Snacking on Knowledge


UNITED STATES—Just like meals, snack times deserve full devotion and relaxation. Make them sacred. Practice making them free of distractions, which produce distracted coffee-drinking and distracted nibbling. Divided attention splinters satisfaction. But whatever we do intently is by nature more satisfying.

“Snacking on knowledge” is a little treat I hold out for myself right after a snack. It bridges that transitional moment so, instead of thinking about what’s next on the menu, I can ponder the next activity and make it alluring as almonds (one of my favorite snack foods). It is the moment to pull away from snacking pleasure, still magnetic, although the culmination of the snack has already been reached, and behind us lays munching pleasures at their sharpest, our mood at the mellowest, and it’s all downhill from there.

“Snacking on Knowledge” means free time on the internet. Like water in a bucket from a slow leak, the questions build up during the day, till the bucket is brimming and ready to overflow. Did William Inge die in Beverly Hills? What about mortal-disease-carrying mosquitos? How long does the average heart attack last? Snacking on knowledge is the anticipated moment when I get to scratch the day’s cumulative itch for all that trivia and grow as a person.

A key to fitness, as well as contentment, having something to really look forward to that can lure us from the table. This is the exact opposite of ‘I want my second piece of cake and I want it now,’ rather, this is ‘I want my cake and I want it two hours from now.’ In the meantime, we can develop the ability to flow effortlessly from task to task. If in the middle of one task, you find yourself dreaming about potato chips, God forbid, turn this into “snacking for fitness.” Instead of going into the kitchen, do a few push-ups or pelvic lifts from your chair, or walk around the block.

Where do people come into this? I can spend hours and hours in the office or in the garden, but when commitments to others or their presence wean me away from cherished routine, then it becomes tough. That’s the truth. Actual snacking becomes compulsive and automatic, and I will deny it all the attention and concentration it deserves, because I long foolishly for remembrances of snacks past. Or I sometimes long to be free of this jabbering presence, distracting me right now from this sacred snack. The answer to this vexation, which is my current homework to implement: putting the snack on pause and surrendering all my attention to that distracting person.

For sure we shouldn’t look down our noses at any person or thing that demands more focus. When it comes to things, I am happy to bend down and pluck up a weed or pick up a penny. That is, I am grateful for the micro-exercise, and every little bit helps my shape and state of mind. Some people excuse picking up a penny, saying it brings luck; I say it is money and makes me richer. It’s the best of both worlds, to be a shameless capitalist and flex those muscles.

Nor should we shy away from very big, seemingly endless labor, for ending is not the point. Some people think of Ronald Reagan as the man who saved the globe from domination by the Evil Empire. I prefer to think of Reagan as the man who cleared hundreds of acres of brush from his ranch near Santa Barbara and built fences for relaxation. It took years, but surely it kept the man lean and agile.

If you have the aim of improving your shape, no job or task is too menial. Cleaning sweeping, washing windows, chopping wood, scrubbing pots, pulling up weeds—the yield is that glow of energy and contentment that comes from a job well done. An old verse comes to mind:

Do the work that’s nearest,
Though it’s dull at whiles,
Helping, when we meet them,
Lame dogs over stiles.

Live this and you will be ready to enjoy a true snack, your mind and stomach undivided. Humorist Grady Miller is the author of “Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet,” available on Kindle.

By Grady Miller