Any lesson or advice contained in a short sentence becomes a key to handling many situations and usually proves more effective than long lectures. That is one of the reasons proverbs have been used in every language and survived through generations without losing their meaning and effect.
For example, a person who has learned Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you is enough equipped to handle almost any social situation.
In a previous post about healthy eating, I mentioned the following two rules usually used to decide if we should eat something or not:
- Only eat the food grown on plants, not manufactures in plants.
- Refuse to eat what your great grandparents fail to recognize as food.
When I tried to apply them to my eating habits, I started feeling an underlying larger concept, of which the above two can be treated as special cases. That general rule I devised is the following: About most of my actions, I ask myself this question: What would an animal do?
Obviously the implication is towards an active and lively animal like a horse and not towards a cow or a hippopotamus. So here is how I apply it to various situations.
- It is difficult to imagine an animal opening a packet of food and eating it, such as chips, cookies, and the likes. So food in a packet can easily be excluded from the list of edibles.
- We should try to utilize our bodies in physical activities as much as we can, just like an animal would do. While this concept is very clear to most people, there is a hidden catch where even experts have a tendency to fail. Doing 30 or 60 minutes of exercise every day is really good but a stretch of exercise and then long hours of sitting on a computer or completely staying away from any physical work is also wrong. It is particularly important for white collar workers to do some light exercise every hour or so (e.g., standing from the seat and walking away for 5 minutes or going to a few floors higher or lower through stairs).
I have also noticed that many a times when I sit down to work, I like to have everything within my arm’s reach, whether it be papers, bag, water or the books I need at that time. It is much better to sit down without planning in that detail so that we have to walk away to fetch them each time we need something.
- On a different note, I feel an inexpressible unease when I see people’s desires to consistently have a temperature of 18C on their skins during summer and 22C during winters. Really, would an animal turn an AC on during a hot day, or prefer to sit in the shadow of a tree? I prefer the latter, or at worst use a fan during summers. Similarly, the best way to cope with winters is to wear warm clothes. Sometimes I think that our great grandchildren will not remember us in kind words when they will face diminishing energy resources and will come to know that their great grandparents used to spend energy on keeping their rooms and cars hot or cold such that temperature on their delicate skins would not move either side of a preset value.
- Finally, I have never seen an animal tossing and turning in bed all night, or walking worriedly here and there. Everyone can have worries but when it is time to sleep, an animal would just sleep and shut everything else down.