it just occurred to me…damn, this place issmall. it bothers tracy somewhat but I never really noticed. to me it’s justcomfortable. I’m trying to look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, and it’sobvious that our knuckle-dragging ancestors did not live in 3000 square footbungalows.
if we go back as far as the levant our roofwas the middle east sky, but once we were shoved out of the warm mediterraneanby rising land prices and had to make do with ice sheets and ill-temperedsmilodons, housing options became far more limited.
we have this romantic ideal of everyonehuddled in caves, but if you think about it, how many caves have you seen, muchless huddled in? no doubt people dragged their homes with them; a few poles andlots of furs; a tradition lasting until present day indigenous peoples. the twoempty nesters buying up into the 4000 square foot house is just petitebourgeois aspirations (which pretty much describes all of suburbia).
of course too small is uncomfortable, but isuspect the fact that women are much more troubled by small homes is alsoevolutionary in that small represents low resources and therefore risky lifesituation and less than ideal mate. bigger and more translates into security,while for men it translates into status. of course there are layers ofcomplexity around this, but as an underlying principle I think it deserves somethought.
i’m trying to understand my actions of lastweekend and I think there is a relationship here. while I am as suspicious asthe next guy of simplistic, deterministic causality, i’ve seen base principleshappen all the time, guiding – not determining – complex behaviour. and thereis something about my choices last weekend that was awful primitive.
things have been challenging this lastmonth and i’ve been confronted with a great many situations in which severalpotentially very negative events were unfolding, in which i had little power todirect the outcome and yet had a direct bearing on myself and my family. i hadcertain hopes of a simplicity and freedom from so many of life’s banal worriesin our new lifestyle, and yet we still seem pursued by a great deal of trouble.the bumps have been intense and i was feeling a little powerless and in need ofa challenge –something less abstract and more immediate.
none of this was conscious. but i did asktracy a number of times if she wanted “wait this one out” and although she wasnervous and distressed by the gale warning in the forecast she was determinedto come along.
there was a fellow on a popular yethorribly right-wing/redneck/macho sailing website that took very greatexception to me even sailing as i tended to discuss my anxieties and concernsas a relative sailing noob. in his world view i seemed like some kind ofmilquetoast who wasn’t up to it and would be better taking up golf or gardeningbefore i got myself killed. when i posted about my December solo sail in a blowhe declared me a menace and would have nothing more to do with me. from what iunderstand he lost several friends once while attempting to rescue some foolwho got in over his head, or at least that’s what was rumoured.
i have a very well-found boat and i’m notas green as all that, although i will admit to being green in strong air and itwould have made far more sense to have gone out with a pro and that’s what iwould have done if i was aware of what i was intending.
i needed a challenge, something to fightagainst, something strong, something frightening, something immediate. this wasno thrill seeking nor was i caught unawares; i wanted to get out in a blow andlet the wind and the rain throw me around a bit, challenging my ability tomaintain control, keep my little ship together, and bring us safely home.again, i really wish tracy had stayed at the dock because i didn’t want to puther at risk but she is as stubborn as i am.
men are wired to take on challenges; that’swhy us small, slow, skinny little naked apes are still on the planet. food,shelter, protection of loved ones, fornicating, contemplating the gods andnature is what men have been doing since we were nesting in the savannah. thesub-prime meltdown is so far from that as to be unrecognisable.
once we needed our senses and our bodies, our strengths andcourage and curiosity and sociability to survive; these days we need credit, ajob, a facebook account wifi, and 17” rims. and it’s all determined by madisonavenue and it’s all fucked. when was the last time any of us risked our liveseven a little, just to see if we could pull it off? when was the last time wedisappeared by ourselves for anextended period of time to find ourselves and our personal gods? how often dowe stop and smell and feel and become totally aware of and become a part of ourenvironment? This is our physiological, evolutionary and even cultural heritage,all blown to hell by modernity.
while human beings are incredibly plasticin terms of behaviour and beliefs, sometimes this is not a good thing; justbecause we can do all that modernity and post-modernity requires of us, doesn’tmean we should. prozac nation anyone?
it wasn’t so long ago if one was hungry onehad to hunt for food, bringing all one’s resources as a predator to bear. itwould have involved one’s entire physical and spiritual being, because life wasat stake and you had to throw all you had into it. that is how we were made.buying groceries from the store and stressing about balancing the chequebookhas little in common with this biological heritage.
i didn’t know it but i needed a relief fromthe bullshit and complexity and abstract threats that I felt had me by thethroat. you can fight an enemy but not this intangible stuff. so i went lookingfor some nasty shit that would put my nuts on the line, see what i could do in the face of areal, concrete immediate challenge.
i know by now many will be writing me offas a nutcase and maybe i don’t even blame them. the natural world is an cold,dispassionate place and often very dangerous, and is not to be trifled with.the thing is, i was deadly serious and after all, pitting one’s wits againstnatural challenge is my birthright, one stolen by history not only from me butall of us. our comfort has come at a great cost.
maybe that fellow was right, maybe i am amenace. maybe there is no moral justification for putting myself and others atrisk (including potential rescuers.) but if that’s the case, i think we aredoomed as a species.