Monday, August 18, 2014

Soil vs. Sadness

No matter which way you cut it, this week has been a monster with particularly goopey eyes. Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, the frustration in just hearing the words Ferguson, ISIS, or Gaza…. As one friend put it, “this [crap] makes you rethink a disbelief in cosmic convergence.”

I have two words that don’t pretend to solve any collective sadness, but two words that, nonetheless, are worth considering: Microbacterium vaccae.

I’ll save you the trouble of going to Wikipedia.
Mycobacterium vaccae is a nonpathogenic[1] species of the Mycobacteriaceae family of bacteria that lives naturally in soil. Its name originates from the Latin word, vacca (cow), since it was first cultured from cow dung in Austria.[2] Research areas being pursued with regard to killed Mycobacterium vaccae vaccine include immunotherapy for allergic asthma, cancer, depression, leprosy,[3] psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and tuberculosis.[3]

This bacteria is the stuff that *may* up serotonin production.* Serotonin, as we all know and love, is the happy neurotransmitter. This isn't bull shit (har har). We need it.

Maybe getting a little dirtier would be a good thing.

Maybe there’s a reason why mud baths are so expensive, and (supposedly) so awesome. I don’t know of what I speak. I’ve never had an expensive mud bath. Should start a kickstarter fund to go get a mud bath at a proper spa.  

Mycobacterium vaccae raises questions about a lot of things. About pica (dirt eating). About eating unwashed things from my garden. (Think tomatoes, not old socks.) I know I’m likely to eat a bit of dirt while I’m out there. Don’t judge me.

It also raises other questions. About what exactly happens when we get our hands dirty in the garden. About “kids these days” playing their “dang video games” instead of “going out and getting muddy.” About even how dang video games can send us out to go get muddy.

The dang video game that I love the best is SuperBetter. It’s a game brought to us by the genius, Jane McGonigal (author of Reality Is Broken).You can play alone, but it is better when you play with others. You do things in real life (“power-ups”) that will give you points in the game. My favorite ones send me outside to dig in the dirt. 

Check it out. Heck, send me a note and I’ll play with you.

We all need each other right now, and always. We need a relationship with soil, now and always.

I’m not disconnected from reality. Neither rubbing soil all over one’s self nor eating mud-pies are medically suggested cures for depression. Nor will they cause a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. Or Missouri. Furthermore, I cut and pasted that Science from Wikipedia—that isn’t gospel.

But if you want to dig deeper into the science behind mycobacterium vaccae, do it. Next time you feel like crap and feel the temptation to lose yourself in cat videos on the internet, try something else first. See what happens if you go in your back yard and dig for a while instead. Bring a friend. Tell them that you love them.

(My dirty dog.)

In case you don’t feel like reading anymore, here’s a video of Jane McGonigal explaining Super Better:

Super Better:


*This is “may” as in “maybe might.” For the sake of being sensible, know that I am not a medical doctor and am not offering medical advice.

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