Dear Denise Morrison, President and CEO of Campbell's Foods:
I am writing to warn you of a change in your consumer base that is bound to have grave repercussions for your company.
A recent Harvard study has revealed that concentrations of the chemical bisphenol-A rise around 1000 percent in people who eat one bowl of canned soup per day. Bisphenol-A is often used in the manufacture of plastics but your company and others who put food in cans apparently use it to make the material that lines those cans. I do not know exactly what this amount of bisphenol-A does in the human body and it appears that scientists do not exactly know, either, but they are making a lot of guesses that don't sound at all good. Apparently the chemical is an endocrine disrupter, which means it messes with one's hormones and has therefore been linked to cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders like learning disabilities, ADHD, and cognitive issues, as well as problems with heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and sexual development.
So far I have not noticed any tumors growing on my children but there is still plenty of time. And while I believe they are geniuses, I hate to think that they might have been just that much more intelligent, talented and well-behaved. It is not difficult to conjecture that, if my children had never ingested any canned foods, by now they might be working as highly paid child actors, like Dakota Fanning or Haley Joel Osment. We're talking about the loss of millions of dollars of family income here.
I have become convinced that canned foods are at the root of the disharmony suffered by many families as a result of the poor performance of the children. I do not know what Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, fed her children but I now suspect she wouldn't have have had to push them so hard to practise their musical instruments if she had completely avoided serving them canned food. Because they probably wouldn't have had to practise so much. I'm guessing that, by now, her children would be supporting her -- and she wouldn't have had to write that embarrassing book in order to put them through college.
Furthermore, although my current goal is to slow my own children's sexual development for as long as possible, there is a slim chance that, once I am dead, they may wish to begin dating.
The Harvard study I reference above and and others like it have have led me to finally make the decision to stop feeding canned goods to my children. This is the event that is bound to have dangerous financial consequences for your company. Currently, my children eat 13 trillion cans of Campbell's Chunky Chicken Noodle soup per week. This is an estimate, of course, but not a very rough one. Let's just say my children eat a lot of that soup. In fact, they do not eat much else – perhaps a bowl of Kraft dinner now and then, or the odd chicken nugget. (And I ask you, what chicken nugget is not odd? What part of the bird do these uniformly pale lumps come from, exactly? But I realize that this is not your area of expertise as your lumps of chicken are pinkish, blotchy and veiny and are not encased in a tidy bread-crumb coating.)
It may surprise you to know that my two small children, aged two and six years respectively, ingest so much of your product and, in fact, you may be doubly shocked when I inform you that the younger child, my daughter, eats only the carrots. My son, however, will deign to eat the broth and the noodles and the other vegetable-like substances you include -- but not of course the weird chicken, we give that to the cat -- so so you could say that between the two (or three) of them, they lick the platter (bowl) clean. Of course, not literally clean. Nothing has been clean in this house since they were born.
As you can probably tell from the fact that your company has not already gone bankrupt, I have not yet completely stopped feeding the children your soup as I anticipate a few possibly unsurmountable problems as a result of this move. First, I am unsure whether my children will ever eat anything else. As an experiment yesterday, I tried to feed my daughter real carrots, boiled to a soft consistency. Although to me they looked and tasted almost exactly like the carrots in your soup, she refused to eat them, perhaps because they did not have that faint undertaste of plastic to which she has become accustomed. I fully understand, though, that this is not your problem. I am also fairly confident that, as their mother, I can somehow manage to meet their nutritional needs in some other way, perhaps through the use of Flintstones vitamins mixed in with a barley-based pablum in order to create the sensation of fullness.
However, I trust that you will share my concern about the imminent collapse of your company, once I stop my weekly purchases of approximately 13 trillion cans. And I am even more deeply concerned about the effect that the collapse of your rather large company will have on the already fragile global economy, which is why I am ccing the President of the United States, the Head of the European Union, and whoever is in charge of that weird hybrid of communism and capitalism in China. (I'll google it.) Because I plan to implement the radical change of no longer feeding Campbell's Chunky Chicken Noodle soup to my children THIS EVENING AROUND 5pm EST, I fully expect the world markets to tumble dramatically tomorrow morning. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the globe is plunged into a bleak economic (and mental) Depression, one to rival that of 1929, by Friday evening.
I am sorry. I realize that the Christmas season is an unfortunate time of year for bad economic news. But I have to bite the bullet here – the health of my children must come first. During the Great Depression, many people raised their own chickens and grew their own vegetables. I plan to do both. I assure you that I am not looking forward to the extra work, especially since I'll probably have to perform many other tasks I have never done before, like darn socks or even knit them from scratch. And I am determined to figure out how to grow noodles as well, so that I can make my children our own version of a Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup. Although it occurs to me as I am writing this, that while I'm making these changes for the sake of my children's health, I might as well attempt to raise slender chickens instead of chunky ones. At any rate, my version of Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup will not contain any Bisphenol-A.
I just wanted to give you a heads-up.
P.S. You could always start using cans that don't contain any Bisphenol-A and save both of us a lot of trouble. Apparently this company does.
"Everyone should watch this." Apparently, those are the most common words used in blog posts about this video featuring Ken Robinson, which has been around since 2006. I'm one of the few who somehow missed it and am posting it here in case you are, too. I've just downloaded the first chapters of Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative and The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.
Luke got a couple of magazines in the mail today and, after perusing them for a little while, he asked me if he could make his own book. I was all over that in a heartbeat. Here it is: his "Chickie Book." I suppose in another ten years or so the term "Chickie Book" might have a different meaning for him.
And here is one of the pages, a puzzle page, his favourite.
That says, "Find two strange things." Okay, then. Shouldn't be too difficult, around here.
Yesterday morning on the way to school Luke, dressed in red at the school's behest for Remembrance Day activities, announced "Today is going to be a lot of fun!" in a tone of great excitement. I considered explaining how the day wasn't meant to be fun, really, but I hadn't yet taken in enough caffeine to face the complicated explanation of what the day was actually meant to be about.
Luke was less enthusiastic when I picked him up. "I thought we were going to see real soldiers," he said.
"Weren't there any there?" I asked, kind of surprised. We used to have vets from WWII at our ceremonies -- and surely and sadly today there are plenty of younger vets available from all the recent skirmishes.
"Nope," he said. "At least I don't think so. There were some in the video, though."
He coloured a poppy wreath at school -- pictured in the center of his display. And then spent last evening drawing scenes of warfare to hang around it. "Red is a good colour to use to draw soldiers," he said. "It is the colour of blood." He informed me that the picture to the left of the wreath shows a soldier, a "good guy" mind you, shooting a bird while he waits for the bad guys to show up. The picture below that one (bottom left) shows an extremely large good guy shooting a bad guy (with a perfect bad guy expression). The picture next to that one and directly below the wreath shows a bad guy riding on the back of an elephant, a somewhat unusual form of transportation in modern warfare. The one next to that shows the bad guy and the elephant, now deceased. Death came so suddenly that the elephant didn't even have time to wipe the smile from its face. The picture above that one and to the right of the wreath, done in purple, shows a soldier fighting an alien with many eyes. Perhaps aliens have purple blood.
"A want is something you do not have to have to live." Okay, fair enough. But, when directed to "color each want" (note American spelling of "colour"), my child colours the book.
A person who doesn't need books to live isn't really living.
He also coloured water but that doesn't upset me nearly as much as the book. And he also neglected to colour a number of other things that would seem to qualify as wants -- perhaps he personally doesn't want those? Dunno. I see his work still warranted a star, albeit a blue one instead of a gold one. Perhaps it is a sad star.
Image via The Graphics Fairy.
I believe I've mentioned Luke's disconcerting obsession with death once or twice -- thanks very much to commenter Merle Harris (is this you, Merle?) who suggested Jan Thornhill's I Found a Dead Bird: The Kids' Guide to the Cycle of Life and Death. We borrowed it from the library and it promptly became required reading, at bedtime no less, until finally, to David's and my great relief, it was due back.
Questions about death are not the only difficult questions Luke has for us. A couple of months ago we had an increasingly frustrating conversation that started with Luke asking something like "How come I can see everyone else but I can't see myself?" I tried to satisfy him with science-y answers about the location of his eyes in his head and how the eye worked. He became increasingly annoyed, even to the point of tears, until, after a lot of back and forth it emerged that he was asking, essentially, "Why am I a separate person from everyone else?"
Perplexing question. After he'd asked repeatedly about this for a day or two, I emailed my friend Darren Bifford, the only working philosopher of my personal acquaintance (and, incidentally, an award-winning poet), who responded with this:
Wow. Well, a good old Neo-Platonic answer would be that your son, originally and eternally, is really one with the One (or "alone with the Alone") but obtained the distinctness he now questions when, as a necessary condition of Creation, the One became (or emanated) into the Many. Hence the separateness he feels is only a kind of illusion; like all other things, he too will return to the One. Indeed, his question tacitly expresses his deepest desire to make that return. I fear that your son may become a mystic or a monk or a philosopher. He therefore will not be able to support you in your old age. Don't blame him.
What do you tell him?
...dear lord, I can't wait to have kids. I really don't know what I'd say. There's that Buddhist answer: something about drops of rain and the ocean. Or the decent Christian answer: because if he wasn't separate, he wouldn't be able to experience the gift of being alive.
I ran all those past Luke and we talked about them. He wasn't satisfied; he wasn't not satisfied. He was kind of "Hmm." And "Hunh." I suppose you could say he was philosophical about it.
In preparation for similar lines of questioning, I googled philosophy and young children and found a book, unsurprisingly, called Philosophy and the Young Child by Gareth B. Matthews. This lovely book contains a lot of anecdotes about philosophical dialogues with young children, a lot of praise for children's books and their writers who are, in Matthew's opinion, "almost the only important adults to recognize that many children are naturally intrigued by philosophical questions" and the following encouragement for those adults, like me, who have little or no formal training in philosophy. (I didn't take even one philosophy course at university.)
The equipment needed to do philosophy is basically the understanding that anyone with a moderately good command of the language and the concepts it expresses already has -- plus great patience and the willingness to think about the (apparently) simplest and most fundamental questions there are.
To do philosophy successfully with children requires that one rid oneself of all defensiveness. I am embarrassed if I cannot tell my child how to spell "tonsillectomy" or how to convert degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius. But I should not be embarrassed to admit that I don't have ready an analysis of the concept of lying or a good, helpful response to the question, "Where are dreams?" Instead I should simply enlist the child's help so that we can try together to work out a satisfactory answer.
The combination of assets and liabilities that an adult brings to a philosophical encounter with a child makes for a very special relationship. The adult has a better command of the language than the child and, latently at least, a surer command of the concepts expressed in the language. It is the child, however, who has fresh eyes and ears for perplexity and incongruity. Children also have, typically, a degree of candor and spontaneity that is hard for the adult to match. Because each party has something important to contribute, the inquiry can easily become a genuinely joint venture, something otherwise quite rare in encounters between adults and children.