Humanity, Mortality and the Dalai Lama

stunning nature
nature vs humanity: in the very long run nature must win

When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered:

Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

Apparently the Dalai Lama never said this. What a pity if he didn’t. This is our life. We lose our time pursuing matters of little consequence, preening before our peers and dreaming of irrelevant wealth. Long term stress-related cancer claimed Steve Jobs as surely as it will claim you or me, if we don’t live better and balance our lives better.

One of my best friends and my long term creative partner died in a car crash on his birthday a week after mine, just before he hit thirty. My life was changed, his was ended. This is mortality.

On the other hand, since we are all in an inevitable rush to the finish line, what does it matter if we labour out our existence and pushing to the top of the ant pile? If we are going to be dead soon we may as well work hard while you have the chance.

Or to pivot one more time. Since we don’t live long, what does it really matter what we think or feel in our nanosecond?

To put some perspective on matters, life on earth is 450 million years old and has been nearly snuffed out three times before our epoch. Those 450 million years are just a short day in the history of our solar system which is approximately 4.5 billions years old and has another 6 billion years to go before the sun extinguishes itself, burning through all the helium.

Humanity, Mortality and the Dalai Lama Continues »

Tea, Wine and Tannins: Drink Tea and Rejoice

Over the years, I’ve been blessed with not often being ill. My endurance levels have been high.

Lately, a dear friend of mine has been trying to persuade me that too much tea is unhealthy, especially overly steeped tea. During nearly a decade in Moscow, I became accustomed to good Indian tea Russian style: that is to say, you create a tea concentrate which you drink all day long. Each cup you dilute to taste.

In short, over my life, I’ve drunk a lot of tea, much of it strong and filled with tannins. I’ve also always liked red wine especially cabernets (full of tannins) and natural apple juice (filled with tannin). I think it was my way of my body protecting itself.

My friend has gone so far as to say that tea drunk does not count as liquid, as it is a diuretic and actually dehydrates. To my relief, the British Nutritional Foundation insists tea is not:

"In terms of fluid intake, we recommend 1.5-2 litres per day and that can include tea. Tea is not dehydrating. It is a healthy drink."

Indeed, tea might have played a principal role in keeping me healthy and wealthy. Well at least healthy.

One shouldn’t cite Wikipedia too often in regards to health, but here we go this once on the subject of tannins:

Tannins may be employed medicinally in antidiarrheal, hemostatic, and antihemorrhoidal compounds

The anti-inflammatory effect of tannins help control all indications of gastritis, esophagitis, enteritis, and irritating bowel disorders. Diarrhea is also treated with an effective astringent medicine that does not stop the flow of the disturbing substance in the stomach; rather, it controls the irritation in the small intestine.

Tannins not only heal burns and stop bleeding, but they also stop infection while they continue to heal the wound internally. The ability of tannins to form a protective layer over the exposed tissue keeps the wound from being infected even more….

Tannins can also be effective in protecting the kidneys. Tannins have been used for immediate relief of sore throats, diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhaging, fatigue, skin ulcers and as a cicatrizant on gangrenous wounds. Tannins can cause regression of tumors that are already present in tissue, but if used exessively over time, they can cause tumors in healthy tissue.

They have also been reported to have anti-viral effects. When incubated with red grape juice and red wines with a high content of condensed tannins, the poliovirus, herpes simplex virus, and various enteric viruses are inactivated.[36]

Tannins can also be used to pull out poisons from poison oak or from bee stings, causing instant relief. The tannins help draw out all irritants from the skin because tannin is an astringent that tightens pores and pulls out liquids.

Tea gets even more credit, with lowering stress levels, reducing cognitive impairment, inflammatory bowel disease, bactrial and fungal infections, anongenital warts, stroke, depression and even bad breath. I want some of that.

Apparently green and white tea have a lot more of the good effects of tea with fewer of the side effects. So I will try to stick to a cup or two of black per day but as many cups of white and green as I please.

What is true is that as tasty as coffee is, it’s more or less an amphetamine, with very few long term beneficial side effects. I will start to avoid coffee again (I’ve only given in to coffee in the last few years as the coffee is so good here in Vienna, but it will be considered an unnecessary and occasional luxury again, while tea will take the place of beverage of honour.)

So I’m going to enjoy not having a heart attack, reduced stress levels and lots of good cups of tea and great glasses of wine. It’s wonderful when it turns out the things you enjoy are things which keep you well.