We’re sensorially deprived right now in modern life. Our eyes are engaged — sometimes our ears — but our bodies? Not so much. These aren’t just bags of bones we’re carrying around. When we cook, when we garden, when we make things with our hands, we’re engaging all of our senses and that has — in ways we don’t really know how to quantify — deeply positive effects on our mental and physical health.
Writes Michael Pollan in “The End of the World as We Know It” in Issue 6 of Lucky Peach. Cooking, gardening, yes, good for body and brain. Getting your hands on raw earth and dirt, flesh of squash and flesh of pig or lamb. I don’t have a garden, but I get a calmer, better feeling after I water the plants. Does that count as quantifying? Pollan doesn’t mean to limit his argument to food and its preparation. Building, knitting, carving, tuning up a bicycle, making a painting or a necklace, using body and brain in synch to create something out of nothing, all these acts, that require patience and practice, yield eventual satisfaction, a satisfaction specific to making something with your own hands that you can eat or use. And in terms of positive effects on mental and physical health, I think this sort of satisfaction might be one of the most important feelings to cultivate.