Ahh, cola

Today I was enjoying one of the side benefits of my current employment: free Coke.  There are always lunch meetings and other events that leave and excess of food and beverage available to those of us who like to mooch.  One such event left and almost-full 2-liter in the fridge, which I’ve already significantly depleted.  It made me wonder.  Am I addicted?

We’ve all heard stories about cocaine in our cola.  I went to The source of internet confabulation and discovered that the original recipe did call for use of coca leaves, as did all later varieties in some form or another.  Today, we get our coca supposedly in non-narcotic form from the Stephen Company, the only company in the U.S. allowed to import and process coca leaves legally.  100 metric tons per year have suddenly made Maywood, NJ all the more interesting.

But my original question remains unanswered.  Despite a lack of narcotic, what is the flavor effect of small amounts of coca extracts?  What is the appeal of a cola beverage?  The pure sugar content?  The fizz of soda water?  The caffeine?  The ads and product jingles that are typically unappealing anyway?  All these I could get in other ways.  There remains something as yet unknown, perhaps something as simple as a single event or childhood experience, that has burned the cola brand on my psyche.  Whatever the reason, I still like Coke.

A body is just a body.

Health professionals have noticed that women might not get the best treatment possible from their doctors due to researching and making their own interpretations, not asking questions, not recognizing gender bias, and not trusting their intuition.  The first two are understandable in the modern world.  With access to an increasing amount of information on the internet, of course we research and make our own interpretations more than might be healthy.  We might bias our own doctors with our assumptions, where medical professionals normally should have the experience that would lead them to better assumptions.  The last three are more difficult to understand.  After the ages when contemporary medicine told us our pain was due to a wandering womb, or the widespread appellation of hysteria during Victorian times, you might think we would’ve learned our lesson and been a bit more skeptical.

Why then, are we not asking questions?  Why are we not trusting our own judgment when it tells us something might not be right?  On reason might be the idea of medicine as law.  Medicine is one of the few hard sciences that every single person will encounter in their lives.  Despite questions of intelligent design and what should be taught in schools, the culture of this society has a healthy respect for science.  However, one of the key aspects of hard science that is often overlooked is that it is an exploration of the nature of things, a constant questioning, rather than a stable doctrine.  Yes, there are some ideas we’re pretty sure about, like the idea that the universe is expanding from what we can observe and the idea that smoking can predispose cells to become cancerous.  But we don’t know everything.  We’re still learning, especially in the area of personal health, rather than assured that certain symptoms are the result of a certain disease, or that certain lifestyles cause a longer, fuller life.

Another reason might be our own body image, and the idea of the physical form as controllable, at least to a certain extent.  There have always been ideas of clothing and face and body shape as an expression of who we are, both as individuals and as members of a particular class or society.  With a fuller understanding of our bodies as strictly physical, and plastic surgery and other body-modifying techniques, I think we tend to see ourselves as more changeable than we really are.  While our physical form is not the complete identity we possess, it is also more than a space where we are temporarily sheltered.  It holds a deeper connection to who we are, no matter how we control or change it.

Finally, one of my architecture professors dismissed my attempts to spare a few measly trees from the axe in one of my public park designs due to their physical shape.  He described them as not able to reach their true potential (either height or branch span) due to disease or impingement of sidewalks, structure, and power lines.  But a tree in the forest is also impinged upon, and is also subject to disease and lightening strike.  It does not make the form of the tree less appealing, or stop it from producing new leaves or branches, or simply living, as best it can.  We should not forget that about ourselves.