“Live simply, so others can simply live”
The inspiring story of Jason Rodas serves as a wake up call to each and every one of us. On September 30, 2008, Jason encountered the toughest decision of his life when his mother had gone into cardiac arrest. He was presented with two options from the doctors: to attempt to revive his mother but crush nearly every bone in her body or to let nature take its place and let her pass away peacefully. Unfortunately, he only had one minute to decide. After a matter of seconds passed, he reluctantly chose to let her go gracefully. But in those few minutes that he had left sitting next to his mother’s bed before she passed away, he unraveled his utmost appreciation for his mother – something that he never had done before.
The saddest part of this all was that it took a devastating event in Jason’s life in order for him to realize the two most important things in life: awareness and appreciation. As he reflected on his life through his story of how his mother passed away, he became aware of how delicate life is and encouraged everyone to “live every second as if it were their last” (My). But perhaps the most important point of all came at the end, when he preached, “Live simply, so others can simply live” (My). What a powerful statement for our times. In today’s culture of excess in America where food and technology dominate our lives, we have turned onto a “default” setting in which we fail to be aware of our surroundings and appreciate the little things in our lives. What I believe Jason meant at the end of his story is that if we choose to become cognizant of our surroundings, we will become appreciative of them and ultimately lead a simpler, healthier and more meaningful life.
Why I chose to write about this
Over this past year as a freshman at Santa Clara University, the content of my Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) – Food, Self, Culture and Human, Animal, Machine class has not only educated me with information that I would have never been aware of, but it has also taught me about myself and my perspective of the world. Specifically, one of our main themes of our entire course came from David Foster Wallace’s speech This Is Water. His speech revolved around the notion that we need to become more aware of what is happening around us instead of going through the daily motions and ignoring the little details in our lives. This awareness that Wallace mentions is something that I am now proud to say I acquire. What became so intriguing to me after I became aware was the aspect of thinking of everything in a different perspective, and even being optimistic about my own life if you will. But there was more than just this class that had driven me to write about this.
When I first saw the video on Jason Rodas’ story I became captivated because I could personally relate to his situation. Similar to Jason, I experienced the loss of my father from a heart attack at the age of five. But before I go on, let this be no pity story for you because this has much more meaning behind it. Growing up without a father was extremely tough on my family, especially on my mother who had three children to take care of by herself. When my father passed away, my mother sacrificed her lucrative job as a Divisional Merchandise Manager at Wet Seal and became a local teacher in order to be able to raise us herself. She took on both the mother and father role in our family, working extremely hard to be able to live in an affluent community so we could receive an excellent education and be successful in the future.
Because of her and her sacrifices, I was able to live a normal life – if it was having a meal in front of me at dinner, hanging out with my friends, playing baseball, and even having my own car – it was all because of her. Of course I would thank her every now and then, but I never knew how thankful I actually was. It wasn’t until I sat in the first lecture of my CTW course when I watched This Is Water that I became aware of how lucky I was to have a mother like mine. Even to this day, I still shake my head when I look back and think about everything she has done for her children. Soon I began to view everything in a different perspective other than the “default” setting I was on, and I wasn’t just going through the daily motions to get by the day. For one, I became much more appreciative of everything I had whether it was my valuing my education, food, possessions, family and friends, and my life. The takeaway from this story though, is that my CTW class was my awakening – likewise how Jason’s was his mother’s death. I am writing about this because I believe that we need to switch off our “default” setting immediately ourselves, instead of having to experience something as devastating as a death in order to be appreciative and aware.
Back to the topic…
Awareness starts with an aspect of our lives that I can guarantee each and every one of us have rarely ever really paid attention to: our food. How ironic is it that we wouldn’t pay attention to something that is right in front of our eyes? And I’m not just talking about the appearance of it, I’m talking about how it was produced and where it came from. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer was by far one of the most influential books that I have ever read in school, not because it had a good story plot but because it revealed so much information about factory farming. Also, reading a book has never inspired me to think twice about my surroundings as much as Foer’s. Did you know that animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined? (Foer 43). Or that nearly half of all our drinking water is contributed to raising animals? (Meat). Most would claim that the main cause of global warming and the destruction of our planet are from gas-emissions from our automobiles and from colossal oil refineries. However, it is these claims that show how ignorant and on our “default” setting we are when it comes down to knowing about the food we eat.
This lack of knowledge and awareness of our food can even prove fatal if we don’t make a change. Take the story of two-year old Kevin Kowalcyk in the documentary, Food Inc., for example. One day in a small town in Wisconsin, Kevin ate a hamburger. Who cares? Well, in the span of eight days, Kevin had died due to failure of his small and large intestines – which is 100% fatal. What Kevin and his parents failed to be aware of was that this factory-farmed meat was contaminated with E.coli, a dangerous virus that is very common in factory-farmed meat. Before this tragic event, Kevin’s parents had no education nor the lack of interest in where or how the food they fed him with was processed. Now, the family vows to never associate themselves with the factory farm industry and are advocating for a more thorough inspection of meat production. The idea in part is that we claim to think we know all about where and how our food was produced, but in reality we are unaware of the information that lies behind those closed doors at factory farming. Although I would love to write for years on the things I have learned about how cruel factory farming is not only to the animals themselves, but ourselves and our environment, I encourage you all to investigate into your own food. If a simple daily activity such as eating food proves how unaware we are of what surrounds us, what else do you think we ignore daily?
You might be thinking, so what? Who cares about whether or not we pay attention to our food? As a matter of the fact, I thought the same thing before I actually attempted to make an effort to pay attention to the little things that revolved in my life. But think about it, this is only about food. If we don’t possess the awareness needed in such a daily routine such as eating food, how can we be cognizant of other things in our lives? I am in no position to tell you what to do because after all, it is your life. But what I will tell you is that our society today has become so indulged in the idea of living in excess in regards to food, technology, and money that we have lost our perspective of what really matters in life. Instead of simplifying our lives, we are constantly striving for more and fail to take a moment and realize how lucky we are. Wallace argued that our education will reach its highest potential when we as humans, become aware ofour surroundings. And when we do, we will understand what Jason meant and truly find the happiness, appreciation, and meaningfulness of life. With these types of minds that Wallace, Foer, and Jason have, we have the power to change the world.
“Live simply, so others can simply live.”
Bibliography Food Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Perf. Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser. Magnolia Pictures, 2009. DVD.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and, 2009. Print.
“Meat and the Environment | PETA.org.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA):The Animal Rights Organization | PETA.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
My Friend Jason. Prod. Shot at The Dark. Perf. Jason Rodas. Vimeo. N.p., 03 Mar. 2011. Web. 08 June 2014.
Wallace, David Foster. “This Is Water.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 09 May. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.