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What is Good Health

by Thomas Eldridge

There are many ideas, and opinions, on what constitutes good health, or what a meaningfully healthy lifestyle feels like or looks like. It could be said that health should be a natural condition, or at least a consistent state of well being. But what is this natural condition? There are some people who accept pain and discomfort in the body as a necessary part of living. This pain is considered to be a motivator, something for the body to fight against. They accept this condition because they observe that there are so many people with health complaints and so few people free of problems. It is even taken for granted today that dying of a degenerative disease is acceptable if the person had led a 'good life'.

My parents both died of cancerous type diseases. I seem to be the only one who is not saying, but they 'lived a full life'. Keep in mind that I am the one nobody can understand. I am not quite the black sheep. I am the different one who stopped eating sugar thirty years ago. No one could understand why I would go to so much trouble to read food product labels trying to find something that did not contain sugar. Today it is many times worse because of all the sugar substitutes in our food products. If I were reading labels today I would choose sugar before the sugar substitutes if I had no other choice. My choice today is to not buy any processed food products. I believe that my continuing good health depends on me making my own food from simple organic ingredients. I seldom read food labels these days because I buy very little with a label on it.

Is good health some sort of perfection? In homeopathy good health is said to manifest when a person's "vital force" is being expressed by perfect functioning of all parts of the body and by a sense of general well being. This holistic approach to health states that nature, of which we are an important part, has a constant tendency toward what is best for it. This vital force of nature reaches its masterpiece in the human body and the human consciousness. Harvey Diamond in his part of the book Fit for Life II: Living Health states that humans are "constructed for health and happiness." Life on earth lived in its ultimate achievement is a constant and unshakeable zest for well being and enthusiasm, says Diamond. I have a lot of respect for the diet that the Diamonds recommended. It still is an excellent diet for cleansing out toxins. I am not a great fan of being all that you can be, going for it all or pursuing excellence as a lifestyle. To me this is a short road to burn out and premature grey hair. I was unconsciously going for it all in my younger years. I worked very hard. I cannot say that I experienced good health or happiness back then.

If we wanted this 'ultimate achievement' of good health our goal would be to reach old age and maturity without aches and pains, to be well-balanced and spared emotional traumas and stress-related illnesses. To have zest for life we would wish to be like the beaming, healthy-looking 90-year-olds featured in vegetarian magazine articles. Working out at the fitness club at 91 years of age could demonstrate the principle that the best condition for the body is resilience and flexibility. To take up piano lessons at 83 years might demonstrate an absence of constricting contractions in body and mind. The problem is that we tend to extrapolate these stories into believing that this example of 'good health' is the best way to go. Pushing yourself into the gym when you are exhausted and should be resting is not good health.

It seems apparent to me that for millions of years people lived in some sort of harmony with the natural forces of nature. Good health was some sort of consistent state of being. Otherwise, how would we be here? If we were always in poor health for millions of years I cannot see how we would have survived. A long time ago the dinosaurs disappeared suddenly. Today species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at an accelerating rate. Throughout history at least some of us must have maintained an instinctive natural knowledge about how to live healthily enough to allow our species to continue. How we are doing today is a mute question. Are we going to continue to survive or is our current acceptance of sub-marginal health a sign of something?

Perhaps it is time to take a look at what this instinctive natural knowledge of good health might look like in our modern culture. I feel that it is not that much different than it has been for millions of years. This 'knowledge' probably includes simple things like sunshine, pure water, sleeping when the sun sets, relying on wholesome foods from nature, having daily alone time in the outdoors and living physically active lives in communities of loving supportive people.

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