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Guilty Pleasures: How Can We Responsibly Enjoy Life?


Children working on cocoa plantation in Ivory Coast

Hello readers,

A question most responsible and caring people might ask themselves in the complex and globally connected world we live in is this: how can we make responsible choices that benefit ourselves and don’t hurt others?

Last night, I watched a children’s animated film “Frankenweenie” directed by Tim Burton.  The science teacher remarks to Victor, the protangonist of the story, that science is neither good nor bad – it depends on what we do with it.  He proceeds to ask Victor if his experiment was inspired by his heart and  if he really cared about it.  Victor had reanimated his beloved dog who was hit by a car and killed when he tried to catch a baseball that Victor hit out of the park in order to please his parents.  Through the course of the film, we see Victor’s rivals and fellow school mates who are motivated by less uplifting values and more selfish motives whose experiments ultimately lead to a lot of mayhem and destruction.

If we use this simple story as a metaphore for egotistical actions which benefit self or just a few as opposed to a single person acting from his or her heart to benefit many others or all, then we might reflect that all areas of action are neither good nor bad –  whether it be science, politics, religion, art, health, education, etc.  It all depends on the intention with which the action commenced.

Currently, I am reading a book by a medical doctor and researcher who claims that most of our health conditions are linked to chronic dehydration.  His book makes a lot of sense, and his explanations are clear and enlightening.  His only gain is to help others and to advance a new paradigm in medicine.  Interestingly, he tried to share his findings with many NIH  research directors, and it soon became clear that the interests of the government agency were focused on producing treatments requiring expensive medications, in support of the pharmaceutical industries.  The cost of healthcare has skyrocketed, putting many inhabitants of this country in financial and physical jeopardy.  The dilemma being that science here, on the part of our governmental agencies, is often serving the interests of a few and not the greater good of all.

But what happens when a conscientious person who is interested in promoting the greater good and acting from his or her heart encounters a situation where personal pleasure causes pain to another because of the way our society is set up?  I will supply a few examples.  I like to eat chocolate.  It is one of my favorite foods.  I have learned a few facts about chocolate, however, that make my habit less savory to me.  I do not like to feel pleasure at someone else’s expense.  A few months ago, I read that as many countries gain in financial freedom – in China and India, for example, more and more people are gaining a taste for chocolate.  Only a few countries with few resources and infrastructures grow the cocoa needed to produce chocolate.  This demand fragilizes the system in place, and the countries concerned do not have the means to expand production.  This can cause environmental problems.  On the other hand, in this increased demand, some see opportunity for personal gain.  In Ivory Coast, many children are literally enslaved in order to produce crops such as cocoa at no benefit and much pain to themselves, and much gain for their “owners”. This situation is not very well known to the general public.

Once I gain awareness of such facts, I modify my behavior.  From now on, I will buy only fair trade chocolates and limit my consumption.  The same for products containing palm oil, used by many food conglomerates to produce common foods such as peanut butter.  Most products do not have notices for consumers indicating whether or not the palm oil used was produced on plantations or illegally harvested from forests which are natural habitats for many endangered animals, including orangutans and chimpanzees…or if the plantations were created after virgin forests were razed.  Today, a patron at the library where I work told me that many Amish farms function as puppy mills.  I was not previously aware of this fact, so now I need to re-evaluate where I buy my milk and eggs.  The Farmer’s Market where I shop sells eggs and dairy products produced by Amish farms.

I do feel that globalization is neither good nor bad, but a positive form of globalization and consumption must be rooted in the heart.  If we are to live in a world that benefits everyone, then evil must be rooted out at its source – our own hearts.  When we are in sync with our higher selves, we are automatically drawn to people of like thinking, and in this way, we can continue to learn and raise our level of awareness.  We each have a sphere of influence in the world, and no matter how large or small it is, it radiates outwards and envelopes in positive energy all that it encompasses, when we live from our hearts and higher self.  I don’t want to give up chocolate any more than I want to give up on love.  The greater things in life are always worth embracing!

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