I did jungle survival training in the military once. Twelve weeks! A group of six. The prime realization from the experience? Peace. Long, tranquil days. Imagine an entire day doing nothing but putting your shirt in the water, waiting until things swim over it, lifting them out, and stringing them on a thin green branch. Go back to the fire at night with pounds of wonderful food, to go with the roots and little edibles that others have collected. Hours to talk, to relate, to understand, to get to know each other. It seems I have never known anybody as well as those five others. Never known my environment as intimately, as powerfully, as beautifully. Upon return, “civilization” felt almost unbearable. Hardly worth it.

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11 Responses to Basic

  1. Jimmy D says:

    Into the Wild is a great movie. It both made me want to gave it all up to travel in the bush,off the grid or what have you yet also made me thankful that I survived doing that kind of stuff in my youth. The book is a excellent work of journalism that also looks at the history of other ramblers chasing dreams of simplicity.
    I have gotten to know a friend of my wife’s , who has stayed at our place as she sells vegetable plant seeds to local organic food stores and such. I bought some seeds myself to brace for the impending food crisis so if you are looking for seeds I can set you up. Her husband has just released a book entitled Deep Gardening: Soul Lessons from 17 Gardens, Biodynamic Memories by Woody Wodraska. They live in a giant canvas tent on a vegetable farm in BC. They are closest people I know personally who are living off the land in such a way for their retirement (they are in their sixties). This is how Woody’s will (which is quoted on the back of the book) reads:

    “This is how I want you to dispose of my meat body. I’m assuming that I have died on the farm without the benefit of outside experts and that we can keep it that way. No doctors, undertakers, EMTs or others who will try to make an emergency out of the whole thing…No no no. For the most part my body has been built up of the produce of the farm and now it’s time to give back. Compost me.”

    The book has an online preview:

    They haven’t gone into the wilderness but pretty darn close. There is certainly a peacefulness about Barbara and, I’m sure, Woody.

    Perhaps the audience could also be inspired to not exactly rush into the wilderness but let the wilderness come to them. To make their city more of a jungle or at least to recognize that it already is. Grow vegetables in their flower pots and on their rooves. Roast a giant beast with a makeshift fire on the corner of their block.

    • Terminator E says:

      I think of how encino man was frozen in ice, and thawed out in 20th century califonia. Ice is the prototypical time-machine. Actually, jurrasic mosquitos fossilized in amber were maybe before that.

      Its true, dogs are communicate broadly without spoken language, their little eyebrows are very expressive. Likewise the prominent brow of the caveperson was a highly adapted communication tool. Also cavepeople have an acute sense of smell, and transmit sophisticated phero-chemical messages via musk and other b.o., and they mark their territory with pee. on glaciers, where the pee contrasts with the ice or melts a top layer of snow, they may pee sophisticated quasi-pictograms.

  2. Judd Trout says:

    That’s the fundamental question: was life back then better or worse? Did the average prehistoric human live a short life plagued by hunger and disease, or a long and happy one unplagued by perversions of nature? And: did your average cro-magnon live in happy harmony with the tribe, or murder and threaten to get a bigger share of mastodon? Is our nature like the Bonobo monkeys (peace, matriarchy, orgies) or like the common Chimpanzees (border patrols, viciously contested dominance, raids on other communities)? The stance you take on this question (maybe unsolvable) defines the first principles of your entire philosophy. Soldiers in the jungle, trained for war, and finding gentle companionship — what a beautiful idea.
    Evidently, if you take a common Chimpanzee (the mean ones) and put it in a tribe of Bonobos, the Chimpanzee realizes the error of its angry ways, and adopts the peaceful Bonobo lifestyle. But if you take a Bonobo and put it in with a tribe of Chimpanzees, the Bonobo doesn’t learn to be vicious. The entire Chimpanzee tribe realizes the error of its angry ways, and adopts the peaceful Bonobo lifestyle.
    (Although I think scientists are now discovering that all this Bonobo-paradise business is hooey.)

    • Urvater says:

      Was life better or worse? We need to define terms. “Better”? Meaning: more comfortable? More household appliances? More highways? Cars? Bigger hospitals for fatter people? Fancier funerals? Slicker production of bad education? Bigger governments? Bigger populations living longer, or, bigger populations living shorter? More imitation food? More pollution? And, “worse”? Freer? More egalitarian? More direct? Probably more honest? Learn to suffer and die with dignity? Feel clan solidarity and strength. Enjoy eating enemies? Being able to walk naked for weeks over glaciers without much clothing? Kill somebody who pisses you off? I don’t know. I wonder.

      • Judd Trout says:

        I just stumbled upon this:

        A trailer for a recent movie about a young guy who apparently gave away all his money and wandered off into the Alaskan wilderness with a .22 and a field guide to edible plants. Ended up accidentally poisoning himself with an inedible plant and dying.

        He was a great lover of Thoreau and Jack London, evidently. There’s certainly a grand literary tradition backing up those who want to discard modern society and head off into the wilderness — the nineteenth century was gloriously full of that feeling. It’s an impulse we all feel — and I think how the story ends changes according to the society that produces the literature. In general, though, I think we can say that the predominant prediction is doom — floating on a coffin in the middle of the sea, eating each other in the snow, eating the wrong berries and dying. Although a novelist, as a product of culture, might not be able to conceive of successfully throwing away that very culture, and we might not be as interested (or ever hear of) somebody who wandered off into the wilderness and is still there, happily munching on the right berries. Who knows how many of those people are out there right now?
        I think we like to hear stories about people who did that because we like the fantasy, but we also like them to be defeated by that impulse in the end, so that we can return home feeling satisfied that all is well and their house and job and car aren’t so bad after all.
        I’d rather make a play that tries to convince people to grow their hair and disappear, and leave it at that, so they go home and lay awake all night hearing the beckoning wolves outside. I’d like the play itself to be a call to action. Maybe we could sell field guides to edible plants in the lobby.

  3. Urvater says:

    It’s Urvater again. We got to know each other very well. But most of it was non-verbal. Long hours of quiet feeling and learning. Little gestures. Offering. Helping. If part of our training had not been to be constantly hiding, we might have invented music. But maybe not. The communication was non-verbal.

    • cimmeron says:

      Interesting, I wonder if perhaps this is further evidence that we have devolved… that perhaps our prehistoric ancestors actually communicated via telepathy. There was no need for words, time spent immersed in a world where time held little or no meaning allowed for a deeper knowing and understanding of what is being communicated to us via a mere grunt.. Perhaps we we stripped away all the impediments of language we would be able to access the ability to communicate this way, a greater ability to decipher the meaning behind subtle body language.. to be able to read each others thoughts…

      • Urvater says:

        You have probably fallen in love. Maybe at first sight. Maybe the feeling led to something extremely powerful, but unspoken, that you felt across a crowded room. You are almost crazy not knowing — yet, knowing full well — that the other feels much as you do. The intensity is too much. You’ve never felt this way before. Somehow, you come together. Somehow, things take their own course. Somehow, love rips through both of you. You have hardly spoken. You are pulled together and into each other , helpless. Ecstatic. Bonded. Loyal. What if hunting parties once formed rather like that, or fighting parties? Or even setting up camp together, the whole group. How much do kids and grandparents need to talk? Shared hunger. Pass it around. Three guys moving in on an Urochs (sp?) Fantastic fun! All of this scares the shit out of us. Beautiful! All this is way better than talking, eh?

        • Neandertaler says:

          It would be a very interesting theatre exercise to get a group of people to do something together but impose a rule that no one can make any statements, give any commands or ask any questions. All verbal communication would become purely imitative or expressive. If you kept it up long enough you might actually witness the (accidental?) birth of, or develop a real gut feeling for the need for, indirect language.
          Hahaha, grunt-grunt, pooh-pooh! Could someone pass me the salt, please?

          • Urvater says:

            The writers of Ignorance will need to spend quite a bit of time in a cage of primates, learning the language, learning how to cooperate, learning how not to get hurt, ie. gaining acceptance. Also, being around dogs is good. We are apparently pretty close to primates in many ways. And, look, dogs have walked in amongst US and figured out how to make it all work! They’ve learned our signals. And hundreds of signs, signals, words, expressions, etc. have been identified in animals. So, the play could involve the audience in an amazing experience of FEELING without HEARING in text. The drama could be incredibly powerful, through non-verbal experience. Something that scares the living shit out of the whole audience, (there have to be terrifying primal screams) and the audience realize they only survived the night because of their rapport with the crazy hairy characters in the play. When the audience leaves the theatre afterwards, the primitives are all there outside, jumping up and down, hugging, happy to have known the audience and to have saved them and to have fought alongside them — happy like your best dog is happy to have undergone something like that with you. Really appreciative — way more than people! The audience feels like they’ve found humanity afresh — found it wild, beautiful. Never knew they could connect like that.

          • Urvater says:

            Scientists have figured out what dogs are saying when they bark. They’re saying: “Hey!”