Or is it how we see ourselves personally, what we allow ourselves to think, what are willing to put at risk, what we are willing to do, and our view of others? What say you hackers to this loaded question?
Personally, my exploration of Paleo eating has emboldened me to question and experiment in other basic lifestyle choices. It started with barefoot/minimalist running. Now I'm walking barefoot more and more. A problem with my back and a soft mattress had me question the whole bed thing so for a week now I've been experimenting with sleeping on the floor and with no pillow -- this makes camping look like it could be fun (so much less crap to carry). And I'm also two weeks into an experiment with no soap and no shampoo -- questioning whether all that stuff was necessary. I've also gotten rid of so many material possessions (though there is more to go on that front). There's clearly some urge in me to live simpler, lighter and question all the time, "do I need this? really?" I'm not actually totally sure how it all connects, but for me it somehow does.
Why did most of us come to this anyway? I think because we are a free thinking bunch, who question any 'rules' imposed upon us, eating or otherwise. If we make this into some sort of a religion, then we are going to go down the same hole as CW.
I like what Sharpmelissa says - and would like to add that nothing takes away my free thinking, my ability to question and my ability to experiment with myself - The risk that comes with it, is my personal responsibility.
Speak for yourselves! My identity is tightly coupled with Paleo. I wear a Paleo baseball cap. I wear a T-Shirt that sports the face of my fav Paleo blogstud. I have a dedicated computer that continually plays various Paleo podcasts, blaring out the windows of my house so that my neighbors may become enlightened. I have posters displaying various cuts of meat, hanging on my bedroom wall. I've made a flag with a big "P" on it. I invite you all to march VALIANTLY forward with me under that flag.
Paleo is definitely mostly a diet, the paleo diet is championed by people who wrote books with it in the title since they found the diet of the Paleolithic period to be optimal for human health. From then on that went about their inquiry with an evolutionary bias that we are better adapted to some things than others and looking at our evolutionary history can help us illuminate the issue. I would call Paleo in this sense of being a hypothesis-generator a constituent of a bigger umbrella-concept, and that would be evolutionary thought. Art Devany calls his approach evolutionary fitness, and many have taken up the evolutionary tag. Evolutionary medicine, psychiatry, nutrition etc. There is of course evolutionary psychology which has a lot to say about what I think you're getting at. These approaches aren't so much a prescription for a certain way of doing things but a way of looking at who we are and how we became how we are so as to inform our decisions about what we might want to do about it. Of course the answer to how we became how we are is first and foremost evolution, as well as all of the things that humans do with technology and ideas; all of this creates a tapestry of our general nature. With the reality of our genes which we acquired through natural selection in a particular environment of evolutionary adaptation it is imperative to take the origins of those genes seriously if we want a truly effective platform from which to approach thought about what is important and what we should care about and do.
Just as evolutionary nutrition operates with the axiom that there are particular foods, nutrients within the foods and ways of eating that we are best adapted to for health, many trying to maximize human flourishing and efficacy also tend to look at how the mind works to produce our experience and the kinds of things that mesh best with an adaptive mind albeit a very influential nature. I have read about retriever dogs who are happiest when doing what they have been bred to do, and cats who cure illness by getting out and hunting again. We're animals and specific animals with mutable but also general natures that influence us strongly and make certain ways of living preferable than others since they work with our genes and not against them. Everything coalesces and seems right like nothing else can be, we're in the zone and are fulfilled by doing the things that are most compatible with our nature. That's not to say that there is going to be a particular list of things to do and ways to do them for everyone, but how many people do so much better embracing the outdoors as opposed to staying cooped up inside all of the time? And how many men find some of the most rewarding activity to be that which emulates a battle-like environment? Team sports for example. Staring at a brick wall is clearly not a competitor for most. How much of that tribal element is in most of us? Plenty, and once we get in the habit of looking at ourselves as creatures that are predisposed to thrive more in particular environments and activities we can make an informed decision. The modern world has a tendency of imposing upon us things that we're not so well-adapted to, what's the point at which we stop being optimally stimulated by television and sink into a dull malaise? There's no such thing if you ask the ones who try to entice us, but we know that being entertained for hours on end doesn't mesh with our biology, our ancestors never did that in such proportions before and these things don't have the power to be optimally stimulating for such durations, usually if there was a tribal chant they participated. I'm sure we could go on forever with this stuff.
This is all a very delicate balancing act and the evolutionary axiom always walks the tightrope above the naturalistic fallacy. Simply because we evolved to do X and it is in our nature, it doesn't necessarily follow that we should do X, that's where our reason has to come in and inform our decision as to what to do with our self-knowledge. There are indeed parts of human nature that aren't conducive to a good life, they're only there to propagate our genes and it might turn out that we're better off rejecting some of that nastiness. Without the evolutionary axiom, without the unified theory of our physiological and psychological nature it is like playing darts blindfolded. So I live my life with clear vision to choose the best and to dismiss the worst.
I wouldn't say 'vision', but it has definitely sparked new kinds of thinking and reading. By itself its really just about diet and exercise. But the more I look at the underlying logic the more it's also about Agriculture and Society and what it means to be human.
But I've had a few sips of sake tonight and what I just wrote makes absolutely no sense to me now!
Paleo is just another piece to add to my World view puzzle. I was born and raised on a farm and had a good example of basic, healthy life style from that. As I get older and evolve physically, emotionally and spiritually the more I find myself naturally walking down a path of paleo as a guide for Life, simply trying to live Life as natural as possible on every level, not just a nutritional level. Western culture as moved far away from being paleo - the family unit/extended family concept has all but vanished, we have no idea what real food is, we panic if a rain shower gets out hair wet, we become terrified if the power goes out for a day or two. We believe that Life owes us, we expect such and nothing is farther from the truth.
Humans are great at adapting to whatever we encounter, we evolved that way, the trouble is our natural inclination to adapt to things seems to progress independent of our conscious thoughts and as such we have adapted to eating and living in the way we do now because we never took the time to think about and question what was happening, we just naturally adapted and carried on. Looking around the World one gets a sense that human beings are collectively waking up and questioning the way things are and beginning to institute change at many levels. We all need to re-establish that connection to what it means to be human and to the World we live in.