Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mileage

Has anyone noticed that fewer people seem to use many of the once ubiquitous acronyms in blog comments and discussion groups? Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places, but I remember a time (this would have been about nine years ago, when I was working at Ask Jeeves, and spent a lot of time online; I was also lurking on a board devoted to debating the question of whether mothers should or should not stay at home with their children -- I never could quite figure out why that was a debate rather than a personal choice, but that's a post for another time) when people constantly used acronyms like DH, MIL, DD, DS, LOL, and one of my favorites, ROFLMAO. I do see them sometimes now, but less than I used to. Maybe it's the fora I frequent? Maybe they've lost their charm? Who knows.

But there's one that I miss, and that I wish we could bring back into use. Does anyone remember the acronym YMMV? Your Mileage May Vary. As in: "I found that swaddling my baby until nine months of age really helped her to sleep. YMMV." I loved that acronym. It essentially conveyed a message in which I believe wholeheartedly: we all have different experiences, and what works for some people may not (oh, heck, why don't I get really bold and say "will not") work for all. And there's nothing wrong with that. When the speaker or writer of that lovely acronym really believes in it, it makes all the difference between telling someone how they should do things, and sharing a take-it-or-leave-it life experience. Can you imagine American politics if people thought this way more often, instead of trying to legislate other people into behaving and believing all the same?

You may say I'm a dreamer...

I think that it is more and more important to move away from the all-or-nothing mentality that seems to be such a part of the American way of looking at the world. It's so easy, in many ways, to have a hard-and-fast rule for dealing with any given situation. Then there's no need to think when that situation arises; we just do what the rule says. Even when, sometimes, that's probably not the most right thing to do on that particular day at that particular time.

For me, those kinds of knee-jerk reactions mean that I'm living less mindfully. That I'm not paying attention to the particulars of a situation, that I'm distancing myself by generalizing. I don't think that I end up bringing my most thoughtful (as in, "full of thought", rather than "kind") self to interactions that way. Being flexible in my reactions is harder than just making assumptions. It requires me to consider each moment in its particular context, to pay attention. But I truly believe that life, being the great balancing act that it is, requires that kind of attention in order for me to be a full participant. Like walking a tightrope, it's all too easy to fall off, into old habits of body or mind, if I stiffen up and stop paying attention.

I've been thinking about this lately in the context of food. About a month ago, I bought two books which, by happenstance, had messages that really reinforced each other. They were Michael Pollen's new book In Defense of Food, and Alice Water's new cookbook The Art of Simple Food. They both really got me thinking about something that I've noticed before, but hadn't articulated. In the vein of that all-or-nothing mentality that I mentioned, I think that many people tend to think of eating as a "don't do that" kind of thing, of food as the enemy. Don't eat fat. Don't eat sugar. Don't eat white flour. Don't eat meat. Don't eat this kind of fish or that kind of plant. Don't, don't, don't. It is rare to see eating framed in terms of "do".

Do eat with friends and family. Do touch your food; play with it a little, even. Do take time to taste it. Do try everything at least once, and probably three or four times just to see what you think of it. Do eat what your body needs. Do think of cooking and eating as sensual experiences, as cultural experiences, as spiritual experiences. Do understand that food is a gift, that things die so that we can live, that grace is part of every meal.

Seen that way, it's hard not to eat well. If meals are a celebration, a sacrament, rather than simply fuel, if we think of the time that it takes to prepare and eat a meal with people we love as time well spent, rather than as time spent away from doing important things, how much healthier would we be, as a people? How much happier? How much more in touch with the people and world around us?

YMMV.

17 comments:

twinsetellen said...

conflict of interest statement: I work for a large food company.

With that out of the way, I really, really liked Michael Pollen's message - eat food, less of it, mostly plants. I really disliked much of the way he argued for the message. For me, his ideological stances (avoid all processed food - heck, home canned applesauce is processed food!) and his use of science when it suited his point but his dismissal of it when it didn't, harmed his overall argument and was disingenuous.

That said, I completely agree with you that the answer lies in appreciating our food. Really appreciating it. Making choices - today I will eat something more convenient because my schedule is insane and on Saturday I will cook from scratch with ingredients sourced from my own locale. And because I appreciate it, I will choose the convenience food that has vegetables and whole grains, even though they cost more.

If more people made that choice, there would be more choices of that sort to be made in the grocery store. And that would be very good, because as far as having time to cook from scratch, YMMV.

Carrie K said...

I love the YMMV acronym and what it represents.

We also don't tend to eat for food's sake but for "convenience". I made homemade brownies once and the BFF was amazed. Why? It took less time than going to the store.

Rchel said...

Very well said! I wish more people will put more of their thoughts on their blog like this!

I am always trying to be careful with mine because I don't want to be seen as the criticizing foreigner.

Just today when I saw the photos of the flooding I asked Joe, how come nobody really discuss the causes, how come it doesn't become the main issue of the election. How did it come to the current state of affairs where Clinton's affairs are more important and discussed than the problems rising from the neglect of infrastructure in this country?

oooopppsssieee,,, sorry, I talk to much!

Anne said...

Yes.

FUZZARELLY said...

The answer to the acronym question is the greater bandwidth of today. There's not so much need to economize on email length anymore.

My particular favorite slang is "Yadda yadda."

EGunn said...

I think the acronym thing depends on the person. It seems that blogging is becoming a slower, deeper process, one that involves a lot of thought rather than a quick post. I think this style of writing is a little less amenable to the acronym; they work well when you're chatting in real time or typing on a ridiculously small keyboard, but when you're sitting down to express deep thoughts big words seem to fit better. At least for me. YMMV. =)

Helen said...

You worked at AskJeeves? How interesting. Tell us more.

Everyone is writing about food today www.dooce.com and how it is seen as an absolute rather than a mileage matter.

I hadn't come across YMMV before but I think I might take it up, even if I'm a bit late.

Gwen said...

I actually enjoy cooking if I think about it and do it. My rut is viewing cooking as an onerous, one more painful thing to do, instead of essential for a good life. One of the things I work on, often unsuccesfully. Kind of like maintaining a certain level of order in the house. (And then there's the work I get paid to do...) (And I almost forgot the parenting!)

anne said...

right ON! i love food . . we eat almost everything around here, or at least respect that others may eat something we don't. food is life-giving; it's a powerful tool.

Rachael said...

Live to eat, don't eat to live. Meals are one of the best parts of the day, planning them is only a few spots down the line.

One of my favorite things about traveling is not only trying the foods in new places but also experiencing HOW they eat their meals, timing, length, habits, etc...like how in France when you sit down to dinner the table is yours for the night, there is no turnover, there is no pesky waiter asking you if you're ready for the check or even the next course, it's all on your time, relaxed and relished bit by bit. ooooh, I want to go back to paris...

KnitNana said...

Had not seen the YMMV acronym, but certainly have seen it written out many times - Wendy uses if often, for example (mostly about knitting)!

Love the idea of the "do's" rather than the "don'ts" of things. (especially food!)

And I tend to go with moderation in all things, but mindfulness is the necessary ingredient not often listed on the receipe!
;)
(((Hugs)))

twinsetjan said...

...but you're not the only one...

Well stated. I think the black or white rule set mentality is a non-thinking one. If you only have two choices (and one is "wrong") then you don't have anything to ponder. I'm a big believer in shades of gray.

scienceprincess said...

OMG! I got a crash course in spinning today, and am completely hooked. I think I am buying a spindle and fiber on Monday. I completely understand your spinning obsession now.

the boogeyman's wife said...

awesome post. living mindfully includes not accepting cultural ideas (or is it media more than culture?) without thought. hard sometimes when we're so busybusy. last night i had the first chance in a while to cook a real dinner, and it made me so happy. normally i cook mostly from scratch but the time (and planning) have been lacking lately, and i need to get back to it. simple things are best sometimes.

Marianne said...

Mercy. Yes.
I love you.

fiberjoy said...

Thanks for the thought-provoking post.
There seems to be powerful forces at work in our society: the cultivation of group thinking/mentality which discourages individual critical thinking, which in turn causes people to be sheeple blindly "tossed to and fro with every changing doctrine"; subtly instilling the sense that we can't take full care of ourselves or rely on our own decision making.

I laugh about the whole food craze which dashes hither and yon. What happened to common sense and "all things in moderation"? YYMV - Your yardage may vary. :-)

AskJeeves was a well used site when I work at the library reference desk. Thanks!!!

Lynne said...

I've never seen that acronym but it would have been useful when I wrote my recent post on why I do [or don't] buy certain yarns.

As for food, I ate a chocolate biscuit the other day and later I found myself wondering if I had enjoyed it! In the busy-ness of my day I had eaten while doing something else so I could barely remember eating it let alone enjoying it. Thank you for reminding me that food is to be enjoyed not just consumed!