Monday, 29 April 2019



"Karma" is a word treated with profound suspicion in Christian circles, I suppose because Christianity is a highly territorial religion that reacts with visceral dislike to anything that doesn't proceed from itself.

That's a pity because you can learn a lot from other people with different perspectives on life.

Besides, karma as a concept (as distinct from as a word), the law of cause and effect, is definitely present in the Bible:

"They sow the wind and they shall reap the whirlwind" (Hosea 8.7)

"Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap." (Galatians, here.)

This is karma without the label.

"Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days." (Ecclesisates 11.1)

As others have put it, "What goes around, comes around."

And I was thinking about this with particular reference to what we eat.

There are many instances that come easily to mind, especially if you disengage from the particular specifics of the crop or produce, and focus instead on the moral principles implicit in the method of production.

An obvious example is poor animal husbandry. How could anyone imagine the dreadful suffering imposed on animal reared in concentration-camp-like conditions could fail to bring karmic consequences? Suffering is hard to quantify but its presence manifests into our physical tissues; it is not merely confined to being a feeling. Or to put it another way, a feeling also has a physical dimension to it, so that wellbeing or the lack of it affects our body tissues. Eating an animal exposed to stress and suffering, and even torture in some cases, will not contribute towards building good health. If we include animals in our diet, and want to be well, then those animals had better be pasture-raised and free range, peaceful and contented, compassionately slaughtered.

Another example is that arm of Mammon evident in the patenting and genetic manipulation of arable crops. Stephanie Seneff's research into this certainly gives pause for thought. So does Vandana Shiva's ("There's one health because there's one planet and one humanity").

But the example that's been especially on my mind, that fascinates and intrigues me, is sugar — in particular its addictiveness.

Gary Taubes (using a term coined by Sidney Mintz) describes sugar as a "drug food". It is unquestionably mood-altering and highly addictive, and plays merry hell with the adrenals just for starters. Robert Lustig is good on the chemistry and physiology of how it all works, too. 

But what's caught my attention is its origins (concerning which Taubes goes into considerable detail in his book); because sugar could not have been brought into production on a significant scale without slavery. The escalation of slavery and the spread and development of sugar production are inextricably linked, hand-in-glove, inseparable. They belong to one another.

And it fascinates me that slavery, upon which the sugar industry was built and out of which it grew, remains integral to the sugar itself. It came from slavery and it creates slavery. The capture and enslavement of human beings was a necessary component of sugar production, and the enslavement of human beings is the result of its consumption too. 

Sugar, "pure white and deadly" as John Yudkin called it, is karma in its most straightforward form. You cannot have the substance without the slavery, in its history, in its manufacture, and in its consumption.


Anonymous said...

Decided to try eating keto style this year, so my last dose of sugar was on New Years Day, when I finished off the last pint of eggnog in the fridge.
I must say my life is completely different without sugar,
all in good ways.
healthy as a horse, no more cravings, down 26 pounds,
my whole body feels easier to live in.

62 years of sugar slavery,
four months of freedom--
there is no comparison!

Happy Rapunzel

Pen Wilcock said...

Hooray! Well done for keeping to it!

Julie B. said...

These were thoughts (about the sugar/slavery issue) I had never, ever considered. Very profound. I have been off sugar for a while too, with rare exceptions, and my knees thank me for this every single morning. xoxo

Pen Wilcock said...

Hooray for your knees! It makes such a difference, doesn't it. I wish everyone in the whole world would read Gary Taubes' book "The Case Against Sugar". It's a life-changer (if you let it be), so illuminating.

greta said...

okay, fine, i'll read yet another book you recommended! i confess that i struggle with sugar but want to cut it back considerably. like julie, i never made that connection to the slave trade. that sort of puts a sobering spin on it, especially since i recently discovered through DNA testing that somewhere back there, i have west african ancestry. it had to be someone who was brought to this country as a slave. so i'm wrapping my mind around that new revelation. who knew?

Pen Wilcock said...

The DNA testing is revolutionary, isn't it? That Gary Taubes book is dense to read but well, well worth it. The dietary information is mainly in he last two chapters, but it's worth following him as he works through the history, because it creates the bedrock for the argument he makes. I think you would not regret reading "The Case Against Sugar". I find it difficult to keep clear of sugar because I have a very sweet tooth and it's my go-to drug when I am tired or overwhelmed. Now I understand the connection with slavery it's easier to stay away from it, because I have mentally re-allocated doing so as a permanent fast in intercession for modern people held in slavery — whether by drug addiction, humans traffickers, unscrupulous politicians or abusive relatives. I think of Jesus stepping into the fulfilment of old prophecy, saying he came to proclaim release to captives and set free the oppressed, and I apply his words to the daily minutiae of what I eat. Most of the time.

Bean said...

I read a book years ago, don't know what happened to my copy, called Sugar Blues by William Duffy - it too covered the horrible, exploitive history of sugar and the horrible effect it has on the human body.

As always I enjoy your posts, always thought provoking,

Have a fabulous day,


Pen Wilcock said...

That name and title dimly ring a bell, but I haven't read it, Bean. I'll look that one up too. x

Anonymous said...

Loved Sugar Blues, it was my first introduction to the unwisdom of sugar, years ago, but it took me a long time to actually, successfully, put that knowledge into practice. The stuff seriously is addictive. Or possibly I'm a slow learner. ; )


Pen Wilcock said...

We've found our learning in terms of actually *doing* it is like a spiral or like the tide coming in — the path that comes over the same old ground but slowly makes progress each time, or the waves that come in and go out but gradually make progress. I think something that has helped me is concentrating on what I *am* going to eat, not what I'm trying to eliminate. So I have for a long time not said a firm "no" to any food but a firm "yes" to making sure I include (and start with) the good stuff. And the result has been that over time, as my body's got properly nutrified, I've wanted the sugar less and less. Grain is something else, though. Bread makes me feel really il, and I'm aiming at cutting out (almost) all wheat, but I eat oats every day, and brown rice sometimes. I'd miss oats a lot.

Anonymous said...

Bread and all its wheatey cousins make me feel tired for some reason. Haven't missed them a bit so far, no cravings for them, but I still have fond memories of the smell of a hot buttered loaf straight out of the oven.
Funny thing about bodies and is all so individual. My middle child has been vegan for years and is thriving, but every time I've tried it I've ended up ill. My body seems to need animal foods for some reason, and I also do better with very little fruit although I LOVE fruit. My taste buds truly believe I could live on fruit, but the rest of my body disbelieves that theory.
Life is such an experiment, isn't it?


Pen Wilcock said...

Yes — Alice and Hebe (who are part of our household) have been vegetarian>vegan most of their lives, but I get unwell without some animal foods too. I encourage them to have a certain amount of animal food for the Vit K2 and for the kind of zinc that comes from animals not plants. But it is indeed a very individual thing — like our Alice has a very low iron count (always), but it doesn't seem to cause her any problems.
I used to *love* bread — I could have happily lived on wheat and dairy and Earl Grey tea — but nowadays bread gives me violent gut pains, dairy gives me tonsil stones and tea makes my ankles and neck swell up and my mouth sore.
It is indeed an experiment, supported by a Greek chorus of conflicting advice! But I find that if I make a Venn diagram of all the things everyone says are bad for you, what ends up in the place of intersection is invariably sugar. . .

greta said...

have procured 'the case against sugar' from our library and have dipped a toe in. i'm anxious to get back to it when i finally have time to sit down and read! you are correct; diet is very individual and what works for one won't do well for another. my daughters and i were completely vegetarian for many years. one of the daughters has gone back to eating meat because, like rapunzel above, her body seems to need it. the second daughter occasionally eats meat. even i have a bit of ocean fish now and again because my body seems to crave it but i've almost completely given up dairy - except for ice cream and that's where that dratted sugar craving comes in! aargh.

Bean said...

I think the tannins in black tea are what cause issues for people, just my thought. I switched to herbal teas only a good number of years ago and don't miss black teas at all. And, I am English, raised on a good cuppa, I remember drinking tea with breakfast each morning by the age of six or seven!

I have eaten vegan for a good number of years now, and no ill effects. I take a multi-vitamin and B12 supplement, and eat some nutritional yeast each day. I make sure I eat a variety of veg, legumes, oats, a little fruit, tofu occasionally, nut butter in moderation. I enjoy my diet.

Wheat - oh my, I think I am an addict, I struggle so with bread, and I think it causes inflammation for me, and a little bloating, but it is such a temptation. If I lived alone I would not keep it in the house, but as it is I have grandchildren over all of the time, they love sandwiches, and my husband takes a sandwich to work each day. So, I have to battle my wheat craving multiple times in a day, and I win some and lose some of the battles LOL>

Dairy - obviously as a vegan I do not consume dairy, what I found, the rosacea I suffered with for twenty-five plus years went away when I stopped eating dairy. When I say went away, I still have it, but it is never ever inflamed, and not noticeable. There are a few foods that I find aggravate it, outside of dairy, and that would be oranges, spinach, and cantaloupe melon. I can enjoy these three foods as a one off, but if I consume very much, or start eating daily, my rosacea begins to flare up. But as noted on the last few comments, each has a unique body that reacts in different ways to different things.

Bye for now,

Pen Wilcock said...

Ooh, thanks, Bean! It's so helpful to compare notes! You are doing so well with your food (and exercise) and seem to have found the perfect diet for you. x

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Greta — the whole meat thing is a big issue, isn't it? We also have to take into account how much meat production stresses the planet (not to mention the animals. I heed what the paleo people say about the gut microbiome et al, but I think if a person does eat meat it is helpful all round to have very small portions, not every day and certainly not animal products at every meal. I have come to like the phrase "plant-based diet" as a method of prioritising; whatever you're going to eat make sure there are veggies and fruit and nuts and herbs and salads occupying most of the plate.