Water Causes Cancer And Other Truths


Time Magazine has already called it “The Decade From Hell.”

(Couldn’t have been worse than the 1940’s?! Could it? I mean the 40’s had Hitler AND Stalin.)

And if you have survived the “aughts” reasonably intact as we caterwaul our way into 2010 with a health care package being vigorously stripped of all its progressive promises, an escalating war(s) and the seemingly insurmountable problems of mass poverty, financial instability and ecological meltdown, you might find yourself like me going head to head with an even heartier enemy: belief.

Who the hell am I supposed to believe anymore?

The more my guts tell me to embrace one side of a major issue, along comes a writer, a politician, a provocateur or some contrarian social scientist to tell me otherwise. And it leaves my brain reeling with Orwellian unease.

A few things I know for certain: global warming will kill us all (if the flu doesn’t first) and those people on Wall Street who engineered this whole financial meltdown are evil. (And Scientologists are crazy and will kill us all if globally-warmed bird flu fails.)

But do I know all the statistical, analytical whys and wherefores that make me so convinced of these assertions?

Unfortunately no but I’m working on it. (In the meantime, I let the incomparable Nicholas Kristof do my hard thinking for me.)

On that disquieting note, I have stumbled on a helpful compendium of some of the more “counter-intuitive” ideas that have become so fashionable, or overly-discussed or disputed during our troubled decade. (Via Bookforum)

What’s especially upsetting for an over-analytical person like myself is the sheer pervasiveness in every strata of life of counter-intuitive conclusions.

I can’t even fix my breakfast in the morning without wondering if my sex life is inadequate compared to a South Pacific Islander’s or if I’m using too much hot water for my oatmeal. Or if the water, the cleanest in the country isn’t still teeming with mercury.

And if my oatmeal isn’t steel-cut then I feel profound cardiac guilt.  But then I remember steel-cut is probably just a euphemism for field-hand exploitation.

While with trembling hands I prepare my carafe of French Press coffee, remembering at the same time that my friend has asserted that French Press coffee, because it retains the oils in the coffee bean, has a shitload of cholesterol.

How can coffee have cholesterol? It’s not made from animals!

You get the point. Sadly, this isn’t me doing my Woody Allen impression. It’s what happens in my head most mornings when I choose to ponder the options available to me for living a better, healthier and more meaningful life.

What are your favorite counter-intuitive ideas?

And how have they affected your ability to get up in the morning and face the day?

Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →