I wonder what an expert really is. When I was younger I asked my father, “Pop, what’s an expert?” I don’t recall his answer, but I do recall relentlessly debating what qualities substantiate a person to deserve the rather impacting, high-title of “expert.”
We threw words around like “researched,” “studied,” “advanced,” and “experienced.” I vaguely remember “extremely knowledgeable” creeping in there too. We talked about gurus, which quickly turned into gyros, then falafel, and then we stopped for lunch.
So, expert? Guru? What gives? Is anyone really that all knowing?
People call upon me for all sorts of health and wellness advice, and I’m always happy to give some. I do have experiences to share—a sort of “wisdomosity” that could be useful to some, if, of course, it falls upon the right ears at the right time, and at the right place. I mention this because I have noticed that people usually hear only what they want to hear… and for that matter, say only what they want to say… and I, myself, am included in that. So, I try to be mindful when handing out advice. Essentially, I refuse to be an “expert.”
I was recently invited to do an interview with a high-profile journalist on the topic of health and wellness. After the invite I thought, “Why does he want me? Does he really believe that I am some sort of expert?” But, in light of my career, I put that type of self-doubt behind me, scribbled down some of my latest thoughts on health and figured—screw it, who really cares?
I met him at a large organic supermarket, uptown. He was a sturdy, white-collared professional. A jovial and, apparently, brilliant man. He was open and eager to share with me his remarkable views on certain green-powered movements like bio-diesel, peace, ending world hunger and sustainable agriculture—for me, all very fun topics of conversation. We jived immediately, and I could tell he wanted to see where I stood on things. He was, of course, a journalist and this was, of course, an interview.
I thought I was really enjoying the process. We shared laughs, philosophies, prophecies, chatting for hours. Though we were both having a great time, I noticed that from time to time this brilliant man jarred me with words that struck me as unsettling. By the end of our time together, I noticed myself feeling a little… well… unsettled, and it wasn’t until we left each other’s company that I had the time to ask myself, "What just happened?"
Going back over our hours together, I recalled that he questioned me to great length about my feelings concerning this or that “expert”’ opinion. “Experts say diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, along with plenty of fiber and exercise, are the key to health.” So, he’d ask, “What are your thoughts about that?”
Whoa. That!? That gets me where it hurts. Now, while the aforementioned theory of health is somewhat true, it’s that same food pyramid baloney we have been fed since the second grade. If that were really true, and experts really know, then why is our country facing such a drastic health crisis?
I didn’t say that aloud during my interview. Rather, I sat mindfully and thought to myself, “Self? Now, you’re no expert, but it’s all about energy, dude, and food has energy, and if you don’t nurture your food’s energy all the way from birth to death, well then, you’ve got ‘energyless’ food, and what good is that? How can you derive any substantial energy from food if the food has no energy?”
As I pondered how to say this and not sound like a stoner, he blurted out, “See these researchers are my friends over at Harvard and MIT and such, and they are mostly vegetarians, and the data is right here in this study... They’ve spent years… ” He snarled, “Here, look at this.”
He slid in front of me a thick and foreboding document—THE research study. Thankfully, Brilliant Man summed it up for me once again. “It’s here in the research, amidst all the numbers and statistics, right here in the conclusion.” Grabbing the document, he furiously flipped pages, and then jammed his finger on the table, pinning down the very last page. He was excited now.
“Right here, see? All the experts are saying the same thing... a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, along with plenty of fiber and exercise, is the key to health. Everyone has the same conclusion! We are all talking about the same thing!”
Again, I paused to ponder the statement and thought, “Whoa! You mean to tell me that people borrowed precious money, people paid for and got paid to research for countless hours, to poke, prod and engorge humans with various foods—some with whole grains, others with soy by-products, others with pork dogs and who knows what else? And all the while, Brilliant Man’s friends in white coats held clipboards and charted notes and plotted checks and then clocked out at 5 o’clock to scramble home for the family Tofurkey feast?”
Privately, again, I mused that it was no wonder what they had come up with was redundant baloney. Vegetarians may not eat meat, but they may still eat a lot of unhealthy, processed, energy-less crap!
This precious document, probably worth millions in production value, sat in front of me like a live television reporter with a camera and mic to my face… and Brilliant Man was desperate for a response to his questions... and the research from the “experts” taunted, “So, what’s it gonna be… Healthy Food Boy?”
Brilliant Man just stared at me as I took a deep breath. I had nothing to say to him. At least, not just yet. He had to endure a few more moments of mindfulness on my part before he would hear a thing.
I thought, “What about the minerals in the food? Did they study organic foods, ocean-grown foods, raw vs. cooked!? I mean, are we even playing the same game here, dude?” It was at that precise moment that I recalled my general distaste for the word and concept of “expert.”
Enough time had passed, and I knew it was time to focus. I had to reply to this question… but what were my feelings about this… this… expert research? It hit me. There was only one response.
“Love,” I blurted. “This study, and all other studies, and for that matter the sciences, have never been able to quantify love, and THAT is the most important aspect to health and wellness. No one will be truly healthy unless we all learn to love our food from its birth until its death.”
I think Brilliant Man loved my answer. “Wow! Love!” he said, “That’s so perfect! I completely see your approach now, and I understand why you work.”
After hours of deliberation and pages and pages of scribbled notes, that statement seemed to have finished it. Brilliant Man said, “I think I’ve got everything I need from here. I would love to walk around now and listen to you while you free-associate.”
We left the market and walked downtown toward Brilliant Man’s office, stopping every so often while I pointed out things that I found interesting. I went on about saving the planet, the World Health Organization, consumerism, meditation, peace, and how it all ties into food. (This was an interview, and I was obviously still on-the-record.) He asked me to take him to a smaller, local organic market. So, I headed us into my favorite NYC market. We got jazzed over produce. We bugged out over different sea salts. I grabbed a stem of cilantro and pinched a leaf: “Smell,” I said. “This smells better than conventionally grown stuff. It’s stronger, more alive.”
Brilliant Man marveled at the seemingly endless array of hard-to-find health foods. “This place is so much cooler than a supermarket,” he said. To augment his new found love, I introduced him to some of my favorite products and showed him brands that absolutely require Love be an ingredient.
Eventually, we parted ways; Brilliant Man back to his office and me to a sun-filled summertime jaunt around New York. I was free the rest of the day; what would it be? The park, the water? My bike? The gym? Music? I chose to meet up with a very loving person. “How was it?” they asked.
“Brilliant Man,” I replied and then drifted off, once again, submerged in my own mindfulness of the experience. Breaking the long silence, I finished, “He’s a brilliant man.”
It took two months after the interview for me to fully realize the scope of this brilliance. He was kinda hip for a journalist/researcher with crazy scientist friends from Ivy League schools, and that interview actually changed my life.
He got me thinking, “Maybe his vegetarian scientist expert buddies are hip too... and maybe, just maybe, if we say it enough, they’ll start appraising the love in our food.”