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28 Days of Survival Food: A Conclusion
Oct 30, 2010, 12:31p - Life

It's been more than 2 months since my experiment with survival food ended. In that time, I wrote an Android app, went to India for my cousin's wedding, and have started playing with my worms anew. But it's been too long, so now's the time to reflect and remember what I have not forgotten.

My first non-prescribed meal came on the night of Day 28 (Aug 21). I did some research the day before, trying to find a good pizza place in Boston that we had never been to before. I picked a place in the North End (the Italian neighborhood) called Ernesto's.

Eating that pizza was very similar to eating pizza first thing after survival school. It was triumphantly delicious - the melted cheese, the bread. This experience was exactly what I had been hoping for.

But very quickly, that pleasure in food wore off. I had an ice cream sandwich afterwards, and I tried really hard to eat it slow and savor every drop of melting goodness, and I succeeded somewhat. But food on day 29 didn't have anywhere near such a soul-focusing effect. In fact, I can't even remember what we ate the next day. Contrast this with post-survival school, when I actually kept a food journal for the next couple of weeks, writing down every morsel of food that I ate as we drove cross-country to Boston and beyond. For around a month I wanted to eat my food in silence, because I didn't want any conversation to distract from that most amazing pleasure locked up inside. Here I also wanted that, but the food alone wasn't enough - I had to add an extra layer of top-down focus to try to get that. I wasn't really up for it, and it didn't really work.

So I guess I got 1 amazing meal out of this whole experiment, and then it all faded back to food-as-usual.

Things have changed for me, though. I've been cooking like crazy since - super-fancy dinners from epicurious about once a week, lot's of desert-baking. I've rediscovered my addiction to chocolate - I was so inspired making a molten lava cakes on Thursday that I think I might test and see if my worms respond to chocolate. Maybe then I can find the molecular basis to its magic.

I wonder why this experiment didn't work. Why didn't the effect last a month like before? Maybe I can't just dissect out this piece of survival school, orphaned from its isolation, under-stimulation, wood-cutting tire, and rock-hard sleep?

Or maybe it's not possible to experience even the food-part of X like I experienced it before?

This was Tunlin's theory after we got back from our 4-day mini-survival school back in June. And maybe he's right. But to really know this, I'm going to have to do survival school again. And that thought just kindles a bit of dread. But maybe that's what I need to do to put this thing to rest. If I go and return and feel only a momentary X, then at least I know that I should stop seeking it and put it all to rest. But if I go and return and feel a long-lasting X, then at least I would have X again.

So if there's a conclusion to this story, it's that survival school, in all it's dreadful glory, comes beckoning again.

One thing I notice is how verbose my writing is when well-fed, and how concise it is when not. Now I write in full sentences like I was taught. I'm available for others to access. But when I'm semi-starving, I'm here mostly for myself. From satiation to semi-starvation, how is it that my mind transforms from being focused on how it's perceived to how it is? More on this in my next blog post.

Read comments (3) - Comment

Jessica - Oct 31, 2010, 12:38p
I like what you said about not being able to separate out this single piece of survival school, and orphan it from everything else. I think some things are meant to be experienced in their entirely and their power and their magic comes from their wholeness.

To use your dessert-baking as an example, I don't think you would get 10% of the enjoyment of eating a cookie by ingesting 1 1/4 tsp of baking soda. You need all the parts. You need to put them in a ridiculously hot oven and let convection sort them out.

See you in the desert,

P.S. I think perhaps you CAN get 50% of the enjoyment of the cookie from eating the chocolate chips please keep looking into the molecular basis of the magic...

Connie - Mar 26, 2011, 6:52p
I just read Unbroken. You need to read this book. Great story.

I'm glad you stopped the fasting - it sounds like you experienced the mental clarity because you were starting to waste away (die?) from hunger. There's some interesting stuff about this in the book. Um, please don't do that again...

Hope you and B are doing well :)

Yu-li - May 31, 2011, 9:45a
Oh, it's an interesting story. I read blog entries about your experience on X, and some thoughts passed through my mind:

1. You can refer to the neuroscientific definition of comfort. I cannot remember it correctly, but it was like "no signals" from sensors. As you were thinking too much (you were analysing your experience), there could be a lot of signals in your nervous system.

2. Comfort (even though X is not just comfort) is influenced by expectation on comfort.

3. If it is about blood sugar level, more physical labor could help. (I had an experience that food tasted really wonderful after hard physical labor.)

4. Experience is also about control. Your sense of control could make you feel less thankful to the food.

Any way... I envy your experience about X.

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