Months ago I watched the documentary “Happy People” by Werner Herzog. In the time since then I’ve been thinking about it constantly while mindlessly performing my work tasks, which involve dangerous machinery that could render me useless, and about a month ago it fucked me up – not the machinery, but the film. Not in a way that a film would normally move a person, but on an existential level that made me rethink my entire relationship with the world, specifically with the natural world, and how I spend my energy within and among it, and how I don’t wish to spend my energy on the world of men.. I promise I’m not going to go full Kierkegaard or Walden on you or anything. It took me into territory not even remotely related to the film and I traveled to some dark places and asked myself some difficult questions. Since the New Year I’ve somewhat regrounded and have placed troops back at the gates to ensure I don’t end up in a mad house. I didn’t go fully bonkers, but god damn near it. If you haven’t seen this film I implore you to watch it. It’s streaming on the Netflix and is worth a watch if you read this here pile of dribble. And I promise it won’t make you insane, as my own mind ingested it as a catalyst or a trigger in my own metaphysical melt-down. I was primed for it like a flint musket.
The past year I’ve had a theme of referring to the pursuits I enjoy as either “silly” or “ridiculous”. Why would I say such a thing about my favorite pastimes? Simply put, if you consider an efficient use of time and energy to be either A) Chasing super hero birds over mountain ranges while burning far more calories than are possibly attainable by harvesting said super hero birds, or B) Standing in a freezing river swinging or drifting artificial flies to a diminutive and diminishing population of steelhead with out the guarantee of even being able to take one home, let alone catch one.. then you are probably a sportsman. I myself have been a sportsman for most of my life. It’s fun to do things the difficult way and pursue difficult prey, and it validates that you are above the needs that are met by capturing a winged or finned meal. It also shows you how disconnected and disjointed our relationship with the natural world has become in our recent tenure as modern humans.
We don’t take to the field or water for sustenance in the belly anymore, we go to medicate our jaded minds and mend our fractured hearts. We go to try and reconnect with that part of us who used to paint with blood in caves, who knew the land like we know our commutes, who answered to nothing but hunger, who felt the same rush we do when our rods bend, feathers fly, and fur crumples. We have become sportsman, the distant effigy of times most mark as gone and others realize are still hidden here but are afraid to pursue.
The three major things that modern society has rendered onto us that enable us to be “sportsman” are 1) Industrialized food that usually comes at the cost of natural resources and wildlife habitats that decline species and force strict limits and closures on fish and game. 2) The abundance and availability of food from the Agricultural Industrial complex (see #1 above), and 3) The most free time and free energy ever seen in human history. We don’t have to spend time feeding ourselves anymore, somebody does it for us as long as we fork over the money. We don’t have to keep our fish, we have some in the freezer from the market from origins usually unknown. Most modern sportsman fish for fun and hunt for the challenge ala the sport. Not the meat. Not the nourishment. Not the subsistence.
I know it’s difficult in most places in our ever populated world to live off of the land. And to further that I know the majority of people do not wish to live in a semi-agrarian hunter-gatherer society. I don’t want them to wish that either. There simply isn’t enough to go around, and what we have left is ever shrinking. I do feed myself a small share of my sportsman spoils, but it is not a life sustaining amount. And that bothers the hell out of me. And if I do get lucky and draw a big game tag every few years, I’m still out of luck on the off years – at least while I’m living in a place without guaranteed access to natural food sources.
But god damn it, what the fuck am I doing?
I’m young, I’m strong, I’m tough enough to brave the wilds. But am I brave enough to rip out the few remaining hooks of this modern world to devote my time and energy to the business of subsistence survival? To leave to a place where I can achieve the primary human necessities on my own terms in accordance with nature? I don’t know yet, and I probably won’t for awhile, if ever. I’m still the mouse that barks. And that’s what is tearing me apart.
These questions and notions have always tickled me pink, but they have always seemed so novel, so unnecessary and distant. I myself have become a victim of convenience and circumstance. Born into the richest country on earth that exudes obesity with every Rascal Scooter on every corner, the stars and stripes proudly waving behind them next to flag effigies of Dale Earnhardt. The country that prides itself on status and who’s socio-political framework resembles more that of feudal europe than that of true democracy. I punch the clock (for an honest and small American company at least), I do the dance. It’s so easy to fall into, so easy to belong. So easy to forget why people like you and I are so fed up and unhappy.
These aren’t new revelations or notions, and as I said I’ve felt this way for as long as I can remember. But something about that damn documentary and my current consciousness set the wheels in motion at a dangerous speed. I wish to answer the bell, to be brave enough and strong enough to do so, or I wish to make do and get on with it. I just hope I’m brave enough to chose the right path and deal with the consequences, to break free or to break even. Hopefully both.