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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Run Back to the Wild

The name of my blog are lyrics from the song To The Wild by the band Mother Mother. Although it's obviously a very extreme statement akin to giving up everything we know to be true and returning to cave dwellings, it feels strangely appropriate given how swallowed up some of us are in modern living, and how our modern culture is contributing to many of today's pressing issues.

I have now been at my job for two months, building an off grid house with timber framing construction. I have spent those two months in a cozy cabin at the opposite end of my boss's property, nestled in cozy isolation by a small pond and the cedar forest.
That's one hell of a big saw
Trying archery for the first time!
In those two months, I have gained wisdom and insights, both experientially and intellectually, towards living more wild. Living in the woods and working with wood, learning carpentry under the tutelage of an inspiring and gentle human being has been incredibly rewarding. In the midst of the work days, my boss Simon and I share intellectual and philosophical conversations and listen to tons of educational podcasts, which adds some texture to the work day.

I want to share some very basic insights I've learned with you. That which I share reflects my personal beliefs and philosophies, and are not stated as truth or dogma. My simple hope is that, if you are willing to read, you are open to what I have to share, which I do for the pureness of sharing, and without evangelism or condescension.

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We are born into the world and know it from the most basic perspective: our own. But that perspective is very limited in time and consciousness. When we see people living differently from us, we wrongly apply what we know about our own life to their situations, and see their perspectives as different and somehow wrong. Similarly, we learn about people living from a different time in the past, and we see it as primitive and un-cultured.
What is normal in India is simply out of the question in western countries. But is it wrong? Would you do it?
But take a bigger perspective, one that reaches beyond our own consciousness or perception of time, and we see how short sighted the way we live is.

If the Earth's history was condensed into a 24 hour day, humans would have emerged with just over 1 minute remaining in the day. And the emergence of agriculture and our modern civilization? A matter of seconds remaining in the day. Nature has had millions upon millions of years to evolve and create a habitable environment for complex organisms such as mammals. Humans took millions of years to slowly evolve to that environment, culminating in the cultural lifestyle of hunter-gatherer. This culture lived generally in a harmonious way with its environment, existing for at least 1.8 millions of years in this way (genus homo erectus).

Fast forward to today, and now more than half of the human race is living in an environment of asphalt, concrete and virtual screens, shut out from the environment we are naturally adapted to. Technology is changing our habitats much faster than humans can biologically evolve to adapt to it, creating all sorts of health issues, while pushing the natural environment to its limits.

So what should we do about it? Run back to the wild?

Well, yes. And no.
Getting in touch with my wild side - northern BC

The answer is not so straightforward, but essentially we need to find a better balance. While science is pushing frontiers of what humans can accomplish, study after study is exposing the human body's limitations to certain advancements. Study after study is also showing how living closer to our hunter-gatherer ancestors will put us in better balance with our environment, improving our health.

The human body is an amazing creation, the product of millions of years of evolution. It has an array of natural defenses designed to fend off illness and disease. The human body uses these defenses to maintain homeostasis, which is the tendency to maintain internal stability, by responding to stimuli.

Technology is undermining homeostasis in two ways. It is exposing our bodies to pollutants and chronic stresses which our bodies are not evolved to fend off. And it is shielding us from natural stimuli which prevent our bodies from developing its natural defenses, weakening them in the process.
Green clearings are essential in our sprawling urban jungles - Vancouver, BC

It can be argued that technology has come up with countless ways of improving our health, and that humans are living longer as a result. But countless scientific studies are showing that modern technology may be providing us with only short term solutions that are instantly gratifying, minimizing symptoms and providing comfort. Over the long term, these technologies are deteriorating our health.

In Part 2 of the blog, I will go into detail into some of the aspects of human health, how living more like our wild ancestors can actually restore our homeostasis and our health, and how my own experience in the woods has validated these insights. Link here

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