A few weeks ago, while visiting family in Spain, we got in a debate about which countries have the longest average life span. After a little discussion about averages and medians, and some google searches to decide who was the winner of the the argument that I don’t remember why we started, I stumbled on some articles about blue zones.
Blue zones are specific areas in the world where people live a long time. Since most people are afraid of death (different post, different blog) researchers have done a lot of work in those areas to try to find out the secret. You could also make a pretty good argument that a long life also means a healthy, happy life.
And then I realized how much Dancing Rabbit has in common with those blue zones.
These are the characteristics that the people of Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, and Loma Linda, U.S. all share. (Six charteristics courtesy of Wikipedia. You can read the post on blue zones here.) They are considered to be key factors for long, healthy lives.
- Family put ahead of other concerns. Okay, right off the bat this is a tricky one for DR as most people here have left family behind in one way or another to move out to rural Missouri. But if you think about this on a bigger scale, or if you define family loosely, or if you just take the second part about putting the concerns of others ahead of your own, then I think we fit for sure. In fact, I would say that maybe what matters most in this item is not so much spending time with people who have similar genes as putting the needs of others ahead of your own. Being part of something bigger than me is for sure one of my favorite parts of living here.
- Less smoking. This is easy. Next.
- Semi-vegetarianism. Check. Even the omnivores here eat tons and tons of vegetarian food. Also, since most people here have really strong beliefs about not eating factory farm meat, it’s expensive to eat the kind of animal products that are sustainably sourced. Meat is usually used more as the flavoring than the main part of the meal. (I have a pot of lentils with butternut squash on the stove right now. Not vegetarian because there’s chicken broth, but semi-vegetarian for sure.)
- Constant moderate physical activity which is an inseparable part of life. I’d say that this pretty perfectly describes life here. Most people spend a decent part of every day hauling water, hauling humey, or walking to the Common House to take a shower or to find someone or check their email. Gardening is tons of exercise too. That’s not to mention the Ultimate games or walking to Red Earth or biking to Sand Hill. I’d argue that even cooking here is a fairly physical task. When you’re picking and peeling and chopping all those vegetables, you are working for sure. We move a lot, and that’s one of my favorite things about this life.
- Social engagement–people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities. I have written about this plenty, for sure. From potluck to community dinner to game night to women’s circle. And did I mention all the multiple benefits of playing Ultimate? Not only is there plenty of opportunity for social engagement, there are also plenty of people to check on you if you aren’t engaging socially the way that you usually do. And just about every event here is all ages. We play together all the time, and eat together, and talk, and exist side-by-side on a daily basis.
- Legumes–commonly consumed. Uh, yeah. We got that one covered. I’d say that most people here eat beans, well, maybe not “for every meal” but it’s close at times. There are at least seven different types of legumes available at the DR grocery story, and I’m probably underestimating since there are only some that I like.
When I look over this list, what strikes me is that these characteristics describe both an old fashioned way of living–the way that I imagine most people lived a hundred or even fifty years ago–and also a cheap way of living. It doesn’t cost anything to get together with friends, and it costs next to nothing to eat legumes a lot.
Yet I also think that a lot of these elements are incompatable with modern contemporary life. Who has time to soak and cook legumes? Who has a chance to move around during the day or get away from their desk or their computer? Who has time for social engagement beyond a quick weekend event?