Choosing Prophets

Prophet Jesus

Most modern religions have prophets. Christianity has Jesus, Islam has Muhammad, and Buddhism has Buddha. What is a prophet? A prophet is simply someone to look to as a guiding light, your North Star as you make countless decisions throughout your life and throughout your days. Christianity even has an expression, "WWJD" (What would Jesus do?) to stress the importance of looking to this prophet when making a decision. A prophet is not God, but a prophet may be a messenger of God, someone who has or had a line of communication with the almighty. In Buddha's case, the almighty is enlightenment.

Like religion and prayer (and vegetables), prophets have withstood the test of time and their stories make it easier for followers to get the rules right. The problem with Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Abraham, and Moses (where the ladies at!?) is that they were prophets from thousands of years ago. While some of their religions' rules and frameworks are quite helpful in today's world, many are outdated and irrelevant at best, or downright harmful at worst.

The very religious South American country of Chile is having an HIV epidemic because everyone is so Catholic that they're afraid to talk about sex [1]. Teenagers aren't educated on sex because it's assumed that no teenagers are having sex until they're married. And then when young people contract HIV, they hide it from their families, afraid of the shame it will bring. As a result, the vicious cycle of HIV continues, everyone too devoutly religious to step up and confront the fact that young people are having pre-marital sex and to provide proper sex education. Two thousand years ago, when condoms didn't exist and sleeping with someone's wife could mean execution, abstinence before marriage may have been an extremely useful rule. But in today's world, it may cause more harm than good in places like Chile.

Similarly, in Judaism, there are rules and frameworks for what to eat. Jewish dietary law allows eating only animals that both chew their cud and have cloven hooves [2]. Chewing cud refers to the process of an animal regurgitating its food in order to digest it for a second time in a separate stomach. Cattle, deer, sheep, and goats are some examples of animals that chew their cud. The Torah explicitly lists camels, hares, and pigs as being impure, either because they don't regurgitate their food, or they don't have cloven hooves. Chickens do not have hooves at all and do not chew their cud, but are for some reason still kosher. While the Torah is quite specific about most animals, it’s vague when it comes to birds. In regards to seafood, fish must have fins and scales to be kosher. Since shellfish, lobsters, oysters, shrimp and clams don't have fins or scales, they're forbidden.

There was probably an abundance of wisdom in kosher law two thousand years ago. Entire books could be written exploring each rule and dissecting its origins. As one example, many early cities had terrible water pollution problems where garbage and waste made their way into the shallow waters of the sea, where most shellfish lived. By astutely avoiding shellfish, Jews were able to avoid some of the sickness caused by consuming polluted waste. Suffice it to say, in a world of factory farmed cattle and sustainably-raised oysters, choosing a protein to eat is more nuanced than observing the shape of an animal's foot, and kosher law is not entirely applicable to today's world.

Our prophets of the ancient past–their rules and frameworks–must be replaced, or at least supplemented, with prophets of the current, many of whom borrow lessons and wisdom from the early prophets. Having a prophet is like a shortcut or cheat code to life. You can rely on someone else to figure out the challenging problems and you can reap the rewards. I have multiple prophets in my life; a single prophet doesn't cut it. The modern world is a lot more complicated now than it was thousands of years ago, and I can't rely on one person to be an expert in every relevant area of life. Even if there were a person who had spent a lifetime learning from their own prophets, that person's lessons would soon be obsolete. There are certainly core principles that have withstood the test of time, but specific guidelines for making better day-to-day decisions are in need of constant updates.

If you’re Catholic, your parents are/were probably Catholic. Most people don’t choose their own religion or prophets; they’re born into them. Your prophets were chosen for you. To decide to follow a different set of prophets would likely result in excommunication. I think we should be able to choose our own prophets, and if your prophet isn’t working for you, pick a different one. Here are a few examples of my current prophets:

My MOVEMENT prophet is Nat Viranond, my trainer and good friend. I don't stress myself out looking into all the nitty gritty details of exercise science because I trust Nat and know that he will. I trust him because we've built a foundation of trust over several years. I didn't google "trainer in San Francisco" and immediately make him my prophet; but rather, I was introduced to him by another good friend and he proved himself to me over time, helping me fix my back pain and move like a human again.

My NUTRITION prophet is Paul Jaminet. I had spent the better part of my 20s trying to really understand health and nutrition, and Paul's book Perfect Health Diet was the first book I read that really resonated with me. Before Paul, my health prophet was Mark Sisson and his blog. Mark introduced me to looking at diet through the lens of evolution and Paul builds on Mark's ideas by applying a lens of scientific rigor and logic that I appreciate.

My BUSINESS prophet is Elon Musk. He doesn’t do everything right in my opinion, nor does he share all of his business insights with the world, let alone me, but his determination, strategy, and ambition are qualities I strive for in my businesses, and I look to his strategies and successes as examples of how to run businesses. “What would Elon do?” is a starting point for business guidance, but far from a complete guide book.

I think that prophets get me 80% of the way to optimal, which is probably good enough for most people in most areas of life. For me, in the case of health and nutrition, an area I'm passionate about, 80% isn't good enough so I do a lot of my own research to get closer to 100% optimal health. In the case of exercise, I feel good about 80% and haven't gone down the exercise science rabbit hole. I rely on my exercise prophet Nat pretty heavily because I've gotten results. Like with prayer and meditation, I stick with it because it works. If it stops working, it's time to consider a new prophet. It’s a constant evolution, not an eternal ideology.

Relying on others is what has gotten us to where we are, in a good way. Civilizations and economies are built on specialization. I specialize in fish hooks, you specialize in furs, we trade and everyone's happy and more efficient, creating more free time to do things that give us meaning. Maybe my trainer Nat looks to me for nutrition prophecy the same way I look to him for exercise prophecy. We trade our specialized knowledge and are both better off as a result, on our way to more meaningful lives.

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