Reflections of a Zen Master

This post was originally written in 2011.

Let me start out by saying I realize I have not returned to the States, wiser and more contemplative, from a three year stint living in a remote Tibetan temple.

I have, however, just returned from an extended trip to France, and as usual, feel somewhat reflective.  Listed below are five things that struck me as I stepped off the plane in Philadelphia after my transatlantic flight.

1) Television news media is crap, and I apologize for the insult to all self-respecting crap. I don’t care if you’re right-wing, left-wing, or chicken-wing, if you’re spending any time at all watching CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc., then you are wasting valuable time.  It is shocking what passes for news these days.

2) We eat way too much bad food.
One thing you have to give the French is their unwavering devotion to good food.  We in the States, unfortunately, don’t share the same passion, though things do seem to be improving a bit.  It’s no wonder we’re a nation of large, ever-expanding waist lines.  It’s difficult and expensive to eat healthfully in this country and easy and cheap to eat abundant amounts of low quality, calorie dense food.  I’m happy to see the surge in popularity for organically grown vegetables, the slow food movement, and urban farmer’s markets.

3) We need to amp up our recycling efforts.
It should be easy and convenient to recycle, not difficult and time consuming.  Recycling our waste in the States is still looked at as a fringe movement.
In France it’s a way of life.

4) May I please have more than thirty minutes for lunch?
As I passed numerous fast food restaurants in the airport it struck me that we Americans think that thirty minutes is more than enough time to zip through the drive-thru, gulp down a super-sized happy meal with a jumbo coke, and make it back to work with seconds to spare.  In France, it’s just about enough time to get halfway through your first glass of wine.  There’s something to be said for taking your time and enjoying good food and good company.

5) Some Tea Bag is going to read this post and think I hate America.
OK, I didn’t actually think this as I stepped off the plane, but I’m allowed to take a little artistic license now and then, right?

Dirk Dominick

9 responses

  1. I’m an American living abroad too (French Caribbean island) so I though I’d add my 2¢…

    1.) American news has been crap for years. Even before I went abroad (6 year ago) this was evident to anybody with a brain.

    2.) America definitely eats too much garbarge/inadequte food. Having said that, there is probably more diversity in the available food in America than in France. Good food in America is certainly within reach of many Americans. As to why they choose to eat poorly, frankly, I’m baffled by that.

    3.) Personally, I found recycling to be much more progressive in the US than I’ve experienced in my little corner of France. Granted, I’m referring to the French Caribbean rather than mainland France but here we only recycle glass & cans. Compared to America where I had to seperate my trash into about four different bins (glass, plastic, cardboard & paper, everything else) I find it too be a rather pathetic attempt an recycling here.

    4.) Although I agree that the 30 minute American lunch is generally a sad state of affairs, I have to admit that sometimes it’s nice to have the choice of a quick lunch. I usually prefer the French dining experience (I do live here after all) but it does have an oddly monolithic quality too it. That is to say that the ‘experience’ of French dining is typically the same everywhere, whether it’s a fancy restaurant or an inexpensive sidewalk joint; appéritif, entré, plat principle, dessert, café… Two to three hour meals start to become quite tedious when you’ve actually need to finish some work. Somewhat counterintuitively, because of the French dining culture, I find myself skipping more meals than I ever would normally.

    5.) No, I certainly don’t think you hate America. No place is perfect and everyplace should be subject to constructive criticism. And frankly I enjoy this website. The info presented here is very much appreciated as I enjoy both the south of France and the Hitchcock movie To Catch a Thief. The on-site location research has been very insightful. Keep up the great work!

    • Brian, I have to say that may be one of the best, most insightful comments I have ever received on Le Stuff. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I have been absent from Le Stuff for several months now but comments like yours provide ample motivation for me to continue writing. It’s time to get on with TCAT locations! I must also admit that I had some initial difficulties dealing with long lunches in France. I would start to get very antsy at around the hour and fifteen minute mark and sometimes would even feel the need to get up and stretch my legs. I have, though, gotten better with practice! Thanks again Brian.

  2. I like and agree with all you write. This one is especially good: “There’s something to be said for taking your time and enjoying good food and good company.”

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