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?