Here’s a thought experiment for you. It’s a bit “out there” perhaps, but just humor us for a moment.
Imagine that it’s 50-thousand years ago, and your “enlightened” tribe of hunter-gatherers have been tasked with rocketing a few envoys selected from your tribe into the modern, 21st century. And beyond that, to colonize the moon, and beyond *that*, leapfrogging to extended space travel. It’s a fanciful thought experiment, yes—but let’s play along and see it through.
Knowing the available resources and conditions in which your tribesmen will land is paramount to their survival; you and the elders know this, of course, and you’ve done your homework. But here’s the caveat: your envoys have to engage the 21st century according to 21st century terms. Disengagement and a return to “hunter-gatherer ways”, though a tempting “easy out”, is not an option. And let’s up the ante by having them land smack-dab in the middle of Any-Metropolis USA. Oh, and let’s make them 50-hour-per-week, punch-the-clock, corporate drones. They’ve got to struggle with the wife, kids, mortgage, taxes, health care, commute—the full monty of modernity’s trappings. Now, it’s up to you and your tribesmen to keep those envoys not only healthy, but thriving, contributing members of society. Ready? 3, 2, 1, GO!
At its root, Paleo attempts to grapple with this exquisite dichotomy. We well understand that “modernity’s trappings” are a Faustian trade-off. Are our Paleo workarounds intended to be perfect substitutes for our more evolutionarily in-line, hunter-gatherer existence? Of course not. They are intended to be best-case approximations and compromises vis-a-vis access to unprecedented amounts of knowledge, communication and economies-of-scale that exist as a result of this foray into the 21st century. Space travel is just one more step along that same continuum. Quite simply, this knowledge, communication power and economies-of-scale—leveraged correctly—can then be used as hedge against widespread human suffering. Can you imagine the vast amount of human potential locked within the confines of preventable metabolic damage? Our intent with Paleo f(x)™ is to chip away at those confines.
Or we can, as individuals, leverage this vast knowledge bank for strictly personal use; totally disengage, and become a self-reliant, independent, n=1 experiment.
To each his own. We are not here to moralize; each individual must make a decision that best fits their life’s calling. That we choose to be in the thick of the “human thriving vs maximal leveraging of 21 century technologies” route is simply that: our choice.
But no matter the chosen course, we can, each and every one of us, too easily forget the other side of the bargain: that to thrive in this modern environment requires the responsibility we yet owe to our base, “animal nature”. Mind, body and “spirit” are not separate entities, but an integral whole. Neglect of one aspect cannot be negated by emphasis on another, much as we might wish it so.
Of course, there is so much more to Paleo than simply the diet. We truly consider Paleo and all-encompassing conglomerate of lifestyle factors. And as far as the diet goes, we don’t see “Paleo” as a rigid set of dos-and-don’ts, nor do we promote such a version. We’d call it the “maximum nutrient-density allowed per one’s circumstance” diet, but that wouldn’t get much traction from a wider audience. For us, Paleo is about establishing a template that can be morphed according to circumstance, need and desire.
With every vibrant movement though, comes cynics and criticism. Some of it needed and healthy, in an “iron sharpens iron” sense. We encourage this kind of criticism, as it ultimately makes this movement more effective, more responsive. The last thing we want to become is the loudest voice in an echo chamber of our own making.
Unfortunately though (and especially in this age of sound-bite social media), information comes in the form of aphorisms, and rhetorical flourishes that pass as learned commentary. For those new to the movement, this can be confusing. There is precious little time for contemplation and true discourse. Through the art (and it *is* an art) of marketing, the ignorant become just as—and in many cases, more so—influential than the truly wise. And this is not just a Paleo phenomenon. Pick a subject—any subject—and the same holds true.
But if you ever become confused as to what the “Paleo” answer to a particular question might be, let us simply suggest the thought experiment at the beginning of this piece. Given one’s circumstance and available resources, what course would those wise tribesmen of 50-thousand years ago suggest? No agenda, no ulterior motives. Simply pose the question, and let the thought experiment run its course. Your answer will be as close to truth as any you’ll find otherwise.