14

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Paleo diet - but for the mind?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 29, 2011 at 8:49 PM

So far, much of the practical instructions I read about paleo lifestyle was related to the human body - what to eat and what not to eat, how to exercise, rest and sleep to achieve best gene expression and health.

I wonder, if similar paleo knowledge is being compiled regarding the human mind - what it should and should not "eat" (read, watch), how to exercise it, etc. Any resources about this subject?

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5152)

on August 30, 2011
at 05:52 PM

Yah, Rose, Paleoing means rediscovering our heritage. Expect a flood of new Neanderthal info as their genes are decoded and habitats reexamined. While speculative, I do agree with the author that the Neanderthals may have looked very different in apperance, contrary to our portrayals of them as early modern humans; they may have resembled other primates.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 30, 2011
at 06:09 AM

Wow, I can't believe I've never encountered this idea before. Very interesting, NP!

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5 Answers

11
3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 29, 2011
at 09:11 PM

Oooh! Love this question! I don't know if anyone other than gone2croatan (just saw her answer, lol) and the Exuberant Animal guy is focusing on this in a "Paleo" context, but the whole field of evolutionary psychology is looking at exactly this issue. Although you should be forewarned: It's a field fraught with problems, both political (its critics seem worried that it's a cover for eugenics/racism) and actual (there are some weaknesses in its models, such as its "modular mind" assumption).

One of my favorite researchers is Ellen Dissanayake, who asks the very important question, "What is Art For?" She recognizes the centrality of artistic expression in all human societies, and wants to know why we do this stuff.

As an artist, I think about this question all the time. By looking through an evolutionary lens, I've gradually come to see my own drive to make beautiful objects as a fundamental expression of my humanity, rather than a silly and frivolous distraction from the much more important business of clocking into a cubicle job every day and transferring abstract sums of invisible wealth around between other people and myself (paying bills, in other words).

As part of my own "Paleo" journey (I rarely think of it that way, but in this case, it's the appropriate framing), I have come to consciously relish a great many things besides food, sunshine, and exercise. Friendship, family, music, dance, and making are all vital components of a healthy human life. And I think this is true for everyone, not just people who consider themselves "artists" or "musicians." Just as we all need to move our bodies, even those of us who aren't athletes, these other parts of us crave to be used and fulfilled, too.

3
3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

on August 30, 2011
at 05:06 AM

This is an interesting question, even if we will never arrive at any consensus. It's not exactly like eating or exercising, which amounts to simulating our ancestral ways. We're just far too removed from the environmental pressures that dictated our thinking, customs and ways of life. Necessarily, art and the human imagination arose from such pressures, which do not dictate our current, post-modern existence.

Try reading "Them and Us: How Neanderthal Predation Created Modern Humans", http://www.themandus.org/ The author (Danny Vendramini) argues that early human art and the human imagination arose from "Neanderthal predation". Not only did the Neanderthals hunt modern humans, they ate and raped us, literally. As evidence, the author cites the widespread Neanderthal practice of cannibalism and their genetic contribution (through rapes and mayhem) as seen in our genomes (for those of non-African ancestry). The fear of being ambushed by the "dark bogeyman" stems archetypally from this predation, according to Vendramini.

How did this shape art? Well, let's take the author's claim that a "bottleneck" in human evolution occurred because of this predation by the Neanderthals, our natural enemy and "apex predator" of the era. Being prey to such predation and persecution "quickened our fancy", so to speak, giving rise to cooperation, organization, language, guile, deception, betrayals, and other qualities on the part of the early humans. Such qualities, which include intellectual development and artistic sensibilities, enabled us to eventually vanquish the Neanderthals, who were superior to us in brute strength.

That's the author's argument, not mine. It seems improbable to me but I do agree with the author that environmental pressures shaped not just our physiology but our thinking and sensibilities. For example, the arctic environment favored a squatty frame with short limbs to preserve heat (the Inuits). It also gave rise to songs and instruments (made from hollow reindeer and whale bones), wailing about the dangers of hunting animals and freezing conditions. The harsh environment favored sticky, nomadic clans over lonewolves. For the Paleolithic man, the environmental pressures were manifold. But the most pressing were those related to immediate survival: i.e., food scarcities and warfare, whether tribal or interhominid, if you believe in the theory of Neanderthal predation.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5152)

on August 30, 2011
at 05:52 PM

Yah, Rose, Paleoing means rediscovering our heritage. Expect a flood of new Neanderthal info as their genes are decoded and habitats reexamined. While speculative, I do agree with the author that the Neanderthals may have looked very different in apperance, contrary to our portrayals of them as early modern humans; they may have resembled other primates.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on August 30, 2011
at 06:09 AM

Wow, I can't believe I've never encountered this idea before. Very interesting, NP!

3
Medium avatar

(10611)

on August 30, 2011
at 01:47 AM

Nothing in my art history book prepared me for Lascaux, and I won't spoil it for anyone. I'll just say that the rooms I live in have steadily been filling up with big bright images of things I like. Posters by Moscoso, Ferracci, Guy Noel, and Wes Wilson randomly fill my blank walls.

3
1471beca8e3adff4ae2f89d10e5f7acb

on August 29, 2011
at 09:01 PM

That's kind of what I'm hoping to do with my blog, which is very nascent and semi-infrequently updated. I talk some about meditation and philosophy and mental health practices. Link in my profile.

0
7c9f81d68c78de1a31eab9c91c17b4b8

on August 30, 2011
at 12:31 PM

The only slant I've encountered on this and been attracted to is the idea or hormesis. Todd Becker's site http://gettingstronger.org/the-author/

is pretty good and there are some other blogs/chats.

The idea of hormesis has to do practicing short periods of stress (environmental pressures) in order to improve something...like intermittent fasting for example. It can be applied to a lot of things...like getting rid of glasses/contacts and cold exposure for weight loss/health.

Anyway, I think it's fascinating and I'll be looking into integrating it more as I continue to paleo-ize myself.

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