Monday, February 16, 2009

Gohan Yo!

This post first appeared on JPG Magazine website 02 July, 2008.

There is a whole industry on "Wellness" today. Many hospitals and medical facilities have wellness directors, coordinators, providers, advisors, councilors and technicians. We've been bombarded for years with books on diet and healthy living. Late night television is saturated with infomercials touting the latest and greatest product to reduce your waistline and make you live longer. There are so many books and products out there for people to choose from. Which one is telling us the truth? They can't all possibly work can they?

If you were to ask me, I'd have to say the answer is yes, and no! For every huckster out there just trying to make a buck off of you, the answer is definitely no! But, for every legitimate advertisement out there, the answer is yes, sort of, however, it's pretty clear that there is no magic bullet that will save us from our eventual demise or guarantee a long, happy and productive life.
Even where I live, here on the main island of Okinawa Japan, where there are more centenarians per square meter than any other place on the planet, I can tell you from my own observations that the matter is one of not nature vs. nurture but one of nature and nurture. They work in synergy with and compliment each other.

Just yesterday my friend Mike and I got together to go out and shoot our cameras. He's the photography student and as for me, it compliments my current vocation. Anyway, we happened to be heading home that afternoon when we stopped in the small farming community of Igei.

The local rice crop was being harvested. It was quite a site to see all these little postage stamp sized fields golden with rice ripe for the harvest. As we drove around the tiny access roads to find the right angle to shoot and capture this spectacle from, as well as find a place to get out of the blazing sun, we saw a host of men and women working the fields.

On top of it all, it was undoubtedly the hottest day of the year thus far. Yet for as far as the eye could see, little old men and women were out there covered from head to toe, to keep from being burnt to a crisp by the sun, harvesting the crop largely by hand. Again, these were not young people doing this labor intensive work in the hot July sun. It's a pretty safe estimate that the youngest of all of the people we saw and spoke with that day were well into their sixty's. Many were much older than that.

The whole spectacle reassured to me that the real secret to longevity and a healthy life style doesn't come in a pill and it doesn't require you to make wholesale lifestyle changes either. It's all about staying active after you retire. For that matter, it's about staying physically active throughout your life.

The interesting part to watch was that while they worked throughout the blazing hot afternoon, they weren't working themselves to death either. It was steady as she goes through out the day. They took breaks as they needed and there wasn't some supervisor watching them and cracking a whip either. You could even say that the work pace was painfully slow to watch at times.

In short, I have just one little piece of advice. Physical exertion is good for you! I repeat; physical exertion is good for you. You don't need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars or (in Japan several Man Yen) and join that health club either. The remarkable thing about these folks was that while the work was hard, the pace wasn't break neck. They walked or rode their bicycles out to the fields and worked at a slow and steady pace.

Okay, so now I know some of you are saying, yeah, but I live in the city and commute for hours to and from work every day. When do I have the time to do anything like that? My answer, you do, you've just filled that time with other things that are really less important. Some of you decided to stop at the local choke and puke or watering hole to relieve your stress in a less than productive way. Others have gone home to turn on the tube, sit in your lazy boy and soak yourself in some suds. I know from where I speak. In military parlance, "been there, done that and got a tee shirt to prove it!"

A better and more productive way to relieve that stress would be to do something around the house. Start with that "honey do" list that's piling up with so many chores that you keep putting off. Don't have a honey do list, get off your "fat arse" and go for a walk around the block. How about spending some time with your kids? Go play catch or run them around in the back yard or city park for a little bit.

The whole thing is we have gotten so far away from ourselves and our families that we are killing ourselves. Salvation doesn't come in a pill. It's time to stop doing what is convenient and do what is right. This is one thing that we can learn from the Okinawan people. Be active, stay active and live a longer, healthier life.

Here's some photo art created from a photo like the ones you see above. If you like it, you can have it printed and shipped to you as a poster or you can go all out and have it matted and framed for you by the experts. The choice of how you like to have it is yours. Thats what we are all about at Goya Republic. Freedom to choose!

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