Ballad of an Unknown Gun
I knew that the Golden Age was all about me,
and it was we who had been blind to it,
but that it had never passed away from the world.
I am a hunter-gatherer. My food is wild and free. And so am I.
We all want to be free. We want to be wild, which is only natural. It’s what we’re born to be. What we’re born to be is what “natural” means.
How can we be free? We can’t all just quit our jobs and forage. Or can we?
I’ve been teaching foraging for over twenty years. There are four objections that I hear time and time again. Most people can’t even express these concerns; they are unconscious assumptions. They are:
1. Foraging is too dangerous.
2. Foraging is too much work.
3. Foraging hurts the environment.
4. There’s not enough in nature for all of us.
Our assumptions about foraging are assumptions about LIFE:
1. Life is dangerous.
2. Life is hard.
3. Just living hurts the environment.
4. There’s not enough in the world for all of us.
It is my belief, and to a great extent, my experience, that none of these statements are true. They only appear to be true from the perspective of the modern person. By “modern,” I mean civilized. Civilization has been around for at least 10,000 years. Humans have been around for at least 300,000.
If a civilized person attempts to forage, it will very likely be dangerous. It will be difficult. They will hurt the environment. And soon, there won’t enough for us all. After all, the word forage means “to pillage.”
Foraging is what we’re doing now. It’s the history of agriculture, which has been the most destructive thing humans have ever done to the planet. If that’s news to you, read Coming Home.
Today, there’s understandable concern about gun control. There’s fear about nuclear weapons. But humanity’s first and foremost “gun,” it’s first weapon, is agriculture. And you can’t control guns when you live in an aggro culture.
We have set ourselves against nature. We are fighting to break free. Free of what? What the hunter-gatherer knows is that we don’t need to grow food; food grows itself. And if we continue to grow food, we will soon destroy what’s left.
Today, most of our ideas about the world are backwards. This is what makes civilization unnatural, and what is unnatural can never work.
The good news is, it doesn’t have work. And we don’t have to either. Hunter-gatherers never work. Their lives are easy. Our lives can be easy. We can all be free — IF we are wild.
Although few of us want to forage, we all want to be free. Being free is not about foraging. It’s not about having lots of money. It’s not about having or doing anything. There is nothing you can do to get yourself free, to free yourself from whatever you think is holding you down or holding you back. It’s impossible. And that’s the best news I could possibly share.
Getting free is a spiritual quest. It’s often called liberation. It’s also called enlightenment. In Hindu terms, to be liberated is to live life as lila, play, not maya, illusion. The civilized person lives in illusion. It looks like this:
In an open field, a man is curled up, clearly struggling. You come up to him and he says, “please help me! I can’t get these chains off me. I want to get out of this room!” How do you help this person?1
Is there enough food in the world for all of us? Enough clean air? Enough water? Enough fossil fuel? Enough money?
The idea of “not enough,” of scarcity, is an illusion. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It comes from living in Scare City. But we are not boxed in. There is plenty of room for everyone. We don’t have to be scared anymore.
I’ve read a lot of self-help books. The basic message of most is, “that was then, this is now. You don’t have to do that anymore. You’re a grown up. You’re no longer a helpless child.” Some of these books use the illustration of an elephant that is raised tied to a peg in the ground. As a child, the baby elephant could not pull out the peg. As an adult, it has stopped trying. This is less true of elephants than humans.
Humanity is not a child anymore. We don’t have to do what we’re doing now. We didn’t have to do it then. There has never been a peg.
These aren’t just empty assertions. Follow my links. Try foraging as long as I have. Life doesn’t have to be hard. We don’t have to destroy ourselves. There are no chains; there is no struggle. Every one of us has woken up from a nightmare to find that it was only a dream. Can we wake up in this dream, not just out of it?
We can’t become free because we already are.