Dienstag, 17. Januar 2012

Wise words from Nessmuk himself-a tribute...sort of

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are withered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd
But he shuns the shadow of oak and pine.

(Taken from "Woodcraft and camping" by George Washington Sears)

I have been thinking about it for a long while now. We own cars and planes and modern plumbing, and yet we always want to escape. We could take a Goretex jacket but choose wool instead. We have a white - collar job, but on the weekends we camp out in the muck and filth, reenacting the ages medieval or other periods or bushcrafting or doing survival practice. We learn primitive skills, we forge with dirt forges, we go foraging.

We were not obliged to, and there is no rational reason for it.

Is bushcraft, tribal knifemaking escapism? There can be no real escape from this society. Except for the one "hope" many survivalists keep in secret, that there will be a "rout of civilization", and after that, a chance to start it anew, but chance is, the same boring shit will go on. No "Xenu", no "Quetzalcoatl", nothing but an increasing degree of dehumanization in the name of Mammon.

I personally think, that I yearn for simplicity. I am sort of an outcast, and I always have been. I grew up in the forest, and while it was not exactly a wild one, I was more accustomed to deer and hares than to video games. Later on, I might not have any problems collecting herbs, mushrooms, firewood, or witnessing hunters and fishermen dressing game (what certainly IS a problem with modern-day sissies:-)), but problems I DID have to behave the correct way. In school, in my apprenticeship, at the university. I failed to realize that EVERYTHING in this world is about money. I have problems making a living, for I have my principles that are somewhat off-path, and I know, that I am wrong. Yes, I am wrong.

I cannot cope with the necessities of modern living. I can build a shelter, I can make bannock, even forge knives and all the implements I need, I have carpentry and other woodworking skills, but I am not functioning correctly. I do not understand the necessity to start a career, to watch TV, to read the newspaper, even to decently clean up my household. But I rode to work by bike on the day of a tempest named Kyrill and did not notice what the fuss was all about. And this in turn gives me the strength to carry on.

It might be escapism, or a means of escape. But those are things that matter, and in those situations the things that really matter, actually count. If you are hungry, you have to fight for something to eat. If you are cold, you need to get warm. If you are thirsty, you need to find something to drink. "Your speech shall be: Yes, yes, or: No, no. Everythings else is Evil." To survive, and do that with style, you need friends, networks, and some few utilities you need. Clothing, gear, tools. Period. No plasma TV, no second laptop, no third car. Ah yes, and not five mountainbikes (and in my cellar ARE five frames that could be put in working order). Simplicity. But in the "real" world, simplicity does not count. Quite the contrary, what counts is buying. If you do not constantly buy new stuff, our society system will not work at all. And we work just to buy. If you would travel lightly with two pants, two shirts, vest, underwear, knife, hatchet, cooking pot, tent, bbots and mocassins, and even would have made most of that stuff yourself, our society system would not work anymore, and I am not sure if that would be a good thing.

So I learn to cope with modern-day necessities, and try to walk a middle road. The times when I wanted to change the world are over. Now that I have realized that, I was able to change a tiny bit. Yes, I think that my brief romantic trips into the wilderness might be futile and not functional. But I have never been functional. It is a dream, and it helps put things into a perspective. Do I NEED a new bike / TV / whatever, or do I want it? And why do I want it? Can I travel a little lighter through this life? And this is what bushcraft gives to me. I will never be a radical "backwoods afficionado". I will never travel as lightly as I could. But the woods simply help me in coping with the insanity of our world.

Oh yes, chance is, it will not be for so much longer. But chance is also that we all will die in ecological catastrophes or a nuclear supernova. There is no foraging in a nuclear wasteland, no shelter, and rain no good thing. That does not mean that I am not interested in survival. But it is not a cozy Bear Grylls scenario, no offence meant, but tooth and nails, everyone against the other. I do not want to say "survival", for that would mean any preparation has gone awry. Noone in their right mind would.

What remains is, that I am conscious of myself being an outcast. Moshé Feldenkrais once said that society is not interested in the individual being able to grow to its full potential and thus will do ANYTHING to prohibit it from reaching that. (In: Bewußtheit durch Bewegung, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a.M. 1995) I have contended myself with doing the ratrace when it is absolutely necessary and living up when I get home.

I am legally poor, but have no big problem with that. Naturally, "all the bills upon my mat, they feed and grow, then eat the cat" (Martin Walkyier). But that´s my "fault", and there´s noone else to blame. My real life takes place where the dream starts, and it starts in the woods. I can do with little. I can live on a half slice of bread per day for a period of time (I had to already). And this makes me really relish in a good meal, a good drink. My joy is all the bigger for my capability to cope with less, to cope with pain even. And the joy I feel when the woods embrace myself, makes up for anything.

 So, back to the question: Is it escapism? To me it is a dream, and a way to learn to savour the fruits of life. It is not a hobby, or even a passion. It always was a part of myself, and always will be. And while I pity all those poor people in the cities who never set their bare foot on the rich and soothing soil, I am glad they are not venturing any further than the city park. I am glad that I am capable of feeling, and seeing, and watching.

And time goes by, and so does my life. But I am free, if I want it. This is a great feeling, and one I owe to my mental survival pack. So I do not care if it´s called escapism, or if I escape, for that´s not the issue.

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