The Farm Effect

Asthma, allergies, auto-immune disorders . . . . all have been on the rise over the past several years.  Of course, there is never just one reason for anything, and these conditions are no exception.  But one big contributor may be what’s been called the “hygiene hypothesis.”  This theory says that our over-emphasis on a hyper-sterile environment may be coming back to bite us in the bum.

Just as the  overuse of antibiotics has created “superbugs,” our fascination with things like hand sanitizers has resulted in another unintended consequence:  unhealthy immune systems.  Researchers are now realizing that our immune system needs to be tried and tested in order to function properly.

A 2002 study in Germany found that people who were born and raised on farms were less likely to have allergies and asthma.  Further studies have agreed with those findings.  Being exposed to the many microbes on a farm seems to have beneficial effects on one’s immunity.  In other words, the immune system needs to have a chance to learn how to defend itself against attackers, and then also learn how to simmer down when it isn’t being attacked.

To me, the take-away message is that into each life some rain must fall.  We can’t avoid the heartbreaks, the tears, the sniffles, the failures.  Our quest for perfection can only end in more suffering.

The Pain of Perfection

Why are some of us so powerfully drawn to pursue perfection, while others couldn’t give a rat’s patoot?  Is it a particular upbringing that makes some people so driven?  Or do some people just have an innate call to seek exactness and purity?

Sometimes I wonder if some people are just more “yang” and some are more “yin.”  And I wonder if those with more yang are just yearning for a return to the heavens, or spiritual perfection.  Maybe the messiness and struggle and imperfection of physical existence is too much to bear.

Striving for perfection, though, can cause  us to miss the beauty of “lessons learned” and the satisfaction of overcoming an obstacle.  I know some people who will quit if they can’t be perfect, and some people who will tear themselves down for failing to reach perfection.  I’ve certainly been guilty of beating myself up for not reaching a goal  or standard.  I’ve even carried that guilt around for years when it comes to certain issues.

But maybe we should remember the yin-yang symbol, in which the white section has a bit of black and the black section has a bit of white.  And maybe we should remember that yin cannot exist without yang and vice versa.  They are complementary and interdependent.

Maybe we can strive for excellence, and leave behind the pain of perfection.  Fruitlessly pursuing something that is not even possible seems to be a waste of time and denies us the joy of learning.


YinYang Symbol