The rule in media is: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Headlines virtually always have startling titles and opening lines. The same holds true for movie and book titles. The idea is to engage our danger-alarm system, to get attention. Otherwise, the article won’t get read and the movies and books won’t sell.
How does that relate to “Sustainability”?
When I discovered that people who bought our net zero Garden Atrium homes did so because of the aesthetics of the home and site, I realized that “Sustainable Living” has to (1) live 100% in harmony with Earth – and being net zero is actually not all that difficult to achieve – and also (2) provide a better quality-of-life experience. It’s the carrot we need to cause needed change.
Here’s an article that makes our quality-of-life experience a central feature. I’ll add comments afterwards.
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Pleasure Is Good:
How French Children
Acquire a Taste for Life
Consider a pleasure recalibration
based on ‘l’éducation du gout.’
15 August 2022
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make is to lose weight by dieting. The idea is that restricting the pleasures of tasty foods will lead to greater fitness and a finer physique. But if these rewards are so valuable, why is it so hard for us to stick to our resolution? Maybe the problem is that when we try to lose weight, we also lose the pleasure of eating.
What if we could have it all?
Keep the pleasure and stick to our resolution?
In the US, we tend to compartmentalize pleasure, separating it from our daily chores and relegating it to special times. We have happy hours, not happy days. We have guilty pleasures, as if enjoying chocolate or a favorite movie is a moral failing.
In France, pleasure, or “plaisir,” is not a dirty word. It’s not considered hedonistic to pursue pleasure. Perhaps a better translation of the word is “enjoyment” or even “delight.” Pleasure, in fact, takes the weight of a moral value, because according to the French, pleasure serves as a compass guiding people in their actions. And parents begin teaching their children from very early childhood in a process called the education of taste, or “l’éducation du gout.”
Taste as a Gateway to Understanding Pleasure
The education of taste means teaching children to appreciate and savor the wide variety of flavors in the world and to eat properly at the table. In my eight months conducting research on French parenting in Paris, I found that the education of taste begins very early in families and is reinforced in daycare centers, where even two-year-olds are served formal, yet relaxed, four-course lunches with an appetizer, main course, cheese plate and dessert.
But taste education goes beyond cultivating your children’s palate. It’s about awakening and stimulating all the senses as well as the mind and emotions. On a survey listing 50 parenting practices with infants and toddlers, 455 French mothers and fathers in my study rated what we called “stimulating practices” as more important than responding to basic needs and teaching manners. Stimulating practices included reading to children, playing music and giving them massages.
The ultimate goal of stimulating children
is to develop their understanding of
what gives them pleasure.
Restrictions That Actually Open up the World
The moment that tied it all together for me was when I asked a mother in my research study why it was important to train her children to behave properly in public. She simply replied …
“Because if they know how to behave
properly, they will know how to
adapt and get along with people.
And that will give them pleasure.”
Adhering to social rules is a means to greater pleasure. You have to give up something to gain something greater.
As Americans, we are taught to deny pleasure and venerate self-sacrifice and hard work. And when we finally take time off to have fun, we often do things in excess. We party hard. We eat and drink too much. And then we feel guilty. When we enjoy food too much, we say we’ve been “bad.” Maybe if we didn’t deprive ourselves of simple pleasures all day every day, we wouldn’t feel so compelled to overdo it on weekends.A comparative study found that when American parents talked to their children at the dinner table, they talked about what children should eat in nutritional and moral terms. When the Italians talked at the table, they talked about what their children wanted to eat, and encouraged them to develop their individual tastes.
One of the most surprising things that French mothers shared with me in my research was their belief that stimulating children’s appetites for a wide variety of life’s pleasures can actually deter them from becoming addicted to drugs!
Those moms may have been on to something.
Focused Family Meals
According to a recent national survey in the US by CASAColumbia, teens who have more frequent family meals have better relationships with their parents, and are less likely to smoke or use drugs and alcohol. Sitting around the table talking with your teenagers at least five times a week, even for just 20 minutes, has positive, lasting effects on their health and on family relationships.
But having regular family dinners can be a challenge. Children and adolescents have busy afterschool schedules, and for some parents juggling jobs, working long hours or not having a partner make it virtually impossible to find a moment when everyone is home. But research suggests that making even a little time to have those conversations around the table can have big payoffs down the road.
When you do sit down at the table,
leave the television and the phones
off until the meal is over.
In a recent study, researchers had two groups of families share a meal in a lab made to look like a dining room. One group had no distractions, and the other group heard a continuous loud noise coming from a room adjacent to theirs. The researchers found that the distracted group consumed more cookies. The harder it was to focus on the meal, the more they were tempted to overeat.
The French idea of education of taste has much in common with the notion of mindfulness. Both traditions focus on giving yourself over to the moment and living it fully. If you are going to enjoy your favorite food, really enjoy it and don’t feel guilty. Notice the subtlety or the intensity of the flavors, and savor each morsel. Lose yourself in the pleasure.
As we start a new year, if we must deprive ourselves for a distant goal, why not at least find and enjoy the many small pleasures along the way?
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As I said in the prologue, I’m especially delighted to see a report focused on something really positive, pleasure, which I learned is intrinsically a part of what I now see as “Sustainable Living.” Now, here’s a unique perspective from D …
“The American dream began with the Pilgrims and their Puritan ethics. The Puritans saw life as a struggle, saw rigid social and moral constraints as needed to keep society in check. They believed in hard work, and fun was not allowed. Those ways of living have permeated American society.
“The Puritans came from England, which is more northerly European. Most southerly European ways of living allow for much more time off from work, savoring family and eating, and looking for everyday joyfulness. Americans could learn much from slowing down, enjoying life, not making work a burden, and celebrating the little things more. We find the way of life in France, Italy, Greece, and Spain a healthier pace and a healthier diet.
“We wish that more individuals could learn a slower pace of life. It would be healthier for all. The slower pace is really how humans are designed to live. Celebrate each day and each moment and one will gain a better perspective of the future … and stay healthier.”
I thought I’d finish this epilogue with a few words from the film, “The Shoes of the Fisherman.” Anthony Quin, a bishop, had just been released from twenty years of confinement in a Russian prison camp, in an arrangement initiated by the Vatican. Upon coming to Rome, he was made a Cardinal. And shortly after that, the pope died and he was elected pope. One evening, he asked his valet to get him the black garments of a common priest, so he could simply go out walking. In his walk, he accidently bumped into a physician who asked him for help with a patient. Afterwards, she discovered he was actually the pope, and asked what he was doing there, dressed like that. His answer:
“I just had to get out. I wanted to hear
all these noises, and watch people living,
just simply living. I was hungry for it.
“Can you understand that?”
To which the physician replied …
“I wish I felt life was as appetizing as that.”
As the article suggests, pleasure is the real challenge in Sustainable Living. In addition to living 100% in harmony with Earth, how can we also make each day appetizing?