Returning to the Woods vs. Gaming the System

Here’s a cool article about a guy who has lived in the woods his whole life: The Last American Man.

“I want to tell the world,” Eustace [the protagonist in the article] said, “that you are not handcuffed to your culture. You can return to the woods. You can make your own food. You can make your own clothing. You can live without a clock. It’s easy!”

Well, it’s not just that easy, actually. I don’t think most people, myself included, could do what Eustace has done. Or at least, they can’t do it fully. I think we can all divest from the dominant culture, and start, little by little, to unravel its foundation by both subverting expectations (i.e. conventional career aspirations) and—for lack of a better term—gaming the system, like finding a way to not pay taxes or student loans, or like finding a way to walk to work, or to work part-time.

We don’t have the skills (or the space) for everyone to return to the woods just yet. We will return to the woods against our will at some point, but it’s too soon to just skip out and ride away into the sunset on our horses (which Eustace and his brother literally do, riding them from coast to coast in 103 days, a world record).

Ran Prieur agrees:

It’s about Eustace Conway, who has lived in the woods for most of his life, and is generally awesome. He says everyone can live like him, but he’s wrong. He can live that way and you can’t, because from the moment he could walk, his parents let him wander the woods unsupervised, and your parents didn’t. But if that ever becomes fashionable, even in one region, it could spread globally as we see how well it works. And early wilderness immersion doesn’t even force you to live primitively—it just gives you the option.

There is a growing movement—Ran would be happy to know—called the Children in Nature movement (based on and inspired by Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods), and unstructured time in nature is one of the key components people are re-thinking and advocating for. Of course, we’re running out of “nature” to have unstructured time in, so that’s a big drawback to teaching only those skills that incorporate infinite wilderness. Will it really make sense to know how to make a shirt out of a deer when there aren’t many deer left, and those that remain are owned by corporations?

Might it make more sense to teach “gaming the system” skills, like how to work cash-only jobs or how to fix a bike or how to make alcohol?



False Spring

A poem by Daniel Tobin:

This morning in surprising light

last fall’s fisted cluster of leaves

appeared earth’s new growth, delicate

as baby’s breath, the blaze of lace

on a wedding gown’s frilly cuff,

as if bare limbs could change to sleeves

that waver in the wind’s chill scarf,

the eye, unseasonable, gleans

as wish—rose blossoms from gun-scopes,

a world more real in sibilance

than scorn—but mindful of a stain

like the mote at the root of a glance:

this sky’s gray, unbroken stone,

the burden of tomorrow’s snow.

There are many things going on in this poem; I’m not sure what they all are yet, but I know they’re there. “Rose blossoms from gun-scopes” reminds me both of Banksy and of this monument in Managua of old guns used in the revolution, all melted down and made into a kind of blob/wall. There’s a melted tank there, too.

But moments are fleeting (or is that redundant?), and we always have something to do tomorrow.