Monoculture of the mind is a kind of prison. A tunnel vision. An inability to extend beyond the exploitative patterns of thought that have ruled since the first stirrings of the Industrial Revolution. The kind of thinking that Daniel Quinn, in his novel Ishmael, portrays as being bent on « consuming the world.’’
It’s a phrase that Jason Bavington likes to us. And I, in turn, like Jason Bavington because, at 26 years old, he has already spent a third of his life searching for alternatives to the ruling orthodoxies. And it’s in the quest for alternatives that escape from monoculture of the mind becomes possible.
Bavington’s quest, over the past three years, has been to create a CD-ROM on alternative health. I know too little about the field to judge its content. But its scope and ambition are impressive. It took 28 people 26 months to create it, and in print, it would be 2,000 pages in length, covering 228 ailments and 528 remedies.
It deals with vitamins, minerals, herbs, therapies and healing aids, homeopathy, aromatherapy, Bach flower remedies, foods and food supplements, antioxidants, amino acids, and some miscellaneous items such as charcoal and hydrogen peroxide. The section on menopause, alone, runs to 63 pages. Among the researchers and writers were naturopaths, homeopaths, acupuncturists, nutritionists, Shiatsu therapists, and individuals holding a variety of science degrees.
It’s called « The Alternative Health CD,’’ and if you want to know more about it, you can check the website www.ahcd. net, or e-mail for details at email@example.com, or call Bavington at 416-663-3494. It sells in health food stores for $49.95.
But enough about the CD-ROM. It’s Bavington that intrigued me. He graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree from York University in 1998 and immediately threw himself into developing the CD-ROM. But when had he become interested in environmental issues, I asked? It was when he was 15 years old and in grade 10 at Newtonville High School in North York, he said.
« A friend dragged me to an environment club meeting, and I was hooked. I saw there was so much to do, and so much you could do, and so many opportunities for change. I thought, `This is so cool.’ ’’
In his second year at York, he helped organize a health and healing conference. And in his final year he was the lead organizer of an alternative health conference. « Being involved just seemed to work for me,’’ he said. « It’s not as if I felt I had an obligation to save the world. It just made me feel good.
« Now, if I can show someone a possibility for change, then it’s up to them to take the next step, and that’s what I like to do: raise awareness, help people discover new avenues, new perspectives, new options.’’
He’s slight and blond, a self-taught computer programmer who pays the rent with earnings from creating websites, looking impossibly young to have acquired the organizing skills necessary to have produced the CD-ROM.
As expected, his view was that « We can’t continue the way we live our lives, because it isn’t sustainable in the long term. We’re living on borrowed time.’’
« But how do you get from there, in your thinking, to individual health?’’ I asked.
His reply was a fine example of the linking of issues that sustainability requires. Conventional approaches to health are « disconnected from the natural world,’’ he said.
« We only seem to know how to exist within an artificially created, human-centred world, where we rely on drugs, and on medical treatment that is scientifically reductionist (an approach that sees the detail but not the whole). So society is disconnected from nature, and health is disconnected from alternative forms of treatment.’’
What he’s offering with his CD-ROM is the opportunity to explore other, what he calls holistic, approaches to health. And he stresses he’s not saying people should abandon conventional medicine, just that he thinks there is useful knowledge outside it.
And, I would add, one way of emerging from tunnel vision.