Eat, pray, love into 2011

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com

It be­falls the colum­nist this time of year to look back and re­cap; to as­sign blame and shame, while of­fer­ing the oblig­a­tory me a culpa; and, of course, to re­solve.

It be­falls the ma­ture colum­nist (23 years and count­ing) to sigh in protest: Oh, must we?

Wars, tax squab­bles, gas hikes, Ha­ley Bar­bour, change, Rus­sia, nukes, China, jobs, yad­dayad­dayadda and Ju­lia Roberts. Haven’t we trav­eled these pot­holed roads be­fore? And to­mor­row and to­mor­row and to­mor­row? Is there any­thing left for which to apol­o­gize and/or per­chance to pre­dict?

As the das­tardly decade of our new­est mil­len­nium set­tles into his­tory’s tidy dust­bin, death and taxes re­main our most re­li­able an­tag­o­nists. Re­peat­edly, we have met the en­emy, and he is still us. Inar­guably, there is noth­ing new, not even in the down­loads of a Wik­iLeaked cable. Hu­mans re­main hu­man, and the more we know us, the less we like us. Fa­mil­iar­ity, con­tempt and all that.

Nev­er­the­less and ergo, to wit and har­rumph-har­rumph, here­with KP’s un-jaded, un-cyn­i­cal, ap­pro­pri­ately ab­bre­vi­ated (you’re wel­come) list of res­o­lu­tions for all times, but es­pe­cially now.

Eat, Pray, Love. Sort of. Call itEPL2.0: Eat less, pray in pri­vate, love be­cause . . . what’s the al­ter­na­tive? For those pre­fer­ring a deeper, drill-down, pol­icy-wonk­ish, name-your-cuts ap­proach, EPL can be loosely ex­trap­o­lated as: health-care re­form, church-state sep­a­ra­tion and hu­man rights im­per­a­tives in the Post-Gold­man Sachs World.

Per­mit me to elab­o­rate, be­gin­ning with our fa­vorite topic: Eat­ing. And of course “death pan­els.” The thread is stronger than it might first ap­pear.

Let’s keep it sim­ple: First, there are no death pan­els. There are (and should be) lim­its to what can be done in our fu­tile ef­forts to fore­stall death, but med­i­cal tor­ture in one’s wan­ing days shouldn’t be among them. Given limited re­sources and ex­or­bi­tant costs— and our ap­par­ent ter­ror as (choose one) the Dark Abyss or heaven awaits — not ev­ery­body can have ev­ery­thing.

Them’s the facts, and thus it is highly likely that health ra­tioning, al­ready prac­ticed by in­surance com­pa­nies, is in­evitable. You won’t ex­actly see bu­reau­crats giv­ing Cae­sar’s thumbs-down to Granny’s heart trans­plant, but the re­cently in­stalled cap on Medi­care costs will mean that cer­tain treat­ments won’t be re­im­bursed and, well, time’s up.

So how does one emerge a win­ner in life’s lit­tle lot­tery? Scam the sys­tem by eat­ing less. It’s that sim­ple. By eat­ing less, we are less likely to be­come fat, which leads to mul­ti­ple health com­pli­ca­tions, most of which can be avoided. Shop the perime­ters of the gro­cery store (i.e., whole foods) and elim­i­nate sugar. Easy.

Pray there’s a heaven but do pray qui­etly. It can’t be a mys­tery any longer that the God urge has a dis­qui­et­ing ef­fect on cer­tain mem­bers of the hu­man tribe. I share the urge but have found ways of com­muning that don’t re­quire con­vert­ing oth­ers, in­vad­ing coun­tries or shed­ding in­fi­dels of their heads.

Fun­da­men­tal­ists, no mat­ter what their path to glory, share a streak of in­tol­er­ance that can’t have much to do with any but a malev­o­lent cre­ator’s de­sign. Ei­ther such a cre­ator is un­de­serv­ing of wor­ship or the wor­shipers have mis­read their scripts. Which­ever the case— and to each his own— what any­one prays is no one else’s busi­ness. Let’s leave it there. Fi­nally, the most sub­lime for last: Love. We are might­ily con­fused about this mat­ter, but it, too, is a sim­ple thing. You won’t find it in a crotch-grab­bing mu­sic video. It doesn’t have much to do with down­loaded porn or “friend­ing,” tweet­ing, Face­book­ing or, most cer­tainly, sexting. (O’ for the days when verbs were verbs and nouns were nouns.)

At the risk of sound­ing preachy, God for­bid, it’s about giv­ing. Yet an­other sim­ple con­cept, we see it rel­a­tively sel­dom. We­have the “giv­ing sea­son,” a largely tin­seled af­fair of ex­trav­a­gance and de­layed debt. We give “gifts,” but they are mere things, eas­ily dis­carded, rarely cher­ished and hardly sacri­fi­cial. A few bucks handed to a store clerk don’t much get to the heart of mat­ters.

Here is giv­ing: Lis­ten­ing. Spar­ing time. Not in­ter­rupt­ing. Hold­ing that thought. Leav­ing the last drop. Stay­ing home. Turn­ing it off, what­ever it is. Mak­ing eye con­tact. Pick­ing it up. Tak­ing the room’s tem­per­a­ture. Pay­ing at­ten­tion. Wait­ing.

More Golden Rule than heav­enly virtues, but you get the drift. Do unto oth­ers, and, who knows, maybe they’ll make a movie star­ring Ju­lia Roberts.

The al­ter­na­tive is surely hell.

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