communities can be alienated by tradition. If a family or community is not aware of the negative effect their traditions may be having on other people, the consequences are often estrangement and hostility. Monteiro’s ultimate conclusion of “Mending Wall” was that “the poet discovers that even when men work together, each works alone…we see that communication breaks down even as men converse” (Monteiro 468). A wall can be built up, or it can be torn down. A wall can connect, or it can separate. In the case of “Mending Wall” and human society, communication is key if humans ever seek to involve others in their cultures and tradition. Frost is truly saying that through delicate “balance” and careful awareness of “what (people are) walling in or walling out,” traditions can cultivate togetherness between even “neighbor(s)…beyond the hill” (Freeman 10-11).
Similarly, Dr. Wolfgang Mieder, professor of German and folklore at the University of Vermont, in Burlington, Vermont, has devoted his entire career to understanding folklore and the significance of proverbs in human society. He says, “Proverbs are not universal truths, and their insights are not based on a logical philosophical system. Instead, they contain the general observations and experiences of humankind, including life’s multifaceted contradictions. But matters are even more complex, since the meaning of a proverb depends on its function in a given context” (Meider 155). Mieder, like Monteiro, was deeply intrigued by the meaning of the proverb, “Good fences make good neighbours” (Mieder 155). Meider analyzes the history and relationship of the proverb, and he cites numerous instances where the proverb has been used to explain the circumstances of countless situations in the antiquity of human society. Perhaps the best example that Mieder gives on how the proverb has been used comes when he quotes F.A. Hayek, a British economist and philosopher and a major political thinker of the twentieth century. Mieder says,
F.A. Hayek, in his classic Law, Legislation and Liberty, has perhaps summarised the legal importance of the “fence” proverb best:
The understanding that “good fences make good neighbours”, that is, that men can use their own knowledge in the pursuit of their own ends without colliding with each other only if clear boundaries can be drawn between their respective domains of free action, is the basis on which all known civilisation has grown. Property, in the wide sense in which it is used to include not only material things, but (as John Locke defined it) the “life, liberty and estates” of every individual, is the only solution men have yet discovered to the problem of reconciling individual freedom with the absence of conflict. Law, liberty, and property are an inseparable trinity. There can be no law in the sense of universal rules of conduct which does not determine boundaries of the domains of freedom by laying down rules that enable each to ascertain where he is free to act (Mieder 168).
The proverb “good fences make good neighbors” has a profound significance in the lawmaking structure of society. Laws, rules, and regulations must be formulated and established with great care, and those who are in charge of creating those boundaries must be mindful of the best interests of both sides of the wall. Freedoms must be protected if a healthy human society is to persist.
In addition, Mieder was careful to acknowledge the use of the proverb in nearly every area of human society. He quotes many prodigious authors, lawmakers, politicians, and philosophers, from several centuries back to present time, who have used the quote in every circumstance from international politics and law to dictionaries and literature. Finally, Mieder concludes by quoting Benjamin Forgey, a staff writer for the Washington Post in 2006:
The journalist Benjamin Forgey’s report on the exhibition on the history of fences in the United States, “Between Fences,” at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, is a fitting summary for this investigation of the “fence” proverb-despite his erroneous claim that Robert Frost coined the proverb:
The Great Walls of America
“Good fences make good neighbors.” Even the poet who coined this most American of proverbs was ambivalent about it. Robert Frost, in “Mending Wall,” put the line in his neighbor’s mouth, and then proceeded to compare the poor man to “an old-stone savage” moving around in darkness, “not of woods only and shade of trees.” This ambivalence is doubtless why the saying became so popular-you can see both sides and both seem equally true. Or maybe not quite that. It depends on who is laying the fence, and where and why. Sometimes it simply depends on which side of the fence you’re on (Washington Post 1 June 1996, H1).
Even though “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” there is ample truth in the proverb that “Good fences make good neighbours.” (Mieder 174)
Ignorance breeds intolerance, and what is difficult is that many times both sides of the wall hold equal and valid truths. However, if people are so caught up in declaring who is right and who is wrong, connections can be broken and insurmountable barriers can be unknowingly erected. The same can be seen in how powerful language is in building relationships or destroying them. For example, when a person “decides” on something (i.e. -cide = sui-cide, homi-cide, meaning to cut, kill), he is “cutting off” and “killing off” all other options. However, if a person “chooses” something, it means that he is willing to accept his choice in light of all of its flaws, failures, and limitations. If human society is to grow and succeed, people must learn the powerful difference between “decisions” and “choices.” People must learn to “choose” their situations and “choose” others for everything that they are and everything that they are not. Happiness is found in acceptance, and power is captured through cognizance.
Mary Davis, a professor at Brooklyn College, and Elizabeth Rose, an professor at Birch-Wathen School, examined “Mending Wall” in an article they published together through the University of North Carolina Press, and they discovered many similar allusions that Frost is making to the structure of society and the functionality of walls. They said,
We know that the poem illustrates two points of view about life and human relationships. There are two kinds of walls between people. The imaginative and trusting neighbor is not without walls, but his are the spiritual walls of mutual self-respect. The cautious man, on the other hand, feels the need for real barriers, stone walls and doors that may be locked with keys. We all need to protect ourselves from intrusion by the use of certain spiritual walls which keep intact our quality of living, our philosophy of life…They are the walls that keep people honest and decent (Davis 70).
Walls have a necessity in the personal, spiritual realm, and they serve to create a basis from what integrity can be justified. These walls, as Davis and Rose point out, are invaluable pieces of human society that make up people’s morals and self-worth.
On the other hand, these authors believe that walls are, more often than not, unnecessary barriers that are built by “bitter, ingrown, and lonely” men, and serve only to “separate people who should be near and dear to each other” (Davis 70). To Davis and Rose, Frost’s poem bridges the gap between societal antagonists because needless walls breed intolerance, and intolerance is inhumane (Davis 71). However, in order to “mend” the “gaps” of indifference, they argue that “We must learn the ways of intelligent cooperation with other peoples who share our dreams of security and a better life. We must encourage understanding among peoples and find ways of working together” (Davis 72). Frost condenses all of human society to the microscopic level of the individual relationship, and he illuminates that what connects and builds on top of that individual relationship is the incessant process of mending and compromise. The battle of society is between control and autonomy, and many of the struggles faced in the human realm are expressed in a multitude of emotions that must be overcome in order to reach the heart of the matter: “mending” relational walls.
Living a glorious life of freedom is a delicate balancing act. Davis and Rose surmise from “Mending Wall,” “Just as we can erect needless barriers between ourselves and those who are near to us, between ourselves and the experiences that are unfamiliar, so also can we be intolerant of ideas, beliefs, and ways of living that are not our own…The true democrat is…gentle…in his respect for another person, his rights, his property, his race, his beliefs” (Davis 71). In society, a person must be aware of the walls that he puts up. Are they walls that serve a good protective purpose, or do the walls only alienate him from the rest of society? Walls can be mended or they can be torn down, but the true fate of the wall lies within the builder. Awareness is a person’s greatest ally, and Frost creates the epitome cognizance in “Mending Wall.” Perhaps Frost is arguing that true freedom is only captured through cognizance.
An old, common adage when somebody is at a crossroads of indecision in life is to say that the person is “on the fence;” however, in light of Frost’s “Mending Wall,” if a person truly seeks to express his depth of struggle against some social incongruity, perhaps a more intelligent maxim would be to say the person is “on the wall.” Such a saying in Frost’s mind genuinely couriers the entire weight of all the gaps, flaws, differences, boundaries, and hurdles that all human beings carry with them as they walk the delicate balance of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So the question “Mending Wall” truly begs to answer is: How does a person balance freedom amidst the confines of human society? Apart from each other and alone, freedom and regulation are completely incongruent. Nevertheless, Frost gracefully brings them together, and by aligning them side by side, he shows the reader that freedom and control can coincide. He elegantly shows the reader how human society precariously sits on the wall between liberty and regulation, and he educates the reader that cognizance is a person’s only true source for discovering freedom. Compromise is the sweat of society. Beliefs, fears, and cultural differences are often monumental barriers to overcome, and as Frost says, “We wear our fingers rough with handling them” (Freeman11).
Davis, Mary Houston and Rose, Elizabeth Lamar. Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”: A Lesson in Human Understanding. University of North Carolina Press: The High School Journal, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Mar. – Apr., 1943), 69-72.
Freeman, Margaret H. The Fall of the Wall between Literary Studies and Linguistics: Cognitive Poetics (June 29, 2009). Applications of Cognitive Linguisitcs: Foundations and Fields of Application, Gitte Kristiansen, Michel Achard, Rene Dirven, and Francisco Ruiz de Mendoza, eds. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2006.
Mieder, Wolfgang. “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours”: History and Significance of an Ambiguous Proverb. Taylor & Francis. Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises. Ltd. Folklore, Vol. 114, No. 2 (Aug., 2003), 155-179.
Monteiro, George. Robert Frost’s Linked Analogies. The New England Quarterly: Vol. 46, No. 3 (Sep., 1973), 463-468.
Watson, Charles N. Jr. Frost’s Wall: The View from the Other Side. The New England Quarterly, Inc. The New England Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4 (Dec., 1971), 653-656.
Wilson, Douglas L. The Other Side of the Wall. University of Iowa. The Iowa Review. Vol. 10, No. 1 (Winter, 1979), 65-75.
In times of seemingly unbearable stress, I’m reminded that our lives are ultimately out of our control, and the only way we will ever find peace is to surrender our control to a Power that is much greater than us.
The rainbow was a reminder to me that peace is available now. Even though I’m caught in the midst of the fight of my life, and even though we are headed for untested, unknown, unsafe, and frightful waters, I realize that I have to give up my control. There is something in this place of insecurity that calls me to look to something much bigger than me.
The irony is that in order to find peace, sometimes we must leave a place of security and surrender to the unknown.
Are you also feeling “outmatched” and “outsized” in whatever situation you are going through? Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember: peace and happiness are found through acceptance. Accept the chaos and feelings of insecurity, and know that there is a source of Infinite Strength much greater than you that has complete control of the situation.
Perhaps you too will find comfort knowing…it’s way beyond me…
Please click on any hyperlinks below for a direct link to the scientific journal article.
In our high-tech, clinically advanced, and specialty-driven medical world, we have come to believe that MD-allopathic-Western medicine holds all the answers to all the questions regarding death, disease, disability, health, and longevity. And with this belief in mind, it truly begs the question: is an ounce of prevention really worth a ton of cure? Does it really matter what I eat, whether I exercise, whether I manage my stress, or if I quit smoking and stop drinking? If I get sick “someday,” I know there will be a doctor out there who will have a drug or surgery to fix my problem, take away my discomfort, and get me back to perfect health, so why does it matter what I do now? Here in America, we spend more money on healthcare than any other nation in the world, have the most specialized and highly trained physicians, and have the most technologically advanced diagnostic and treatment tools at our disposal, so what is the worry? More is better right? This is in fact the way we practice medicine today here in America. In our episodic “sick”-care system, we wait until someone gets sick or shows symptoms of being sick, and then we utilize extremely expensive diagnostic equipment to diagnose the problem and then employ drugs and surgery to cover up those symptoms without ever addressing the underlying problem.
So, let us begin by taking a look at just how effective this belief system actually is at improving our health, preventing disease, and making people well. America ranks number one in the entire world in healthcare spending (nearly double that of the next closest nation) (Murray 2010), we continue to spend more and more on healthcare every year (Fisher-part-1 2003), and our increased healthcare spending has led to a much higher utilization of highly technologically advanced diagnostics and treatments (Fisher-part-1 2003). However, does better technology and bigger spending on healthcare correlate with a better healthcare system and better health outcomes? According to the scientific research, no it does not. In fact, America ranks 37th in the world in overall healthcare performance (and falling farther and farther behind every year) (Murray 2010); by the most conservative estimates, our healthcare system directly kills 225,000 people every year, which means that our healthcare system is the 3rd leading cause of death in our country (It goes 1. Heart disease, 2. Cancer, and 3. The healthcare system itself) (Starfield 2000); and death and disease outcomes here in America are actually worse in areas of our nation where we spend the most on healthcare (Fisher-part-2 2003). “Neither greater local availability of physicians and hospital beds nor the more inpatient-based and specialist-oriented pattern of practice that result are associated with improved access to care, better-quality care, or better health outcomes or satisfaction” (Fisher-part-1 2003). Moreover, our absolute best “preventative” drugs are effective at preventing disease less than 5% of the time (Trewby 2002); our most expensive and technologically advanced drugs are successful about 3% percent of the time in treating disease (Morgan 2004); our finest and most innovative treatments actually do very little (if anything) to treat disease or improve health outcomes (Pereira 2012); and even our most cutting-edge, “gold-standard” surgeries either cause more death and/or are not even better than placebos (Hochman 2006, Moseley 2002). “…genuine very large effects with extensive support from substantial evidence appear to be rare in medicine and large benefits for mortality are almost entirely nonexistent” (Pereira 2012).
Additionally, as research is showing, we have one of the most wasteful healthcare systems because the vast majority of the diagnostic procedures and surgeries we perform are completely unnecessary. “For US health care overall, the sum of the lowest estimates is $558 billion per year, or 21% of national health expenditures; and the sum of midpoint estimates is $910 billion per year, or 34%” (Berwick 2012). This means that on the absolute best year our healthcare system wastes 21% of its resources, and on an average year, it wastes 34% of its resources. Utilizing such a wasteful system is harmful not only to the individual health of people who choose to participate in the system, but it also immensely harms the overall health of our nation. Let me put it this way, if you had a hole in your gas tank and you knew that every time you filled up your gas tank that you would lose 1/3 of every gallon that you put into the tank, wouldn’t you want to try and figure out a way to fix the leak? Why do you think some hospitals charge upwards of $800 for a bag of normal saline that can be purchased for less than $1 wholesale cost? Is it really necessary to have repeated x-rays, CTs, MRIs, angiograms, and other extremely expensive diagnostic tests done on one person? The system not only causes more harm from its wasteful practices, but these types of practices have become accepted and justified because we rationalize wasting this “extra” money by calling it practicing “safe” or “cautious” medicine. However, there is absolutely no evidence that treating people this way does anything to improve health outcomes, advance quality of life, or lengthen life in any way. In fact, it actually does the opposite.
What is most unnerving is the fact that the vast majority of these poor heath outcomes are completely preventable. “…most of the chronic diseases that affect 160 million Americans and account for 78% of our healthcare costs are caused by lifestyle and environmental factors—namely our diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, chronic stress, and environmental toxins” (Hyman 2009). In truth, America does not have a good healthcare system, and the first step to fixing the problem is admitting that there is one.
So what is the answer, and what scientific evidence do we have to support any alternatives? If we are not effective a treating disease, why not prevent it? If we can reduce the incidence of people developing new chronic diseases every year, we can effectively reduce and/or eliminate the burdens and costs of those diseases in the future.
So what is prevention really? Our current healthcare model considers prevention as getting a vaccination to become “immune” to infectious disease; taking a statin drug to lower cholesterol levels (a health factor that has no scientific evidence as a cause for heart disease); getting an angioplasty (stent) or coronary artery bypass to prevent a heart attack; and/or performing mammograms, colonoscopies, and other screening tests. However, none of these practices do anything to actually improve immune system health, reduce the risk for heart attack and death, or even reduce the incidence of cancer or deaths from cancer (Hyman 2009). All they do is drive up the cost of healthcare. “…angioplasties and stents do not prolong life or even prevent heart attacks in stable patients (ie, 95% of those who receive them). Coronary bypass surgery prolongs life in less than 2% to 3% of patients who receive it” (Hyman 2009, Hochman 2006).
If patients were truly informed and educated by their doctors and healthcare providers that over 90% of the time the drugs and surgeries they are being given are ineffective at best, the research shows that the vast majority of people would not get them (Trewby 2002). The surgeries and pharmaceutical drugs do not come without deadly side effects, and that is one of the reasons why our healthcare system kills so many people (Starfield 2000). What is worse is that because our treatments are not rooted in true prevention, our current medical treatments are doing nothing to help the next unsuspecting victims of chronic disease. If the focus of our healthcare system remains on treatment and pseudo-pharmaceutical/surgical/technological-prevention alone, our healthcare system will only continue to become more expensive and less effective.
The problem also lies in the culture of healthcare workers themselves. Most people who get into the healthcare field do so because they believe they are providing a valuable service and genuinely want to help people; however, it is because of this attitude that healthcare providers often tend to overlook the negative sides of healthcare and the great harm that it is causing. Some drugs and surgeries may be effective in stabilizing a critical patient in the short-term, but if they are continued for the long-term, like we use them today, they only lead to poor health outcomes. As healthcare providers, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves, critically examine everything we do, and start asking the difficult questions that nobody has been willing to ask. It is our responsibility to stand up for what we know is best for our patients, even if it contradicts everything we have been trained, been taught, or led to believe. Sometimes all it takes is stopping and asking the question “Why?”. Why am I doing this? Why did the doctor prescribe this? Is there a safer and more effective way to do what we are doing? We cannot be afraid to question and fight the “standards” even in the face of harsh ridicule. Our patients deserve it because they trust us to give them the absolute best!
On another more positive note, let’s look at some alternatives to the current healthcare system that are genuinely rooted in real preventative practice that have actually proven to be successful. The concept of using diet to treat and prevent disease is not a new idea. In fact, it started way back with Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine, when he famously said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” However, our modern medical world has done little to heed this wise advice, and medical advancement today is solely focused on technological advancements in the drug and surgery industry. Fortunately, there are a few select medical doctors that are beginning to utilize the vast amount of scientific research supporting the use of these “low-tech” lifestyle interventions as medical treatment. The results are astounding, and the side effects are only positive.
For example, if we focus only on our nation’s number one killer, heart disease, that kills over 600,000 people every year, diet and lifestyle treatments are 20-30 times more effective than drugs and surgery at not just preventing heart disease, but treating it (Pischke 2008, Ornish 1998). And if we extrapolate the findings that Dr. Esselystyn and his colleagues found from their study or the findings of the INTERHEART Health Study, over 90% of people with heart disease can either eliminate all future events and/or reverse their heart disease just by changing their diet alone, which is something that modern medicine has never been able to accomplish (Esselstyn 2014, Yusuf 2004). Diet and lifestyle are not only the most effective prevention methods that we have at our disposal to prevent future disease, but they are also the most effective treatment methods that we have to reduce symptoms, treat the underlying cause of disease, and improve long-term health outcomes.
Furthermore, when looking at not just heart disease, but “all cause mortality,” diet is also the most effective way to prevent disease, disability, and early mortality. In the Adventist Health Study 2, researchers found that “vegetarian diets are associated with lower all-cause mortality and with some reductions in cause-specific mortality” (Orlich 2013). Diet by itself can be an extremely powerful way to prevent disease and early death.
The change in our healthcare system needs to start with the way we educate our patients and the way that we train our healthcare providers, and our healthcare system needs to be utilized only in the areas that is most effective. If a person becomes acutely ill, suffers physical trauma (i.e. car accident, stabbing, etc.), or needs resuscitative care (i.e. cardiac arrest, rescue care, etc.), then allopathic medical treatments should absolutely be utilized to stabilize the person in short-term because these are the areas where they are most effective. However, for any other case of chronic disease, the focus needs to be on lifestyle medicine for treatment and widespread public health education on modifying risk factors to reduce the incidence of future health problems.
Overall, the ultimate goal in healthcare is to provide safe, effective, and compassionate care that encompasses the holistic needs (mind, body, and spirit) of the entire individual, their family, and their community. All of these factors are completely missing from our current allopathic medical model. However, if we allow our allopathic healthcare system to work in the areas that it is most effective at (trauma and rescue care), and allow public health and “alternative” medicine providers (i.e. nutritionists, exercise physiologists, psychologists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, etc.) to do what they do best (treat and prevent chronic degenerative disease), then our healthcare system will vastly improve. Prevention is the best way to improve health outcomes and reduce disease and disability risk, and considering the fact that our healthcare system is so lethal, it is truly ideal if we can avoid the system at all costs (Starfield 2000). In truth, an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure because prevention is the most proven and effective way at virtually eliminating the risks of chronic disease now and in the future.
Berwick, Donald M., and Hackbarth Andrew D. Eliminating Waste in US Health Care. JAMA, April 11, 2012—Vol 307, No. 14.
Esselstyn Jr, C. B., Gendy, G., Doyle, J., Golubic, M., & Roizen, M. F. (2014). A way to reverse CAD?. The Journal of family practice, 63(7), 356-364b.
Fisher, E. S., Wennberg, D. E., Stukel, T. A., Gottlieb, D. J., Lucas, F. L., & Pinder, E. L. (2003). The implications of regional variations in Medicare spending. Part 1: the content, quality, and accessibility of care. Annals of internal medicine, 138(4), 273-287.
Fisher, E. S., Wennberg, D. E., Stukel, T. A., Gottlieb, D. J., Lucas, F. L., & Pinder, E. L. (2003). The implications of regional variations in Medicare spending. Part 2: health outcomes and satisfaction with care. Annals of internal medicine, 138(4), 288-298.
Hochman, J. S., Lamas, G. A., Buller, C. E., Dzavik, V., Reynolds, H. R., Abramsky, S. J., … & Knatterud, G. L. (2006). Coronary intervention for persistent occlusion after myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, 355(23), 2395-2407.
Hyman, M. A., Ornish, D., & Roizen, M. (2009). Lifestyle medicine: treating the causes of disease. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 15(6), 12.
Morgan, G., Ward, R., & Barton, M. (2004). The contribution of cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adult malignancies. Clinical Oncology, 16(8), 549-560.
Moseley, J. B., O’Malley, K., Petersen, N. J., Menke, T. J., Brody, B. A., Kuykendall, D. H., … & Wray, N. P. (2002). A controlled trial of arthroscopic surgery for osteoarthritis of the knee. New England Journal of Medicine, 347(2), 81-88.
Murray, C. J., & Frenk, J. (2010). Ranking 37th—measuring the performance of the US health care system. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(2), 98-99.
Orlich, M. J., Singh, P. N., Sabaté, J., Jaceldo-Siegl, K., Fan, J., Knutsen, S., … & Fraser,
Ornish, D., Scherwitz, L. W., Billings, J. H., Gould, K. L., Merritt, T. A., Sparler, S., … & Brand, R. J. (1998). Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. Jama, 280(23), 2001-2007.
Pereira, T. V., Horwitz, R. I., & Ioannidis, J. P. (2012). Empirical evaluation of very large treatment effects of medical interventions. JAMA, 308(16), 1676-1684.
Pischke, C. R., Scherwitz, L., Weidner, G., & Ornish, D. (2008). Long-term effects of lifestyle changes on well-being and cardiac variables among coronary heart disease patients. Health Psychology, 27(5), 584.
Starfield, B. (2000). Is US health really the best in the world?. JAMA, 284(4), 483-485.
The National Institute of Medicine (IOM). Transformation of Health System Needed to Improve Care and Reduce Costs. News Press Release. September 6, 2012.
Trewby, P. N., Reddy, A. V., Trewby, C. S., Ashton, V. J., Brennan, G., & Inglis, J. (2002). Are preventive drugs preventive enough? A study of patients’ expectation of benefit from preventive drugs. Clinical Medicine, 2(6), 527-533.
Yusuf, S., Hawken, S., Ôunpuu, S., Dans, T., Avezum, A., Lanas, F., … & INTERHEART Study Investigators. (2004). Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. The Lancet, 364(9438), 937-952.
on the park benches
in the jails
or living with
I always had this certain
I wouldn’t call it
it was more of an inner
that settled for
whatever was occuring
and it helped in the
and when relationships
wars and the
the backalley fights
to awaken in a cheap room
in a strange city and
pull up the shade-
this was the craziest kind of
and to walk across the floor
to an old dresser with a
see myself, ugly,
grinning at it all.
what matters most is
how well you
walk through the
“Drug companies are a lot like high school boyfriends. They’re much more concerned with getting inside you than being effective once they’re in there.”
Sadly, this is only funny because it’s true…
Did you know this about your MD and our healthcare industry? How does this clip make you feel about the MD-allopathic-pharmaceutical medicine we are forced to buy here in America?
DID YOU KNOW THAT YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE HAS A PRACTICAL PURPOSE??
Your spiritual life is the most powerful and effective outlet tool that you have to manage ALL of your day to day, moment to moment stress. If you aren’t nourishing your spirit and “giving up” your stress to your higher power, you aren’t healthy, and you aren’t whole.
Science has proven and is continuing to prove in more powerful ways that people who have a strong spiritual life live longer, have less chronic disease, and have a more positive outlook on life.
Here’s a great video where cell microbiologist Dr. Bruce Lipton explains the science and value behind the reality of our spiritual life:
We must learn to use our spiritual life to manage our stress because our stress is the PRIMARY cause of ALL of our negative health outcomes, and the effects of stress are cumulative. If we don’t address our stress immediately when it shows up in our lives, it can easily overrun us. Don’t let stress rule in your life…”give it up”!!!
How are YOU feeding your soul? How are you utilizing your spiritual life to manage your stress?
Most people are not aware of stress, and most people are not aware of how much they allow stress and worry to consume their lives. Much of this unawareness is due to a misunderstanding of what stress actually is.
Stress is not something anyone can bring into your life, and stress is not something that can be brought on by a life situation or life circumstance.
Stress is nothing more than a perception of your mind. And YOU are the only one who can control your mind. Each and every second of your life is a choice, and you have the power to choose if you will allow stress and worry into your life.
This is where the spiritual concept of “put off” and “put on” comes in to play.
If I were to ask you, “What is your definition of sin?,” I guarantee most would probably say it’s “doing something wrong,” “harming others,” or “living with bad intentions.” However, the true Biblical definition of sin is any thought, belief, behavior, action, or perception that makes you experience and see yourself less than who you are in the finished work of Jesus.
Through Jesus, we have access to every single promise of God right now! In God’s promises we are “saved” (Ephesians 2:8), “loved” (John 3:16), “prospered” (Philippians 4:19), “protected” (Daniel 6:16), “forgiven” (II Corinthians 4:19), “peaceful” (Philippians 4:7), “comforted” (II Corinthians 1:4), “victorious” (I Corinthians 15:57), and “free of stress/anxiety/worry” (Philippians 4:19, Romans 8:28) just to name a few (There are over 3,500 different promises of God in the Bible, and I highly encourage you to research them for yourself. It’s an amazing eye opening process that will allow you to see who God really is and what His heart is for you).
So, when you participate in any thought, belief, behavior, action, or perception that makes you see yourself less than any of those promises, you are living in sin. This includes stress, worry, and anxiety, and this is why it is so important to be mindful of the way you are thinking and perceiving yourself and the world around you.
Any time you notice yourself falling into the trap of any of these sins, follow these quick and simple steps:
2. Take notice of what you are doing and acknowledge it mentally or verbally (what the Bible calls “confess”).
3. Choose to give up the past regardless of your connection to it.
4. Choose to change your mind right then and there (what the Bible calls “repent”).
Once you have taken these steps, you now have the opportunity to “Put On.” And what do you put on? You put on the promises of God. Pick the promise of God that is most appropriate for your situation you are going through, and consciously choose to make that your reality at that very moment. Read more about it, meditate on it, and live it out. It’s not a “behavior modification” or some “change” that you have to mold into your life or “work on” to achieve “someday” down the road. It’s simply a conscious choice to see yourself in a different light (the Bible calls this process “transformation”), and you have access to this power each and every second of the day and it only takes several seconds to accomplish.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2
Live empowered, live inspired, live free, and live in the promises of God!
Many people are apprehensive about the holiday season, and for good reason. For some, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has always meant eating as much unhealthy food as they want, joking about adding a few extra pounds to the waistline, and justifying it all by saying, “It’s ok because it’s the holidays!” For most, the holidays will bring back memories of decadent meals; trays filled with candies, cookies, and homemade sweets; and piled high spreads of delicious—but not always healthy—food. This was no different for my family and me. I used to pride myself on spending hours upon hours smoking the holiday turkey to perfection and spending days ahead of time marinating and seasoning the holiday roast with five star chef precision. I used to spend weeks making sugar-filled, butter-drenched holiday cookies and pies with my mother and grandmother, utilizing generation-old family recipes. Year after year, we celebrated these traditions, and family gatherings always centered on the best gourmet food, most of which was extremely unhealthy.
However, after my mother had her massive heart attack and our family all chose to transition to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, we knew our family food traditions needed to change. This meant finding different and healthier options for the recipes we had been cooking for years, and it meant substituting unhealthy meat and diary products for low-fat, plant-based versions. Surprisingly, after spending time recreating the recipes during that first year, we found that many of the recipes actually tasted better when we made them healthier, they were more fun to make because they were less processed, and we felt no guilt knowing that we could eat as much as we want while improving our health at the same time! Yes, at first it took some extra time and effort to rearrange the ingredients, read nutrition labels, and seek out the healthiest options available, but once we had it down, the process got easier and faster, and soon enough, we began wondering why we didn’t make these changes years ago!
Oftentimes, it’s so easy to get caught up in the holiday food and preparations that we forget what the real reason is for celebrating the holidays—family. And what is a family if it isn’t healthy? My family was fortunate that we were given a second chance to change our health choices before it was too late for my mother. Not all families get that opportunity. The greatest gift of love you can give a loved one is the gift of health.
The holidays are no longer a time of apprehension and guilt for my family because we banded together and chose to make a stand for each other’s health. My family’s health means the world to me, and I realize that by having healthy holiday traditions means that we will get to spend MANY more of them together! My hope is that you will do the same for yours…
Wishing you all the very happiest and healthiest of holidays!
P.S. Let me know if you would like for me to create a blog on some easy, healthy, and delicious ways to improve your holiday meals. 🙂
What REALLY makes a body healthy? What REALLY makes us sick?
What if I told you that caring for your body is the least important thing you can do for your health? Not exactly what you expected to hear huh?
This is a short talk given by Harvard MD, Lissa Rankin on the root cause of health and sickness. Allopathic and even Integrative medicine have yet to tap into these truths.
What does your body need to be healthy? What is the real diagnosis, and what can you do about it?
Do you hate your job? Are you in an abusive relationship? Are you creatively thwarted? Are you spiritually bankrupt? Are you stuck living your life based off of what you “should” do instead of living your life based off of what you “feel”? NOW is the time to write a new prescription for your life! Don’t wait until something goes wrong. If you do, it might just be too late…
“The body is a mirror of how we live our lives.”
What is your body whispering to you??…
The Whole Health Cairn