I’ve been thinking a lot about how different species survive, and more specifically, about what tools they need to survive. It’s true that humans aren’t the only animals that leverage tools, but there does seem to be something unique in our usage. Elephants, crows, and sea otters all use tools, ones they gather or make from their immediate environment. As far as I can tell, only individual humans use tools they themselves can’t make.
I look around my massively simplified homesteading lifestyle and see dozens upon dozens of physical items I still depend on to thrive.
Those can be further subdivided into tools that I could at least conceptually make (like a hammer), because I basically understand how they work, and those that would be difficult or impossible to make (like my cell phone), because I don’t understand how they work, I lack the other necessary tools, or it would take so long to learn all the skills and knowledge I’d be dead before I finished!
This line of thinking points toward a recent insight, and a confession:
I’ve failed to fully accept the reality that my comparatively frail human body requires so much external support to survive.
Part of me hates all the crap I have to lug around and pay attention to for my life to function. I find myself dreaming of being a lion – an apex predator whose only dependencies are inborn; whose needs for food, shelter, and transportation are fully met by claws, fur, and four legs. I wonder what that experience must be like, to have your travel checklist never extend beyond your physical body.
“Shit, I forgot my keys” – said no lion ever…
Alas, I will never know, because if I tried to survive with only my version of a lion’s implements, I wouldn’t make it very long.
The dysfunction is certainly not in the reality of my human experience, but in my failure to accept it. And if I’m fully honest, this failure has been a primary cause of emotional strife. I seem to compensate for the denial of these inborn biological limitations by driving myself to achieve the next thing – a strategy that has never quelled the core upset.
Here in the woods, things move at a different pace. Cycles can be measure in years, like the time it takes from felling a tree to that same firewood burning in a stove. The size and frailty of my human body are made more evident, and the need to overcome my feline fantasy is pressing.
I’m more embedded in nature now. I can’t hide from my reality like I used to, nestled in a modern home, asleep to how it provides for me. It’s becoming more painful to ignore. I can’t make it on my own, not even close – I need the collective wisdom and support of the human race, and will forever depend on the tools it has produced.
I’m not a lion, nor will I ever be, that much is abundantly clear.