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We are what we eat

Ansel Adams fills us with wonder. So does Hamilton, Dr. Seuss and Toni Morrison. Rachel, Tucker, Maureen and Rush fill us with something else. What are you heaping on your plate these days?

For some time now, it’s been an agreed upon fact that if you can afford to make fruits and vegetables part of your daily diet, you should. Expensive, perishable and not as fun as pizza but nonetheless, we eat them if we can because they help keep our insides running smoothly. What may have been easier to ignore is that what we put in front of our eyes and into our ears changes our insides too.

As anyone who has ever cried reading a book or danced to music can attest, we can be made to feel anything. From vitriol to boredom to tear-jerking compassion, we choose our emotional state when we choose our media. Will we gorge on delicious righteousness, soothe ourselves with carby platitudes or fill our plate from less unappetizing salad bar of nuance and agonizing complexity?

There’s nothing terribly fun about facing the world as it is. It takes a certain kind of intellectual stamina to go looking for different versions of the story, where you will undoubtedly discover you are at least a little wrong, somewhat misinformed, biased, out of date or stuck in partisan thinking.

But of course we are. We’re just people, people emerging from idiosyncratic childhoods run by slightly older people coming out of their own your-father-and-I-tried-our-very-best-honey experiences. (Maybe remembering that could make us more forgiving.)

Our greatest single act of agency is deciding what to feast on. What music, podcasts and conversations? What documentaries, sit coms and specials? What articles and books? Whatever goes in our ears and in front of our eyes is the foundation of both our thinking and our moods. This is especially true when our live interactions with others are so drastically reduced. I’ve heard that we are an average of the five people we spend the most time with. I don’t know about you but I’m down to two, my husband and my 17 year old. That means my pretend friends — i.e. the people I read, watch and listen to — better be damn good.

Because we pick our advice when we pick our advisor, and we pick our mood too.

Kelly’s podcast series about questioning conventional wisdom, Kelly Corrigan Wonders, is available now.

Written by

New York Times bestselling author, host of new podcast: Kelly Corrigan Wonders and PBS show: Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan

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