Friday, April 28, 2006

Our Place in Cultural Evolution

Almost everyone we know is of the post-industrial, post-modern, post-agricultural, post-graduate culture. They are settled in their ways, they have alarm clocks and hobbies, they have dinner at the same time every night, their children have predictable bedtimes. We have none of those things. (Well, we do have an alarm clock somewhere.) We are in constant flux; we can't keep track of the gas bills, the library books, the day of the week; we run out of milk. When I work late, our kids stay up late; and our first instinct, when we inevitably find ourselves running late in the morning, is to just skip school.

In a world modeled on agricultural and the industrial cycles, we are hunter/gatherers. It's not that we don't have the talent to predict the seasons, grow food, invest wisely, work in a factory; we just don't seem to have the heart for it. We let things go to seed; we forget to punch the clock. We post to our blog when we should have been in bed long, long since.

It's not that there are no patterns in our lives - we're just not so good with schedules. We don't care when it's time to plant; we don't worship gods who are thinly-veiled metaphors for vegetation, who die yearly and are reborn. Our gods are arbitrary - out for fun, sometimes mean for no reason; but they're not vindictive - for one thing, they're not that interested in planning, or carrying grudges.

Hunter-gatherers are the ultimate freelancers: when there's work, they take the work. When there's no work, they hang out and catch up on their laundry. When food is plentiful, there's a feast; when food is scarce, there's peanut butter sandwiches and oatmeal to be had.

Life is good.


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