Toward the Golden Mean

I’ve never claimed to have the mind of a scientist, but of course have read up on the nutritional benefits of eating grass-fed beef. Whenever, though, the terminology of “terpenes,” “alpha-tocopherol,” and “conjugated linoleic acids” gets bandied about, it’s all “blah, blah, blah” (which, in addition to the above cartoon, also brings to mind Bob Loblaw from Arrested Development. It might help to say “Bob Loblaw” aloud, to yourself. Good stuff, that.) Nevertheless, despite all the technical jargon I think I’m able to get the gist of it. No, this post isn’t waxing eloquent the nutritional benefits of grass-fed beef. Rather, there’s this one idea–one concept–that I’d like to explore concerning grass-fed beef which has become for me something of a metaphor for how to better navigate this life.

The solitary idea that has become a metaphor for life is the relationship in grass-fed beef between Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6s, generally considered a “bad” fatty acid and Omega-3s, generally considered a “good” fatty acid (more on that later). The relationship between the presence of the two fatty acids in beef that is considered good is 4 (or lower) to 1. Conventional grain-fed beef has a ratio of 14 to 1 while grass-fed beef has a ratio of 2 to 1. (Higher ratios have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, allergies, depression, obesity, and auto-immune disorders.) But here’s the the rub, lest one gets down on fatty acids: they’re essential to human body. It seems I’ve read somewhere that they’re considered essential for brain growth, development, and functioning. It’s not about eliminating them from the diet, but finding them in the right ratios. And it seems that nature provides them in the proper proportions. In other words, it’s about the Golden Mean. It’s about the right relationship between things. And therein lies the metaphor: life is, in part, about finding the right relationship with every good thing.

One of those relationships that has become a theme lately is that between work and leisure. (I will quickly add that it’s been a theme because of the nagging sense that I gravitate toward an unhealthy relationship with work which, it seems to me, busyness is the symptom.) Two opposite errors, in fact, seem to have taken root in contemporary culture: laziness and busyness. Reading now a refreshing philosophical treatise on Leisure as the basis of culture, it makes the case that a solitary and fundamental error lies at the root of both laziness and busyness (busyness defined as “work for the sake of work”) and raises a provocative question: Do we work so that we might have leisure or do we have leisure in order that we might work? Of course both work and leisure are necessary, but they are not mutually exclusive: there can be an aspect of work present in leisure, say that of planting a garden or playing a musical instrument. Conversely, there can be an element of relaxation brought to our daily activities and in our place of work.

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