As it turns out, I’m a victim of gluten. While it has ruined my gut, can I actively push back against my oppressor?
I have suspected I have some sort of wheat indigestion issue for four years now. I have still done no research on the issue whatsoever. I have seen neither dietician, nor doctor, nor that one friend I only talk to when I have a medical question.
The first time I heard about gluten, my whole definition of personal responsibility changed. In my early twenties, I welcomed afternoon food comas. Slouching in a starchy haze cocoon was a welcome relief from the drama of days spent telling everyone I already knew everything. Eventually, I started to feel permanently exhausted. I was lost. Until one day I was told the exhaustion, trapped wind and the general sense that everything wasn’t going to work out OK, weren’t my fault: it was gluten. My relationship to myself shifted completely.
Previously, every potato-stuffed pizza bagel would be followed by an inexplicable existential crisis. I would slip into a state where I was a stranger to myself. Then I remembered this feeling was described by Albert Camus in his equally existential novel L’etranger. “I am a stranger to myself,” Meursault says, before killing a man on a beach for no reason. No reason? I suspect he consumed an entire family-sized panini at the beachside Mövenpick. The ensuing gluten haze separated him from his true self, leading him to commit murder. The 21st century Johnny Cochran will undoubtedly be whoever coins “the gluten defence”.
I suspect that the gluten defence would raise several points. First of all, highly indigestible wheatpaste clearly impedes you from living life to the max. Maybe there could be an app for that. An app that tracks your lifestyle relative to your optimal self and tells you what percentage of “the max” you are currently operating at. As well as the exact percentage of gluten in your bloodstream preventing you from being the you that skydives. Would murder be an absolute zero? What if murder was your calling? Could this app be calibrated for murder as existential fulfilment?
“I am a stranger to myself,” Meursault says, before killing a man on a beach for no reason. No reason? I suspect he consumed an entire family-sized panini at the beachside Mövenpick.
This defence also raises the question as to whether or not you can have both gluten and free-will in your body at the same time. I think not. Consider the following thought experiment: freedom= freedom to eat whatever we want/we want to eat pizza/pizza makes us tired/ pizza is slavery/ freedom=slavery. Five steps. That’s how close gluten takes us to a totalitarian regime.
Finally, the gluten defence would consider the cycles. The cycles of violence engulfing our species are ancestral and hard to break. As are the cycles of gluten ingestion and existential alienation. They go back far. There was no gluten coma in the garden of Eden. In pre-agrarian times, if you wanted to food nap all afternoon you had to binge-hunt megafauna in the morning. And giant ground sloths usually didn’t even wake up until 3pm. Archaeology thus tells us that gluten is the original fad diet. I imagine the resentment of the hill people looking down on the first sedentary farmers thinking “Look at Gilgamesh eating that yeasty flatbread like he’s better than everyone”. That’s when they decided to attack the settlement. After that, the villagers put up a wall and took up arms, and that’s how war was born.
So I started thinking about all the wars. Wasn’t WWII partially caused by the Haber process, a process that allows you to grow more wheat, which is gluten? And those angry mobs of gamergate video gamers, does their hate not really come from cheap ramen? Or unrealistic expectations of digestion fostered by years of watching Mario chain-eating mushrooms, in between battling reptilian megafauna?
Did all my relationships fail because of my glazed over post-pasta indifference?
In the end, I can’t know. If I really wanted to know, I would need a machine that can explore parallel gluten-free universes. Or at least a time machine. Which would come in handy so we could all go back to 2013 when extended gluten jokes were still fresh.