Candy, candy, candy, candy, candy! was what Garfield said in Garfield’s Halloween Adventure. “No room for breakfast. I must save room for all that candy.”
And yet, would you really want a diet that consisted entirely of candy?
Maybe you would for a day, but even then you’d likely get sick. And after a while you’d get really sick. Your body simply wouldn’t work anymore.
Imagine a world where our diets are all candy all the time. So much so that eventually there’s nothing left for sale except candy. The dairy, produce, meat, and grain industries have all gone out of business.
Now you have no choice but to eat candy. And you no longer love it. In fact, you hate it.
There’s a scene from Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Patience” that talks about one particular type of candy – toffee. The Duke comes in and listlessly greets his fellow soldiers. Here’s what he says:
DUKE: Tell me, Major, are you fond of toffee?
COLONEL: We are all fond of toffee.
ALL: We are!
DUKE: Yes, and toffee in moderation is a capital thing. But to live on toffee – toffee for breakfast, toffee for dinner, toffee for tea – to have it supposed that you care for nothing but toffee, and that you would consider yourself insulted if anything but toffee were offered to you – how would you like that?
COLONEL: I can quite believe that, under those circumstances, even toffee would become monotonous.
DUKE: For “toffee” read flattery, adulation, and abject deference, carried to such a pitch that I began, at last, to think that man was born bent at an angle of forty-five degrees!
You can see that the Duke isn’t really talking about toffee. He’s talking about flattery. A steady diet of flattery is no more healthy than toffee for breakfast, dinner, and tea, and he knows it.
There’s something going on in our culture right now that is similar to the ACATT (all candy all the time) diet. It’s the proliferation of short fluffy stories that catch our attention and require no intellect to read and understand. Don’t require us to evaluate them for truth. Don’t require any effort to wrestle with the content or ourselves. Sometimes called click-bait, they are effectively reading candy. And the more we consume this stuff the less capable we are of engaging with anything more challenging. Not only that, but people keep putting more out because they know it works.
Seth Godin wrote a blog post about this. Here’s a small snippet of his post:
The media has always bounced between pandering to make a buck and upping the intellectual ante of what they present. Now that this balance has been ceded to an algorithm, we're on the edge of a breakneck race to the bottom, with no brakes and no break in sight.
Vote with your clicks, with your sponsorship, with your bookstore dollars. Vote with your conversations, with your letters to the editor, by changing the channel…
Even if only a few people use precise words, employ thoughtful reasoning and ask difficult questions, it still forces those around them to catch up. It's easy to imagine a slippery slope down, but there's also the cultural ratchet, a positive function in which people race to learn more and understand more so they can keep up with those around them.
I am joining Seth to ask you to do the same. Vote with your clicks, your book purchases, your conversations, your television choices, and by engaging your mind and heart with some of the challenging conversation on this blog. Why? Because I don’t want us to be left with only candy on the shelves. Our teeth will rot. We’ll have a stomach ache. Our brains will stop working.
Just like with weight lifting, mental and emotional growth comes from stretching ourselves. Adding weight and repetitions. Reading and engaging with the classics. Understanding history, philosophy, science, poetry, music, and more. If you don’t have time to read, you can listen to books on Audible. Or watch. My dad is taking some free online courses at Yale . There are also sites like Lynda.com, Kahn Academy, CreativeLive, The Great Courses. At least for now the internet still has meat, vegetables, and fruit. Take advantage of it to learn and grow. If you want to engage with a community of people, try your local community college.
Don’t eat an ACATT diet. Try something you have to chew on a bit more – and that is ultimately much more satisfying.
How are you going to change your diet? Share in the comments. And if you're a writer or content creator, what are you doing to add diversity to our diets?