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Ana Joanes

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Fresh -- New Thinking About What We're Eating

Posted: 05/11/09 06:29 PM ET

I'm six-months pregnant. And about to give birth to a movie, Fresh (I think the proper term is release.) I'm ready to let this baby out into the world, but I'm not so sure I'm ready for the other, the crying-pampers-changing- 24/7-for-the-next-20-years baby.

Making a movie might or might not be a good preparation for motherhood (filmmakers out there: comments, thoughts?) butFresh sure changed the way I feed myself during pregnancy and how I'll feed my baby. It's changed the way I approach life.

Fresh examines the problems and consequences of our current food system, but its focus is on the farmers, thinkers, and business people across America who are coming up with alternatives. And, although, at first glance, it may seem that Fresh is about food and agriculture, it's really more about adopting a new perspective, a different understanding of our relationship to each other and the world. In short, Fresh seeks to empower us by showing how we are the creators of our reality, not passive by-standers to a world going nuts. And while being creators means taking responsibility for what's happening, it also means we can change it (yes we can!).

I fist started thinking about making Fresh after reading a three-part article in the New Yorker about global warming four years ago. I had been avoiding reading the series, the way I try really hard to ignore the news. I figured I knew about global warming, and didn't want to feel scared and guilty about how little I did to combat it, or how much I contributed to the problem. The article's dire exposé of the complexity and extent of the problems we're facing left me feeling, like so much of the news, a powerless and hopeless observer, watching the world spiraling towards its inevitable destruction. And helplessness, for me at least, (almost always) translates into inaction.

So I embarked on the making of Fresh to recapture a sense of agency, a belief that my individual actions do in fact matter. Initially, I intended to document the urgency of the global warming crisis, hoping to scare others and myself into action. Instead, I encountered the most inspiring people, ideas, and initiatives. Who knew that we already had the solutions to so many of our problems, and that some of us were already hard at work implementing them? Instead of the despair and inaction unwittingly fostered by the media, these examples of change suggested a very different perspective, that life is an indivisible network in which every node is critical, that each one of us is creating the world we are living in, and that the process of creating it is what gives us meaning and pleasure.

Around the same time, I started meditating. And since I don't do things slowly, I went on 8 or so week-long silent mediation retreats over the course of that same period. And my experience on the cushion helped me understand what it was that so deeply attracted me to the people I was discovering in my documentary. Our current culture tends to take a very linear approach to life. Everything has a start and an end, everything is disposable - my morning coffee "to-go", my new living room set, my old TV. Buy and throw out. Collect and then dispose. Everything is expendable. And it sure feels, in times of plenty, that there's no end to what we can get. Problem is, in a linear model, even our lives have become expendable. It's hard to find meaning when it seems like you're just another "thing" to be used and disposed of, and when the only folks that seem to matter are those with money and celebrity power bolstering them up; the Bill Gates and Bonos of the world.

When I visited Joel Salatin (a Virginia farmer made famous by Michael Pollan's "Omnivore Dilemma," and one of the main character in Fresh ), and he explained how everything has a place in nature, how nothing is wasted, I felt this combination of relief and excitement. In nature, bacteria, manure, fungus, trees, grass, sunlight, water... all play a part in the wonderful and mysterious process of creating and maintaining life. We might love to look at old solid oak trees and peaceful rivers, but no one could ever claim that they are more important to an ecosystem than the bacteria or the worms, the ants, and the birds. To realize that everything has its place, all play a role, was wonderfully reassuring.

And so, through the making of Fresh , and with the support of meditation, I began to look at myself differently, to ask different questions from myself and about my life. It is not only the pig whose pig-ness we need to respect, but the Ana-ness of Ana. The essence of each one of us. By learning to respect and embrace the truth of who I am, I too can find my place and role in this world. For me, right now, it means not doubting my work, but letting my first 'baby' out into the world, and trusting it will find its audience (well, a little trust and lots of work!) It also means being a friend, a partner, a daughter. It means acting with mindfulness in my daily life, knowing that my smallest actions have an impact and that they are no less important then the biggest of my decisions. It means taking care of myself, and of the life that I am carrying. It means allowing for room for mistakes, for feeling lost, for finding myself again, and again and again. Perhaps my role or place will never be so clear as that of each element in an ecosystem, or as predetermined, but it will be, and it will have an effect. Like it or not!


 

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