Monday, October 25, 2010

Backing Away From Society

Before I ever had health problems, before I ever found myself submerged in nature unknowingly following a path into a reclusive life... long before the change really started I never was very good at "fitting in" to society's standards. Looking back it all seems like superficial steps, practice steps, maybe baby steps into the life I would inevitably later lead - choosing the wrong kind of clothes, choosing the wrong things to say at the wrong time, the wrong music, the wrong color lipstick, the wrong haircut, the wrong colored date for the school dance.
Society always seemed to have this thumb pressing down on the very nature of the human heart, and while pressing down hard it seemed there was a voice saying that unless I gave into the demands, commands and expectations I would get squished by the giant civilized thumb. If I obeyed the thumb it would let off the pressure (a forever promise), the message being that "fitting in" was all one could choose if they wanted to be "happy" in this life.
Problem was, I saw right through the facade of all the people who had heeded to the thumb. They were not happy either - that small bit of observation alone was enough to send me searching, even if was just for a darker shade of lipstick at the corner store. But when my health led me to a drastic change in plans (aka- WHat? You mean I am not going to be a famous artist with one kid married to another famous artist living in NYC?) I found a new freedom, a freedom only nature seemed to give me.
I was diagnosed with a rare & severe form of Celiac Sprue (autoimmune disease) around age 22. I have mentioned this before and I mention it again because it was the turning point that led me to the near utter rejection of all things connected to the outside world. Outside world being, modern civilized white picket fence, windex spraying, fine (gluten) dining, consumer monster society. This was a world I already had trouble having a toe in, much less a foot in the door. Once I got sick the not-so-hypoallergenic door was slammed shut, because there would be certain social activities (like going out to eat or enjoying holidays meals) I could never be a part of again, period, finis, over.
Nature though didn't care. Nature has no judgement or obligatory feelings. The forest celebrates everyday in the same way, and has no concern for it's kindness or cruelty. The butterflies, the crawling insects, the opossums don't go X-mas shopping, don't go on dates, grab a beer or go out to eat. They don't care if you can have babies, or if you have a real job. In fact, the more I look(ed) at the natural cycle of life, not manipulated by humans, the more life opened up and seemed to have a safe place for me after all. It was human society that had created a modern, domesticated, civilized world that I couldn't quite fit into... so I slowly, and sometimes reluctantly backed away from "normalcy", from the high expectations of a tribe I could not force myself to function in (for the sake of my health and the rest of me).
I really believed Janis Joplan when she said "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose" because at my lowest points I felt the most free from the enormous thumb of society. The less I had the less I would fret, the less I was protective of, the less I had to defend or justify. At the same time, I learned that having nothing can also be a hardship which forced me to vacillate between hating modern life and using modern life in a manipulative way to get what I wanted.
What did and do I want?
To set myself up to not need society anymore.
It is not just a survivalist thing, or a rewild challenge, or even just an eco friendly way to live. It's a way to avoid the thumb of society and the people who individually make it a (ass)whole- the judgement that burns your back as you walk away from a scolding neighbor, or a cold stare from the people in suburbia who not only have gave into the thumb, but went ahead and shook hands with the big ogar.
But I dont mind being a threat to civilized & structured patterns. In fact, there is some kind of purpose and drive in ruffling up the straight line I was told to walk, a drive that reaches into my spirit in the purest form and says "keep going!"
I can say with all certainity, I am never turning back.
Not because I can't, but I don't want to. My back will stay facing the eyes of our harsh society in full protest to their robotic way of living. Even if sometimes I ask my very soul "WTF, why is THIS the path to choose? Why wasn't I just one of them?"


Teresa Evangeline said...

This is a very fine look at how and why people live away from society. By doing this, perhaps you give others, who are considering a similar lifestyle, the self-permission to do the same. Your life has much to offer in the way of encouragement, as you write about and show us how you live, the discoveries you are making about yourself and the world around you.

I think this path chose you.

Linda Starr said...

I feel more akin to your way of life than most others, because if a person is a little different in society they are frowned upon for their ideas or ways of living.

Is that a mule or donkey? His ears are so huge, what a great photo. My uncle in Arkansas used to say all a family needs to survive is 40 acres and a mule.

Benjammin said...

I agree with most of what you're saying, that yes, a lot of the "society" we've built for ourselves is complete and fake bullshit. At one point (as you know, since it's how I found your blog) I was considering doing the same thing. But then I realized that I'm a people person.

And let's face it, the eco-villages out there are mostly run by aging hippies who can themselves be somewhat judgmental and "holier than thou" eco-freaks (to put it mildly) -- and I don't want to live with a bunch of old fogies in the middle of nowhere, either.

On the other hand, too, most intentional / co-housing communities are located in areas where I don't care to live AND they seem to be really expensive (again, elitist). Until I can find somewhere that is affordable and full of other young people and located somewhere that I want to live (within an hour of a major city), I'm going to stick it out in the real world.

Cause you know, (life threatening diseases aside) it really isn't that bad if you put your mind to it and make intentional and thoughtful decisions about how to live your life, even in society where we are bombarded by stupid shit all the time. I think it all comes down to the people you surround yourself with and where you live. I'm finding that Northern California is full of great people, great scenery, excellent weather, pretty good politics, etc so I think I'll stay for a while :)

MCab said...

A friend of mine and I were shunned from our fellow masters classmates. He told me "it's us that are the cool ones, not the other way around." In other words, you are the real society, the way it should be, with it's honesty and acceptance, and not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! So you want to live with insects and trees. Great. There is nothing wrong with that. But there are millions of happy people who are not obsessed with an imaginary thumb. They work hard for a living & raise their kids to be decent and respect the property and rights of others. Like a spoiled 5 year old, you can't be happy to live your own life unless you condemn others for not being like you. Maybe looking down on others makes you feel superior or good about yourself. What a crock of dung (which from your other posts I gather you to be obsessed with).

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way of describing a desire to be free of the restraints of society and in tune with the rhythms of nature! It's amazing what many humans call "natural" to do--like putting toxic things in their bodies and homes. I'm still living in a metro area, loving it when I can. At the same time, I find myself downsizing possessions and simplifying life in order to enjoy that freedom you mentioned--a freedom from the need to protect or defend things or a way of life based on things. I love watching the caterpillars and butterflies and fireflies, following the rhythms of nature in our own yard.

You are a wonderful inspiration!

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

Hey Teresa...
You may be right, sometimes we don't know who is doing the choosing. ;)

Linda Starr -
Your uncle sounds like a smart man! Not everyone appreacites the amazing qualities of donkeys and mules. In the photo on my blog that is a donkey who lived over the mountain, in the white & gray donkey is mine and her name is JuJu.

I somtimes wonder why being "different" is frowned upon, i usually chalk it up to all our training to be the same. And when anyone works very hard at something it can make them really upset when they think that something they worked their ass for might not be good. (Regardless of whether it is good or not, it's the threat to the ego that hurts.)

You make alot of really good points. I too thought about eco villages at many times, but did not feel i even fit in with that community, for many of the same reasons you describe. I am just not a hippy group hugging type, and because I also had many health issues to deal with (ones that may effect my ability to give anything to a community at times) I have chosen to do it on my own.
I too had always been very social and loved people, I may not have chosen this is my life hadn't taken certain unexpected turns. And i will never say that it doesn't get lonely at times to do it all yourself! Not an easy task.
I also agree that there are ways to be more sustainable while living in the city...
someone on my FB page said they would see grass and moss growing out the cracks in the sidewalk, caterpillars crawling and she likened herself to nature in that way, she is the grass that pokes through the crack in the sidewalk.
I love that, and have thought that myself the times I lived in the city.

MCab -
School is a place where the pressures of society really come out. I was never a fan of that part of the schooling system, and the teachers are so overwhelemed that hardly address that part.
Your friend is right, you are cool.

Anonymous -
Sounsd like I touched your Shenpa. (google it).
In my opinion the American way of life is what is a spoiled 5 year old, I live the way I do not in judgment of others but in hopes to inspire & create a less consumer monster world- for the health of myself, you and your children. And the children in the all the countries who are made sick & poor in resources by our spoiled comsuming nature.

Anonyomous #2 -
I think that was the first big thing I realized when my health took a dive. I realized all the strange things we were putting in our homes/down the drain that were toxic. For me, it was so many products because once I was diagnosed with Celiac Sprue, i was told to take off my nail polish and make up because it probably contained gluten... then i was told to take a closer look at everything i was using. Toothpaste, soap, detergents...
not only did it have gluten, but most things were quite toxic.

Downsizing really is very free'ing! I dont really believe there is a perfect way to live- with nothing, or with a certain amount of belongings... i think the real point is to feel freedom from the need, and then go from there. I just noticed the more I have the more i seem to need.
I don't however think having things is bad. Even primitive people got dressed up, painted their bodies, had huts and tools and jewelry.
In modern times, it's more of a question about who/what did we sacrafice to get these things.

Stephanie Rogers said...

We're well on our way to a similar point, though not quite for the same reasons. But I totally get what you mean about just feeling *done* with the way that most people in (particularly Western) society choose to live - sometime last year amidst worrying about money and whether J & I would ever be able to afford to buy a house I realized we didn't have to do it "the right way". After much reflection we realized that simple things mean the most to us and we can do without the rest. Letting go of this feeling that we're obligated to play by the rules of a consumerist debt-oriented wasteful polluting society has been so freeing. We have a long way to go still but I already feel like such a weight is off my shoulders because I know now that I'll be happy in a modest little paid-off cabin on a little slice of paid-off land and won't be responsible for a monster mortgage, multiple cars, etc etc.

We, too, thought about an eco village but when it comes down to it we're not "people people" at all so we'd rather go it alone. Too pricey, too many restrictions. Fuck it.

Anonymous said...

I think the trouble with modern life and maybe civilizations in general is that life is played as an end-game...I know that when I think of life like this (education, spouse, house, kids, cars, stuff, vacations, etc) I feel like one big loser...I missed all the targets by a landslide.

But when I think of my life as a process, a path, I have no regrets, there is still much to be done, lived, seen, heard, made and loved. But I am young (32) and healthy, will I feel the same if I was getting older and feebler? It's just tough when you are with people who have hit all the milestones (on time) and have pretty things around them that make them look so happy.

It's tougher when you have kids and you think of all the financial support they need/will need.

Then again, I have always hated excuses...I think when you break away from mainstream culture, you kind of go through cultural limbo/cultural hell as you find a new social order to be a part of willing or not.

It sounds like you went through your own cultural hell at a fairly young age and are enjoying the journey you have chosen for yourself which is also work, perhaps not sanctified by society (altho we are your supporters) but definitely sanctified by you which is what makes it meaningful even if its suspended in cultural limbo.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, there are many dangerous chemicals and unhealthy by-products in our modern World. Luckily, the Strong among us will adapt and survive. The Weak and unadaptive will not. That is just the way it is sweetie. It is the Darwinian Way.

But do not despair. There are far more of the Strong than of the Weak. And the Trees will not even blink when the Weak are gone. The Forest still will be standing when the Weak perish.

Leslie's Gone Oko said...

yep when it comes to eco villages i felt "fuck it" as a answer too.
And all those debts that people get into trying to keep up with the Joneses do suck so bad! I used to do real estate for a living and I never bought a house for over 100,000... my house I bought to live in was 68,000 at the time and my mortgage was still rather low (400 a month). But it's so much better to get what you can pay for and have no bills early on (even though there are always property taxes). Alot of what people like me and you are going for, is to reduce our dependance for the greater good and also for lowering expenses, especially during a harsh economy.
You and J are doing the right thing, and it's going to be alot of fun to make all those discoveries together along the way!

Esme -
So beautifully written, because it was so honest. There are so many aaspects to the process of life and where we all belong in it. There are many obstacles, some really hard, some not so bad but we do make excuses. But it's all part of the process...
I dont think I could be doing what i am doing right now had i been thrown into it ten years ago when I arrived. There was alot to learn and much picking and choosing, figuring out what direction to take.

Cool, i see you know the forest & evolution theories well,
let's all hope unstable assholes like you go first...just like in horror movies :)

Anonymous said...

To the other anonymous:
While your words are true, this is not the place for 'truth'. This is a place for hope.

To Oko:
The first to succumb will probably be the ones with poor and weak immune systems, extreme chemical sensitivity and little or no financial means for treatment. But they will be studied and their contributions to medical science will benefit all of us who survive. Horrific, but true.

But with truth comes hope and that is what you give us all with your blog writings. Thank you and good luck with all your endeavors.

One last thought - it does not hurt to pretend to be in control. In fact it probably is good for your mental growth. Just remember this- you would be better off without the anger and hatred for others that is pent up inside you. Let go of it. Then maybe real healing will occur in your life.


Leslie's Gone Oko said...

As usual anonymous,
thinnly vailed attempt at being two different anonymous people on this blog. (Which may be why you appear unstable.)

And I don't agree with your sentiments- many of the people who's immune systems have been weakened by chemicals or other things (and i know hundreds) will thrive in a collpased society because they will no longer be bombarded with the problem.
Your quip about them being studied and making contributions is contradictory to your implication that they'll all die out. Simply because who cares about that kind of contribution during a collapse? No one.
And for myself and many others, auto-immune does not mean weak, it actually means over active - i have not caught but one cold in 10 years, no flu, nothing. So I am more likely to withstand a contagious disease environment then your average person.

I also don't think pretending to be in control is good for mental health, i think what is good for our mental health is to understand the balance between the things we can and cannot control, and it is a balance that takes a lifetime to achieve. Each person finds their own path, and their own set of circumstances to balance.
Which is what all the other comments on here present.

Susie Collins said...

To Darwinian Anon, your argument just doesn't hold up, dude.

The problem of toxic chemicals in our environment is everyone's problem, not just the "weakest" among us.

Take, for example the soldiers affected by the toxic chemicals in the first Gulf War. It's well documented, you can read yourself. The study directly correlates the chemical exposure experienced by soldiers, notably pesticide exposure, to memory and concentration problems, persistent headaches, unexplained fatigue, widespread pain, chronic digestive problems, respiratory symptoms, and skin rashes. Soldiers are at the top of the Darwinian heap, screened for their health and prowess, the healthiest and strongest among us, reduced to rubble by exposure to toxic chemicals.

Further, we see it among 9-11 first responders, the firefighters most notably. Firefighters are also well screened and trained for strength and endurance. The majority of 9-11 first responders now have disabling respiratory illness and worse due to their exposure to chemically laced particulate matter.

So, your argument that the toxic chemicals of our industrial society will only weed out the weak is fallacious. The truth is that ubiquitous man-made toxic chemicals in our environment-- air, water, food-- is affecting everyone, and if we continue on this course, we will continue to see more and more people ill as a consequence. It has nothing to do with a predisposition of being "weak" or "strong." The science is linking toxic chemicals to birth defects, obesity, autism, cancers, learning disabilities, low sperm count, small penis size, asthma, respiratory illness, poor cognitive function, central nervous system disorders, on and on.

So your argument is fallacious. Pollution of toxic substances in our society affects everyone-- it's just that some of us are going to be affected first-- not because we are "weak" but because we are among the first exposed in a manner that directly impacted our health.

I find your comments hateful and just plain rude, not just to Leslie but to all of us who love her and find her life inspirational. You may have been spared thus far to a toxic chemical exposure strong enough to affect your health, but it appears your toxic opinions make up for it.