Ever feel like you are swinging on a pendulum between inspiration and despair? On the one hand, something inspires you- a book, a quote, a person- and you become possessed with the need to change; to begin physical training, eat better, reduce stress, change your life or maybe test your comfort zones. Maybe you actually act on this, maybe you don’t. Either way, at some point your motivation fails because “real” life gets in the way.
Five thousand inspirational quotes, renewed willpower, increased self-discipline, self-help books and Oprah re-runs might give you a temporary spark but they are just not enough to power you through long work or school hours. Nor are they enough to meet the endless obligations and dilemmas presented by modern life. You have stalled, again, and it seems there is nothing you can really do. Life asks for so much…
So is there any hope for us to deal with the inspiration and despair pendulum?
I am an avid believer in individual choice, action and our ability to impact our lives. However, maybe we need to consider that willpower, discipline and inspiration are not always enough. In fact, we should ask why we need so much of those in the first place. Maybe we need to consider that modern civilization creates an existence that does not work well for humans?
Just like you can’t out exercise a poor diet, you can’t “out inspire” a life that does not work for you.
The Paradoxes that Modern Civilization Creates
1) With the advent of the agricultural revolution, food became “locked up” meaning humans chose, or forgot how, to eat in the wild and became reliant on purchasing agriculturally-developed food. This resulted in the development of labor, hierarchical societies and many of the dilemmas of modern life. Now, we work to pay for a lot more than our basic survival needs; we work to establish our place in the social hierarchy of modern society. This comes with a great price, as many of us work jobs we hate to by shit we don’t need (courtesy Tyler Durden) and as a result we become nature-deprived, hyper-dependent, over-obligated, time-starved, sick and depressed.
2) Modern humans needed to develop the concept of “fitness” because our lives now require little movement. Fitness was not a concept but rather a by-product of ancestral/ hunter gatherer life, as movement was fundamental to basic survival and life needs. Modern, civilized humans must will themselves to achieve “fitness” because very little movement is required for survival. Fitness is something that must be added to our everyday lives rather than being encapsulated within it.
3) Modern humans needed to develop concepts of “diet” because there is now an abundance of unhealthy foods ready to be had with minimal effort. We needed to develop a means to resist and monitor what we eat because many modern foods lead to obesity and a host of health conditions- and they are everywhere. With the exception of avoiding harmful foods and substances, hunter gatherers did not have to make decisions between what is healthy and what is not healthy because their natural environment provided them with only nutrient-dense, healthy, wild foods.
These paradoxes of modern civilization make up the seemingly unavoidable framework of our lives and contribute directly to the modern movements of self-help, stress reduction, fitness, diet, inspiration and over-reliance on the healthcare system. They exist because we need them to counter a modern life environment that calls for too much passionless work and societal pressures for achievement, while demanding little movement and surrounding us with quickly-accessible, highly unhealthy food.
If these are some of the characteristics of living a modern, civilized life, I am proposing living less civilized.
Am I attempting to glamorize ancestral or hunter gatherer lifestyles as perfect? Am I suggesting we all go back to living like cavemen? Absolutely not. Nor am I willing to abandon or advocate for the abandonment of all modern luxuries and culture. We can, however, reinvent our lives by changing the framework on which we see and live our lives. This is about doing something new, rather than doing the same things that have not worked in the past. We don’t have to question whether something new could work on a large scale or if it could save the world. In the spirit of re-invention, experimentation and exploration we just have to start making small and steady changes NOW.
My assertion, is that humans need the following to avoid the pendulum between inspiration and despair:
- To develop an understanding of how to create a work situation that does not completely compromise our beliefs or deprive us of a healthy existence.
- To become self-reliant and self-sufficient through acquiring new skills, such as requiring less possessions, learning self-defense, developing the ability to hunt, gather and to function in a wild environment.
- To develop the ability to care for our bodies and minds though understanding our environment and the ability to identify and eat nutrient-dense, unprocessed food while becoming less reliant on health care.
- To develop an understanding of evolutionary psychology as it relates to social interactions and relationships.
- To engage in questioning and creative thinking.
- To be part of something: relationships, family, a movement (a tribe) and to also be equally individualistic.
- To allow time to rest, play and simply experience life; to be “no one.”
I will be discussing, in more depth, my intentions, experiences, and findings in a series of posts explaining my experiments with living less civilized. I can tell you that I will be doing things that I have never done before while reporting my findings and offering you ways to “live less civilized.”
What do you think? Can we become less susceptible to the pendulum between inspiration and despair?