As I wander through the modern world of computer technology, short-sighted ideas, fancy… everything, and all manner of things I really just don’t find groovy, I wonder why I so often feel out of place immersed in my own culture.
While wandering in bare feet, clutching a real-life, string bound book, and listening to nature noises instead of an iPod as I stroll, the world around me seems like a big joke. Only, the joke is on everyone else. Everyone who buys into the system of buying new and expensive technology at every snap of the fingers, who feels compelled by societal expectations instead of joy, linger longer at the TV instead of glowing vistas. I tend to feel that this horrendous joke occurs because we overcomplicate things.
For example, I have gotten condescending comments and lectures from multiple people about my decision to run barefoot or in only sandals instead of fluffy shoes. These people insist that shoe technology is excellent and that I’ll end up with destroyed joints and flat feet if I continue to run barefoot, and strike in my forefoot instead of on my heel. The joke occurs when you consider that running shoe technology has only existed since the 70’s and injuries rose dramatically with the switch to heel-striking, and then consider that before the 1970’s, humans and our ancestors have been running barefoot for 2 million years. So, with fancy and fluffy shoes, you get more injuries. Yet, we buy into what shoe companies say without much consideration. We overcomplicate and pay the price.
Just like when we let minor incidents control our lives instead of the other way around. We overcomplicate, become stressed, have heart attacks.
I’ve come to the conclusion that inside every American is an inner-Paleolithic spirit trying to erupt! But it is battling the inner-American, who more commonly wins. I don’t know why this is. I just know that very often I feel inherently frightened of or disgusted by certain technologies. Sometimes I can provide a rational (at least to me) explanation, other times I can’t. Regardless, the emotion that something is not quite right is very real.
One of the common explanations I can provide is that certain technologies cocoon us from each other. No matter how you argue it–from a developmental standpoint, spiritual, mental, etc.–humans are not meant to be alone. We are a social animal. We function in packs, in families. Yet, the more we acquire our tastes to technology, the less we associate with our fellow man.
The new craze for renting videos from a box is a good example. Remove the human, drop the price, and you’ve got a sweet deal for movie watchers. But at what cost? By separating ourselves from each other, we lose who we truly are. We sink more and more into a mentality dependent on trivial thrills instead of real experience.
Which brings me to another point. A hypothesis I have heard suggests humans may have developed such strong emotions as a way to form strong bonds that would better enable us to survive against predators. After all, we are slow and weak against big cats. But work together and you have a better chance at survival. And yet, in our culture when we say, “Hey, how are you?” we don’t really mean it. The phrase has somehow changed into just a thing to say instead of a real question. If people say anything besides, “good,” we become uncomfortable and try to escape. Even supposedly good friends balk at emotions that are anything but pleasant. We aren’t real. We don’t support our fellow man, which would then enable him to support us. Instead we are focused on number one.
I am a product of my culture, as are we all. To a degree. But I like to think my Paleolithic self wins out sometimes. I already feel motivated to learn to be completely independent of anyone for food, energy, shelter, etc. I am by no means there yet. But time will aid.
And I already feel drawn to keep things simple: walk somewhere instead of drive; buy a book instead of a pseudo-book; run and hike in sandals or in bare feet; think of life as an endurance run instead of a skydive, see the long and big picture.
I have a great weakness of being a bit shy, which I find ironic considering I am an anthropology student. This weakness goes against the grain of what I stated above about building bonds. But, hey. We all have imperfections and weaknesses that can be turned into strengths. That is one of mine.
I really just want to shout about how amazing it is to be a human! Look at all we can create! Observe how we are the only ape not on the endangered species list! Remember how confusing it is to feel multiple emotions battle for attention! Reflect on how incredible it feels to put towns and cities and roads behind you and just absorb that earth! All species have their own special place in the world. All have capabilities that shock us. I just think we should really love what it is to be human! A real human, not a potato human!
I was listening to NPR recently. What I heard was startling. A man was trying argue in favor of killing wolves. He said that we as humans had conquered nature thus if the wolves were proving pesky, we could just kill them and be done with it. It is unfortunate that that man thinks in such a way. It is obviously unfortunate for the wolves, but also for himself and for any human who agrees.
We have never conquered nature. We never will. We are a part of nature. The more we try to conquer it, the more we suffer. And the sooner we remember that we are part of nature, not above it, the happier we will be.
Embrace nature, embrace our human origins and humanity, and the inner-Paleolithic human will become more content, bringing joy to your face. Instead of stress headaches.