I apologize if I'm rehashing a topic that has been addressed, but I've been mulling Mark Sisson's comments regarding other aspects of living in a manner more consistent with our ancestral upbring. As I think about my own life and look at the world around me, so many things just strike me as empty. The accumulation of material possessions, the job that exists mainly to pay for those possessions, the hours spent at a desk and in front of a computer, and the related lack of meaningful connections. It just doesn't seem that wholesome or rewarding. That being said, its quite tough to break out of the rat race. Plus, when you have a successful and modern life, there is very little sympathy if you find it unfulfilling.
Any comments? Are my thoughts off base?
Alternatively, omitting details like reality, what would an idyllic life be? What sort of social system? What sort of work?
For me, peace and well-being is about accepting that life will inevitably be a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant experiences. No way around it. On days when I can accept that, I feel content no matter what my circumstances.
It's all tied together, isn't it?
I highly suggest reading the book Your Money or Your Life. Another good one is A Reasonable Life by Ferenc Máté. Some awareness can help you align your values with your approach to life. The noise of the modern world will lead you to believe that there is one way to happiness. One common misconception, for example, is the idea that to be successful and live the American Dream you must own a house. Yeah, that worked out really well for a lot of folks recently, didn't it? While everyone was going crazy buying a depreciating asset for ridiculous amounts of money and debt, you would've come out ahead had you waited it out in a rental and socked away all the extra at modest interest. Now's the time to be buying, but no one's crying about it from the rooftops anymore. Funny, isn't it.
My personal view is that you do have to deal with the world and its rules to some degree, but you also have to know when and how to reject it.
Yeah, it's not very nourishing is it? A good friend of mine told me when I was really depressed, "I don't know what you're looking for, but you're not going to find it sitting on the computer in your room."
My apartment was burglarized twice in two weeks, and my computer was of course stolen. I already live a pretty minimalist existence, but suddenly, there was no computer netherworld to dwell in between every event in my life. My choices were eating, reading, calling someone, leaving the house, drawing or sleeping. That's it. I forgot that life actually consists of these options, and always has, but the internet kind of grotesquely mimes a bunch of other options. Still not sure quite what I'm hoping for when I check my inbox all the time. Entertainment can be pretty lonely, but it constantly promises to alleviate that loneliness. The month or so without a computer was very instructive. The burglar had nothing to steal the second time around, but I was a lot happier.
I think a lot of people make a living, but don't feel particularly useful, of service to their fellow humans, or part of a real community. There's an interview with David Foster Wallace where he refers to our supposed right to gratify every one of our immediate desires as a strange kind of slavery.
I think you're right. It's easy to get trapped in the cycle and it's easy to NOT think about it, because we have this modern idea that if you're busy, you must be doing something worthwhile, so people feel satisfied just with being busy, and it takes a lot of courage to step back and say "ok I'm busy, but what am I busy doing? Is there actually a point to it?"
The worst for me is the continuous degeneration of the social structures that we rely on for support - from the extended family to the nuclear family to the single person. I live thousands of miles away from my nearest family member and I'm externally "successful" (well-paying job etc.) but internally miserable because I'm completely isolated with no social support except through the phone. It really isn't worth living for but this is apparently the new normal - most of my coworkers/acquaintances (I don't really have friends) live like this too and they don't seem to have any trouble with it.
My idyllic life would include a job that actually made a difference to someone, somewhere in the world, and a strong social support network.
My idyllic life: small, sturdy house in the woods. Land with potable water nearby. My guy in a plaid shirt chopping wood and occasionally walking up behind me to kiss me on the neck. Me hunting with a bow for our dinner (because he couldn't do it and I love him even more for that). A few little cavekids growing up in the sunshine. Garden. Vegetables. Hard work that is good work because it makes something. Showering outside because we're using the bathtub to make whiskey. A really bitchin' insect collection.
Having many more of those moments in the woods when everything is so quiet and right that it feels like there is a tuning fork in my chest.
Thanks for the interesting insights. Ummm... The Unabomber thing wasn't really what I was going for. My thinking was more along the lines of there being more to ancestral living than diet. We were programmed to have meaningful and ongoing relationships with a core group of people (or so I think). And, we have replaced this with stuff and a stuff driven life. And, it's super hard to hop off the moving walkway once you've hopped on. And, it's easy to hop on because there are a ton of onramps. And, I start too many sentences with and. So, the quest for a paleo life is more than diet but truly living in a way that's closer to what we were programmed to do. In the same way that the sad diet beckons at each stoplight, so the shallow life beckons at each commercial.
Often I think idyllic life would be communal living, hunting, gathering, building shelter, growing vegetables/fruits, digging wells for water, making clothes, etc. Of course, until I've actually tried it for a while, no way to know if I'd like it any better. Goes without saying, you'd have to give up a lot of modern conveniences. I like to think that wouldn't be a problem, but who knows. Few things stopping me from trying it:
Hm. Everyone has a different idea of an idyllic life, but there are definitely ways to get out of the cycle you've described and try something else.
There are intentional communities of people doing this. Try visiting www.ic.org, for a start. I also recommend the periodicals Dwelling Portably and the Caretaker Gazette for different ideas of lodging.
You can also change your life in smaller steps, right where you are. Get a cheaper place to live. Sell your stuff. Switch to part-time work. Sell any car(s) if you own them, and walk/bike/take public transit. It can make each day more lively and interesting, and will obviously cost less, saving you money and allowing you more options.
Beware of big investments/financial drains. For example, if you don't currently have children or own a house, think very carefully before adding that kind of complication.
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