Losing Touch With our Roots
So I woke up at about 4 AM today and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I eventually found myself composing in my head much of what I wrote below. The important part is at the end, after the short anthropology lesson is over:
For tens of thousands of years, all humans on the planet lived in small bands of about 50-100 people wandering from place to place hunting whatever animals and gathering the edible plants that nature provided. We had no single place to call our home and had very few possessions, with these meager items generally shared amongst the group. There were also no cops, courts, laws, schools, or taxes. Cultural norms and a sense of kinship kept people in line, and if someone stepped out of line, they would be shunned by the group. The social isolation would generally be enough to reform that rebel’s behavior very quickly.
It’s a mystery why a few societies in a few locations started experimenting with planting seeds and domesticating animals, but once agriculture became the primary means of food production, the seeds of civilization were planted. And while there were definite benefits to urbanization, specialization, advanced technology, consumerism, and all the rest of it, there was a basic problem that civilized people have continually struggled to solve.
Life is complicated, particularly when civilizations came along. To try and make sense of it all and make people feel better, we civilized humans have come up with a variety of systems: psychological, philosophical, theological, or some hybrid of all these types of theories. But in the end, I think our problem is pretty simple: we no longer live as we were designed - or, if you prefer, as we evolved - to live. We don’t move around enough. We don’t share enough. And perhaps most importantly, we do not feel connected to a community. Instead, we have superficial contact or none at all with most of the people that we confront on a daily basis. Crowded cities, with all of these hordes of people, can be the most lonely places on earth.
The United States may be the ultimate example of the dysfunctions of civilization. Here we are, arguably the most technologically advanced and prosperous society in history, and we come nowhere close to leading the world in happiness. Individualism and the desire to maintain one’s sense of independence, while probably doing much to make America so successful, has also helped to create a society of lonely people. And many of us have spent our lives trying to fill that hole with things like shopping, hobbies, and career achievements, or we have turned to my primary strategy: trying to deny that this hole even exists.
Through most of my life, I have felt like a misfit, disconnected from the “normal” people around me who seemed to be so much better at fitting in and being happy. But as I get older, I am realizing that we are a society full of misfits. And like so many of my fellow misfits, here I am sharing my thoughts and feelings via social media, calling out into hyperspace in the hopes that someone (will read this) and can relate to what I am talking about.
I will write more on this subject soon. But if you have made it this far, and find yourself feeling a bit disconnected lately, feel free to send me a message. If you live in the general Southern California area, maybe we can hang out sometime the old fashioned way. While it’s always cool to get a nice text message or comment, we humans are meant to talk face to face.