Well, the Middle East is in turmoil and Madison, WI is not exactly tranquil, either. Should we not think of ways to connect the wellness philosophy that deals with quality of life for individuals with the quality of societies that affects the prospects of quality for all inhabitants. I think we should. In this essay, I discuss an approach to life that I call ‘lifestyle artistry” and discuss the allure of sex, politics and religion as top rank matters to discuss and debate as part of good living! I belief lifestyle artistry encompasses all the usual health-related subjects, such as exercise and fitness, nutrition, appearance and aging, adaptations and challenges and, of course, lifestyle habits. All are part of the physical domain of wellness. There are also two other wellness domains or dimensions–the mental domain and the meaning and purpose domain.
Wellness essays and discussions should seek to influence in positive ways the way people think and lead to modest gains in life quality and satisfaction. This does not change the world, or cure cancer, or defeat venal politicians who have sold out to religious extremists and big business, but it works for me. However, I admit to occasions when feelings of grandiosity lead me to wonder if, just maybe, I could go for more. Health is important, health covers nearly everything (note the broad topics in the mental and meaning domains) but, frankly, the older I get, the more I want to discuss the three topics that REALLY matter. Unfortunately, these three are usually off limits in polite society, they are almost NEVER addressed at health-related sites and they each have a tendency to generate controversy and passion. What’s more, that’s what I like about them! I refer, of course, to sex, politics and religion!
Since my purpose here is “to promote ‘lifestyle artistry’ or a healthy way of thinking and behaving,” I often conclude I HAVE to write about sex, politics and religion. These are vital areas of life in all societies, and especially so in our United States at this time, as we begin the lead up to the 2012 presidential election. It seems I most enjoy my work when I link lifestyle artistry to sex, politics and/or religion.
Let me give an example. Consider the following excerpts from Francis Wheen’s book entitled “Idiot Proof: Deluded Celebrities, Irrational Power Brokers, Media Morons And The Erosion Of Common Sense” (Public Affairs, 2004):
* Books about Nostradamus, a 16th century astrologer, made the bestseller lists after 9/11.
* Enlightenment values of reason, secularism and scientific empiricism have come under fierce assault during the last 25 years.
* A high regard for history and progress has been replaced by cults, quackery, gurus, irrational panics, moral confusion and an epidemic of gibberish.
* A recent Gallup poll found only 11 percent of Americans accept the standard scientific account of evolution; 47 percent maintain “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the past 10,000 years or so.”
* A different poll is cited revealing that 49 percent of Americans believe in demonic possession, 36 percent in telepathy and 25 percent in astrology.
Wheen concludes: “The sleep of reason brings forth monsters…the proliferation of obscurant bunkum is a menace to the Enlightenment legacy bequeathed to America by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Where is H.L. Mencken when we need him?” How can I, a secular humanist devoted to critical thinking, personal responsibility and freedom, NOT write about sex, politics and religion if I am to connect with my purpose of promoting ‘lifestyle artistry’ — a healthy way of thinking and behaving? I’m reminded of a remark by Christian Corber: “When one buys some of my artwork I hope it is because they will wish to learn from it and not because they think it will match their drapes!” Living day after day in a manner consistent with wellness principles is not easy. If it were, everyone would be fit, well nourished, stress free, and otherwise creatively engaged and enjoying life to the fullest. But, this Utopian thought is scarcely imaginable, let alone even remotely feasible, for more reasons than there is space here to describe. Most people will settle for survival, getting by, and mediocrity. Few seek to overcome the odds against excellence. Some dabble at wellness, perhaps to match the drapes (impress others).
I believe you are an artist if you can overcome the multiple obstacles to self-management. To do so is truly something special. How do some people manage such a thing? As Yul Brunner, playing the King of Siam so famously noted to Deborah Kerr in the role of his American tutor, “Is a wonderment!” (The King And I)
If you do it, if you succeed at sustaining a wellness lifestyle more often than not, do you think this means you are probably smarter than other people? Maybe, but I would not go with that as the most likely factor in your success. Here is another possible explanation — maybe it’s because you are more virtuous than the rest, that is, blessed with higher morality than the vast majority who fail to make such wise choices in support of their health. What do you think of that idea? I don’t buy it. Nope–don’t think this is the case, either.
Well, what then? What accounts for the fact that some folks do so much better at sustaining good intentions to develop their talents? What explains the success of those who manage to grow and prosper, to exercise vigorously and enjoy it, eat wisely, manage stress, find exciting work that displays their talents, enjoy the quest for meaning, and otherwise make a difference and prosper physically and psychologically? Don’t you just hate these people! Just kidding — why hate them? Wouldn’t it be more functional to simply do what they have done? What do you think?