Taking Life Too Seriously?

Two weeks ago Thursday I had what they call a mild stroke that ended me up in the hospital for five days. It came out of the blue, as 55 seems a young age for that sort of thing. But only now did I learn that this is considered a prime age for genetic history and stress to catch up with a person. I wasn’t aware of any cardiovascular trouble; I’m not a smoker or heavy drinker; I’ve always been physically active–skiing, hiking and other outdoor activities; and I’ve been vegan for nearly twenty years. The only thing I can think of is that since I’ve immersed myself in the plight of animals and the Earth and fully taken on the animal rights cause, I’ve had a lot of unresolved stress. Different people respond to stress differently, and for me it came out as a partial cardiovascular meltdown.

Text and Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

I’m recovering rapidly, but I still feel the effects of this on my left side and sometimes can hear it in my speech. Since it has been recommended that I read aloud, I’m going to read to my typist from John A. Livingston’s 1994 book, Rogue Primate:

“…Nature is complex and multispecific; the human environment is essentially simple and monospecific. True, there may be trees and shrubs and gardens where people live, a scattering of squirrels and starlings and pets, and sun and rain and snow, but the overwhelming presence is that of ourselves and our fabrications.

“This is most easily demonstrated in terms of sensory nourishment we receive in urban concentrations. Virtually everything we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste is of our own making. Worse, most of it is not even delivered to us by people; the bulk of nutrition for our senses is mediated by machines. A teenager sits on a concrete slab, feet resting on asphalt, eyes closed, hands clutching a plastic case, breathing swirling exhaust fumes, a headset piercing and battering both eardrums with screaming, shattering dissonance at a frightening decibel level.

“Everything this youngster sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes is a human artifact. His unidimensional experiential universe is one of homogenous, monospecific mass, with not the slightest differentiation. His sense organs, blunted as they are, need not be able to discriminate in any case; there is nothing to discriminate between. There is searing colour to be sure, and cacophony, and heat and cold, and there are strange metallic flavours, and surfaces smooth and rough, and there is terrible, unending qualitative sameness.

“Across the street there is a ‘park’ (a rectangle of mown lawn). On a bench lies a derelict, inert, unconscious and oblivious, his empty grail of solace is in its brown wrapper on the grass beneath him. As a child he may have encountered Nature. He may have once been wild. Perhaps he still is. Overlooking him there is a gigantic edifice of glass and steel, with guards and security monitors and air-conditioned seven-dollar-figure condominiums with chrome strips and tinted windows and mirrored walls, and with live beings actually inhabiting them. Behind, in a brick-walled protective enclosure, there is a children’s playground, with brightly painted climbing and crawling structures of metal pipe, padded with something made from synthetic polymers. There are sensate beings here, too. Little ones.

“I have described elsewhere what I call a kind of urban ‘sensory deprivation,’ and the perceptual (and thus conceptual) aberrations that follow from it. When perceptual and conceptual aberrations are shared across a society, they may be seen as institutionalized delusions. There are many of these in contemporary society, but none is more important, or more ironical, than the belief that high-tech urban ‘progress’ (i.e., emancipation from non-human environmental influences) is a major human achievement. R. D. Laing has said, ‘Human beings seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves, and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for truth.’ It would appear that we have travelled so far in our cultural self-deceit that we actually believe we have no need of sensory stimulation or nutrition beyond that provided by ourselves. No need for experience of any influence that is not of human design and fabrication.

“Our willing (and indeed prideful) confinement within the many-mirrored echo-chamber of technological servitude is a towering irony, perhaps the ultimate in self-deceit. Like the feedlot steer in the dreary monotony of his experiential desert, we have lost all connection with being, all memory of sensibility of life context.”

Unlike the steer, humans have chosen this “life.”



21 thoughts on “Taking Life Too Seriously?

  1. Oh my gosh – I’m so sorry to read this. Take care, and I hope you will continue to improve. It’s difficult not to stress about the state of the world, I know. Concentrate on getting your rest and recovering for now.

  2. So sorry to hear this Jim. It has been my experience that the most conscientious,caring,compassionate,and thinking people suffer the most when innocent creatures are abused. Unfortunately most people do not fit into this category and go on with their lives willingly ignorant of the nastiness in the world.Take care of yourself,we are fortunate to have a man like you in the world today.🐾

  3. Love this post…so real, So timely for me. Needing to feed that part of me that is nature deprived. We choose a crazy way to live, we humans. I know a few who are not caught up in all this tech and concrete. They are the lucky few who have chosen LIFE. Take care of you. The animals need your voice…telling this to myself at the same time I am telling you. We forget about ourselves in this struggle to help others. Sending you love and healing.

  4. Thanks for letting us know, Jim. The animals need you to be strong and powerful. Find a real vegan doctor for useful advice about what’s next for you and your family…human AND other-than human animal family members!

      • Jim, so sorry this happened to you!

        Please check out Dr. Dean Ornish’s program. He recommends a vegan diet, with the exception that he now allows egg whites. There was some speculation that did this to make the diet easier for most people. This is the program that Bill Clinton went on. It also includes major emphasis on relaxation techniques and meditation. He has some books on the program and also has a facility in Oregon that teaches the program..

        I looked into it several years ago as I have super high cholesterol even though I have a vegan diet. If I wasn’t vegan, I would probably have died a long time ago. I also do yoga and Transcendental Meditation which are the only things that keep me sane. They work wonders in reducing stress and anger. I found I can be much more effective if I am not angry all the time.

        Take care of yourself and wishing you a full and speedy recovery!

  5. Dearest Jim: I am so sorry to hear about this cardiovascular incident. These kinds of body responses are increasing. As a medical professional, I can tell you that even non-meaters are at risk due, yes, to our species’ terrible lifestyle. I try to live healthy as well, plant-based eating, but, what this you’ve experienced is most likely your body responding to The Inflammatory Process–some call it Syndrome X. I would “suggest” (I cannot prescribe) exploring this issue and taking healthy supplements that help combat this inflammatory process–flight or fight syndrome, which this species still has, but is unable to cope with now. I will send you some suggestions separately to your e-mail. My sincere thoughts are with you, and this can be dealt with, but it should be done through natural, alternative means. I guarantee that the Big Pharma will not really address the cause.

    May The Spirit of the Gaia Forces continue to support you–the Earth and non-humans need you!!

    Best Regards,

    Rosemary Lowe http://www.foranimals.org

  6. I’m so sorry you’ve been ill but am hoping for a total and fast recovery! You sound as if you’re well on your way.

    Yes, caring about animals, knowing the fate of so many, and desperately trying to help is, indeed, stressful. Once we become aware of that, we can take measures to help.

    So please take it easier and know we all will keep fighting in the meantime.

  7. Jim,
    It’s nearly impossible to externalize what you are bearing witness to, and it’s hard to look away. But please take care of yourself and take time out to feel the love of others. Thank you for your service for the greater good.

    Will Anderson

  8. Sorry to hear it, Jim. The same just happened to another friend of mine, though a few years older and not at all a vegan. I’m glad you’re recovering and hope you make a full and speedy recovery. Our thoughts definitely have an effect on our health. Take care of yourself, think pleasant thoughts, and try to stay positive. It can be challenging but there is so much good in the world, most definitely including people like you. I’m so glad you’re here!

  9. Jim, you’ve gotten a lot of good advice in the above posts. Please get better; the animals need you and we need to read your posts.

  10. “I also do yoga and Transcendental Meditation which are the only things that keep me sane.”

    I have to agree; I love yoga, but when I discovered deep relaxation breathing, I was forever changed. I actually feel like I woke up after an energizing rest afterwards. There is nothing like it, and you will not ever need pharmacological help to relax. I don’t know why Western medicine is so pill happy (yes I do, capitalism!). If you watch TV it is dismaying to see a pill for just about everything, with a list of side effects that go on for several minutes!

  11. Speedy recovery, Jim! Your efforts on behalf of animals put you in the “one percent” of humans whose lives matter and are worth caring about. If karma is real and Nietzsche was right, this incident will only make you stronger and you’ll still be around cranking out these blogs 40 years from now.

  12. I’m so sorry to hear that, Jim. Trying to keep our sanity with all the madness around us isn’t an easy task and many times our anxieties are expressed with an illness. Still we need to find harmony even within this crazy world, so take care of yourself [your no1 responsibility], then everyone around you will be happier too! In other words: Heal! 🙂

  13. Sending you good wishes for a speedy recovery, Jim. It’s very difficult living in this world once you’ve started walking the path of compassion for animals. I think the fact that you’re physically active probably mitigated the intensity of your stroke. I think meditation or some other relaxation technique would help with your stress levels too.

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