Obese Primates


from The New York Times

Update: The following post is very rant-like, my apologies.  The research on monkeys upsets me.  Do we have to do this to these creatures who can’t make choices to prove that not getting outside and moving one’s body and eating poorly can be deleterious to health? I’m glad we have medical interventions that can help.  I also wish that we all could observe a better social ethic around living healthily. Seeing monkeys and humans lose the graciousness of their being in this way makes me ache. There is no other way to say it.

* * *

This article in the NYTimes described obesity research being conducted on primates.  Why does reading about primates confined to cages, eating bad foods as they gain pound after pound, tear me apart more than my knowledge of all the people who live this way? So many people get out of bed, trudge to work, eat donuts/muffins/bagel with coffee on the go, sit or stand all day enclosed in a small space, snack to forestall boredom and fatigue, eat unhealthy take-out lunch, then sit, stand and snack some more until its time to go home and watch TV (and snack). Are we any different than those poor research primates, save the fact that no one is studying us?

Human beings need to move and to spend time in their ecosystems – no matter if they be city or forest, wide expansive plains or mountaintops, rocky coastal shores or small hometowns with a town square.  Humans need to hear and play live music. Humans need to create art, to dance, to fashion shapes out of material between their bare hands and to innovate with science’s unlimited horizon.  In a more ideal life, people should indulge a hard day’s work and then come home to sing in a chorus, and practice an instrument, or read and discuss a great book, or cook a meal with a person they love.

I’m not against our technologies. I love them.  I see all the good that they bring to our society. Yet, I am aware of all that we lose when we become dependent upon them for the total expression of all that we are as people.  It just isn’t possible!  And so most people simply drone on, underutilized, eating the high-fructose corn syrup  that is a staple of most processed foods just like the poor captive research primates whose pursuit of constant gratification renders their hearts hard of beating.  The researchers make a point of stating that studying these primates is so fruitful because they are so much like us.

The one difference is that most people aren’t being locked in cages against their will. Any person can take a walk, turn off the TV, play with a child, read a book, sing an aria, dance the tango,  slice a green apply slowly, squirt with lime juice and bite – and let the inner sides of your cheeks tingle.

Forcing a couch potato life on primates and depriving them of swinging from a branch, relating to each other, and nibbling on vegetation – behaviors most natural to their species – horrifies and saddens me deeply.  Observing people choose it worries me. It is as though they forgot, decided or learned not to be a person.

And all the while the great possibility of a single human life hangs unmetabolized about the bones.


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