Saturday, January 26, 2013

Absurdist Quinoa

Quinoa field image from
My college years were spent at the University of Puget Sound earning a degree in French Language and Literature.  During my senior year, I became fixated on the existential theories of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.  In particular, my 21 year old brain and life understanding was captured by the idea of "absurism."

Absurdism, as I remember it 20+ years later, focused on the idea that the outcomes of our actions might have very little to do with our intentions. As a sort of morbid example - I might, hoping to make the world a better place one life at a time, hand a snack bar to a homeless person. Unknown to me they are illiterate and deathly allergic to peanuts.  So my act of generosity and goodwill would kill the very person I was trying to help the moment they opened my gift.

Somewhere in my mid 20s, existentialism and absurdism lost its magnetic hold over me.  I do find it popping into my thoughts from time to time as I'm sure the universe is laughing at my impotent human attempts to control the world around me.

Yesterday I came across a clear example of absurdism in everyday life.  It turns out those of us enchanted by the wonderful properties and health benefits of quinoa have inadvertently been destroying the cultures that survived on it for so many years. The Guardian reports about it here.

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