Lately I’ve read a few fascinating books that talk about the brain, philosophy, and ultimately how to live life. One of my favorite little books is The Philosopher’s Diet: How to Lose Weight & Change the World, by Richard Watson. Watson is, as one might deduce, a philosophy professor and author, but his bio also lists him as a spelologist (look it up), runner, and novelist. I’ll summarize the diet part of the book: one should eat fewer calories, avoid all processed foods, and run four miles a day. That’s not why I love this book, or how it ties into Rush Hour. The book’s philosophical premise is that losing 20 pounds and keeping it off is not a matter of weight loss, it is rather a matter of changing one’s life entirely. Although the core pieces of this life change are in principle quite simple, the act of change can be staggeringly difficult. It is, therefore, a noble pursuit.
How does RH compare to a Spartan diet plan? Aha, I knew you would be wondering! Watson talks of going from being a glutton to a gourmet—in other words, to change from being a mindless consumer into a mindful one. Because you are working with fewer calories, you must make the ones you have worthwhile, memorable, and breathtaking.
I have always wondered why I’ve met so many “foodies” who are also involved with classical music, and the answer I’ve come up with is that we are sensation junkies. According to Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works, music “appears to be a pure pleasure technology…that we ingest through the ear to stimulate a mass of pleasure circuits at once.” We love hearing something exquisite; it gives us the same rush that tasting something wonderful does. I have a constant soundtrack playing in my ears all day, every day. I usually have the radio on in the car, and hear at various times the drone of traffic, background noise of the office, cartoons at home, and countless other things when I am even conscious of it. So I had a light bulb moment with Dr. Watson this week in thinking about how special it is to experience something of the finest quality, even if that is limited slightly in quantity. My time is limited, as is most everybody’s. As I’ve said in this column before, concentrating on getting to the heart of the matter and then being fully present is my mantra this year. I love it when I can wrap things up neatly!
So, how does Watson feel we should live life? We should enjoy it to the fullest by taking control of it. It is all about form; making a commitment and sticking to it. Perhaps Rush Hour (or losing 20 pounds) will not save the world, but it will make a difference to you. What if this year, you make the commitment to be at St. James Cathedral when the doors open each Tuesday, and devote one hour to being a gourmet of music and camaraderie? That hour will not suddenly fix global warming, get you a raise (unless you bring your boss along), or make the price of gas drop back under $3 per gallon. But it will give you space, and control over your time, as well as 100% of your RDA of aesthetic nourishment. Come find me when you get there. I’ll save you the best piece of cake.
– Megan Balderston