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Why Do We Have Grit In Our Gears?

by Mark Cammack    May 22, 2019

The left photo has a beautiful silver Swiss airin pocketwatch on a light bronze background. The center picture show a pocketwatch with Roman numerals in grey gritty sand. The right image is that of a pocketwatch with a see-through rear cover revealing the internal gears and mechanisms

On the left is a finely tuned Swiss pocket watch. In the middle is a timepiece that has fallen into grainy sand. The case protects the inside parts from the environment. To the right we see the enclosed precision gears and levers. Like many of our internal parts, these must be kept pristine to function well.

While there are many factors that affect health and performance, we would be remiss if the grit in our gears was left out of the picture. The clock and watch are used enthusiastically and talked about regularly in different subjects. In physics, the timing of events involving the smallest of subatomic particles to the largest of galaxies is important. Biology speaks of cellular and body clocks that affect everything from rates of maintaining youthfulness, growth, hormonal cycles and cell life span. In sports the auto, bicycle, and foot races rely upon dependable timing. Exercise recovery stages are also included. A timely response is needed in tennis. What do sprinters, swimmers and horses running laps have in common? The stopwatch, which would be better named a go-watch since it measures the speedy time of each event. How does your performance go?

The concept of time is useful in realizing the rates of change that affect us all. We depend upon smooth running clocks and their components. Imagine what the world would be like if all the devices were running at different speeds. We would have slow and fast performers. Time would truly be relative.

"Cells are little machines" - Dr. Gerald Cizadlo

To the left is a rear cover-off view of a silver Swiss Longines pocketwatch with some gold and silver colored gears. Stamped in gold letters are the words LONGINES, SWISS, 30L, 17 JEWELS. To the right is the enlarged colorized microscopic image of an open nerve cell. It is nearly round, light violet-grey on the outside, and blue, white, and orange inside.

Two types of machines: Left: A close-up of fine watch gears and mechanisms. If any grit gets inside, it can result in a malfunction, damage, or cause the machine to fail. Right: A colorized microscopic image of an opened nerve ending. There are many chemicals that may be in environments or foods that can affect human nervous system functioning, either positively or negatively.

Elongated orange, yellow, and blue representation of cellular processes including proteins, protein channels, lipids, carbohydrates, cholesterol, phospholipid bilayers with hydrophilic heads and hydrophobic tails.

Above is a representation of the very minute processes that take place in our bodies. Proteins and enzymes abound. Unlike the watch parts, these molecular machines are invisible in daily life because they are so tiny and inside us. Our existence depends upon the healthy functioning of cells. Classic superior clocks and watches use high quality gears and mechanisms. They are fine works of both art and engineering. How much more important are our bodies? We are made of cells that function as molecular machines. We have exchanged the gears for cellular enzymes, proteins, and pathways. Our time on earth and performance is dependent upon our parts being maintained. When our brain or body is exercised, we are not just working the mind or muscles, but multiple entire pathways. These exist in our environments from the smallest cell within us to everything we take in from outside of us. It is through interactions with foods, air, and direct contact that we experience the good things that nourish or the gritty things that are unhealthy. Focusing on negative information and having poor environments can rewire the brain. This changes its structure over time while lowering health and performance. Positive thoughts, experiences and surroundings can improve our well-being. It is the making of repeated wise choices in quality environments that build abilities.

A brown wood framed antique hourglass with the sand just beginning to pour down inside. It is sitting on a table with an antique Roman numeral clock to the left and a brass tin to the right.

An hourglass relies on grains of sand or similar to measure time. The parts fit and work as expected.

What happens if sand is slowly poured into a quality mechanical timepiece? Even a tiny amount can drastically affect functioning and life expectancy. The gears may wear excessively, jam completely and the teeth can break. If I asked about placing only one grain of grit in your fine watch, you may quickly respond with a resounding NO! It is not a sandglass! The abrasive grains do not belong in a gear driven device. Of course we would not want to cause damage to such an expensive item.

We can see the grit that hopefully never gets into our watch. It is not so easy to always observe the chemical grit that gets into our bodies. They can be small and invisible to the naked eye, and in the form of a gas, liquid, or solid. Detrimental things do not belong in us. Our gears may also be damaged, wear, or jam. If I inquired about putting only a little of a toxic chemical or damaging substance in your brain or body, your response may be stronger than NO! The toxin or item that disrupts any part of our body is not wanted. We would desire to keep ourselves running healthy, happy, and in perfect order.

What has happened regarding grit in our gears involves a few things. It is due to unawareness, delay of association of cause and effect in learning, incrementalism, unwise product use, and sometimes craftiness or avarice.

The toxins and things that affect us negatively or positively are often unnoticed. There may be no scent or knowledge that they are present. While they might not be initially detected, there is a chemical effect as what we breathe or come into contact with gets in our bodies. We are generally good at avoiding things that cause immediate demise. In a biology lab during college, a brown bottle of cyanide salt sat on the table. It was part of an experiment regarding cell respiration and hence life. The instructor told everyone never to use lab equipment for food preparation. He mentioned that some people place things such as pens or eyeglass stems in their mouths out of habit. We were advised never to do this, especially in labs! After such warnings, it was a relief when the work was completed and that bottle would be safely locked away. Instead, it was left on a cart in the hall until someone finally realized it needed to be in safe storage. Some things should not go unnoticed.

Picture of a historical black 75 pound Good Barbell Company barbell exercise plate with the one inch center hole. It is on a barbell bar resting on a specialty exercise rack.

An original 75 pound plate of a pair from the Good Barbell Company, founded by strongman and weightlifter Harry Good in the 1930's.

Awareness and the rate of awareness of effect is important. How quickly we know what helps or hinders us is crucial. Learning causes and effects is important. Some events affect us immediately, others over time. If we do things properly, we build. If done improperly, we break. Suppose we were to accidentally drop a 75 pound cast iron Good Barbell plate on our foot. Ouch! The result is immediate. It is easy to be aware of. If we dropped the disc on our foot, and the result took three months or three years to emerge, it may take longer to know the cause and effect. If the damage is sudden or not, would we want it? What happens when something requires weeks, months, or years to be noticed? We would most likely have a situation as we do now regarding health and ability.

Refined sugar (sucrose) uses some of the same metabolic pathways as alcohol, and is common in processed foods. Both sugar and alcohol have immediate effects from a single serving and long-term effects if regularly consumed over time. The immediate effect of sucrose is that the pancreas releases the right amount of insulin to regulate the blood sugar in most healthy persons. The long-term effects from repeated intake may include greater chances of obesity, central adiposity (belly fat), metabolic syndrome, and raised triglycerides that may affect cardiovascular health, to name but a few.

Lead acetate was used as a sweetener and is still used in some hair coloring products. Leaded gasoline was once common. In former times there were lead pipes for plumbing, hence the name plumber being derived from plumbum, which is Latin for lead. Mercury has been in cosmetics, babies teething formulas, foods, contact lens solutions, vaccines, and dental fillings.* Public pesticide awareness largely began with Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, and we still are being exposed as one toxin is taken off the market only to be replaced with another. There are various solvents used in industry and in paints that gradually evaporate as they dry.

One detergent manufacturer is currently pile driving their advertising message into consumer's minds that a strong smelling cleaner works better. Basing cleaning power on smell has no basis in chemistry but is rather a psychological trick. The manufacturer for their own benefit is telling the public what to believe. Our lungs need to breathe clean air and not pungent cleaners. Unscented natural detergents can clean well. The powerful artificial fragrance may be more grit in our gears.

In 2001 an investigative TV program was broadcast by PBS. In TRADE SECRETS: A Moyers Report, 84 chemicals were found in Bill Moyer's body that did not belong there. The list includes pesticides, carcinogens, PCBs, dioxins, and more. Many of the chemicals appeared in our home and work environments without adequate safety tests beginning in the 1930's to 1940's. In example, DDT was synthesized in 1874, used during World War II, and for sale to the public in 1945. Although banned in 1972 in the USA, it still turns up in medical tests. This is just one substance found in Mr. Moyer's body, he had 83 more. How many questionable chemicals do we want in us?

There has been an increase in the amount of what we are exposed to that is relatively new. This is recent in human history as technology grows. We did not coexist with or have to detoxify many of the chemicals and compounds formerly in time. With a burgeoning world population and use of new substances, the quantity we can be subjected to is immense. In contrast, there is fortunately also a consumer driven demand and market for healthier hypoallergenic and non-toxic items. These include cosmetics, cleansers, clothes detergents, and natural forms of pest control and lawn care. A question each one of us can ask regarding products is: Does this belong on or in my body?

The left photo is of the front of a fine brown carriage horse wearing black leather blinders while on a city street. A red 1968 Pontiac Firebird 400 car approaches in the back of the image from the horse's blinded side. The image to the right is of a man wearing a dark blue suit and blinders with a dollar sign on them. He has short brown hair and is alone on a beach with the ocean in the background. The words in the picture ask,

Horse owners may use blinders to keep the animal focused on a reduced view ahead. This can keep the creature from being spooked from events to the side or rear. Some people wear figurative money blinders that block out everything except financial or business goals. They see only monetary or company growth. Blinders in any form restrict awareness. Unlike the horse, a person can make life choices and strive to be a good human being.

The patterns regarding things that can affect us generally repeat. A product or chemical is introduced to consumers. It may or may not be known to have detrimental effects to humans by the manufacturer. The item often has some form of immediate benefit. If the product is harmful to health, those responsible may not openly acknowledge it. Profits are like blinders that can prevent the honest viewing of events. As long as the focus is only on business growth or the acquisition of money, all else is secondary. Once public awareness, evidence, and action reaches the tipping point, products may be withdrawn from the market as quietly as possible. This is sometimes done after the responsible persons are in a safe legal position, retired, or deceased.

An incrementalism can exist as more products of a given type can be found in use over time. What began as a limited number of items used in specific settings can grow to many types of similar products in general environments. If all the products with possible health and performance lowering difficulties were placed in our homes, schools, and businesses suddenly, they may be rejected. By introducing a little at a time, we do not react as much psychologically to the potential problem. Our bodies still can react chemically and health-wise. As we gradually have more things to deal with in our environments, we need to be aware of root causes that may impact us. The question to ask regarding anything in life is: Is it healthy?

To be aware of chemical grit in our gears and the effects is to understand a significant part of human health and performance. This is to the advantage of not just the individual, father, mother, husband, wife, child, student, or athlete, but also to schools, sports teams, businesses, workplaces, and health care facilities. If we can improve ability and wellness by eliminating what is counterproductive while providing what is healthy, we all win. It is time to eliminate the grit in our gears.

* Additional Links

For the book with more information regarding human health and performance click here

Cover of the book How To Double Brain And Body Power: A Remarkable Improvement Method

For more on mercury see: Mercury Toxicity: A Cause for Concern In Sports & Health

The PBS investigative documentary page TRADE SECRETS: A Moyers Report: is here


Some of the pictures and images on this page are derived and modified works, others are original works of author. All are © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. The author is appreciative of the original works and originators which may be found at:

Airin Swiss Pocket Watch: Pexels
Pocket Watch In Sand:
Pocket Watch Showing Gears: Pexels
Swiss Longines Pocket Watch Showing Gears: ephotographythemes by Ralf from Buenos Aires, Argentina
Nerve ending: Cell Image Library
Hourglass: Jordan Benton
Good Barbell Company 75 pound plate: Mark Cammack
Carriage Work Horse: Pixabay
1968 Pontiac Firebird 400: AlfvanBeem and Wikimedia
Man in suit on beach: Ieva Vizule of Riga, Latvia
Dollar Symbol: wpclipart

© Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.