Thursday, October 26, 2006

Animal Spirits


Ok, ok, ok...

Here it is: I am a socially-constructed being. I am a product of my ultra-modern, uber-elitist, hyper-indulged, latte-drinking, text-messaging, hi-speed, urban American lifestyle. I enjoy nature...and pretty scenery...I really do...but these are things that I have a tendency to visit...kind of like an amusement park. Last spring, I donated my overpriced Adidas hiking boots to Goodwill. Why? Because the way they fit my feet gave me terrible headaches. In the 5 years that they were a part of my closet, I wore them maybe 5 times. Twice to hike, and three times to construct an outfit that would more or less resemble the kind of girl which a proper bear-hunter would want to drag into his cave. A-hem...

Of course, one caveat to my confession is that I was, in fact, practically raised by wolves. Ok, ok, not wolves per se, but out-doorsy, manly-men. I was the only girlchild in a family of sport hunters and renaissance-types, who, to this day, hum tunes of Mozart as they kill their own meat in season. Unlike the wives and girlfriends of my father and uncles, I was the female child given an honorary place in my tribe of menfolk. Along with my brother, I was given proper instruction in outdoor survival. In fact, if I had to field dress something I intend to eat, I could do it. Of course, I would probably defer the labor someone else to do it, but this is beside the point.

On my flight home the other day, it occurred to me that the concept of survival takes on an incredibly unique spin in our hyper-modern society. Once upon a time, a woman at my tender age would be approaching her final lap in her child-bearing years. That is, of course, if she managed to survive her first ten pregnancies. At the same time, she would be adept at a set of survival techniques that are basic and yet fundamentally foreign to me. Knowing that I could resort to them if need be is a relief, but I'll be honest, I know that I would fumble at first. Take, for example, my dear grandmother. The woman still knows how to cook something fabulous for a family of 12 on a budget for 2. This is beyond impressive. And she has magic in her fingers--she can mend anything to make it new again. Best of all, she can get a stain out of anything. ANYTHING. This my friends, is a skill that has been lost to age of dry cleaning and Ann Taylor stores on every corner.

And yet, as I have a tendency to do from time to time, I began to ponder what skills I have to survive in the modern world. For example, I realized that my grandmother, and even my mother, would be mere babes in the woods in a modern airport, let alone a big-city subway system. Conversely, I have navigated my way through places where maps are beyond impossible, toilet paper is a luxury and English is not an option. I may not be able to get a Swiss chocolate stain out of my favorite cashmere sweater, but I sure as hell know how to charm my way to first class seating, even after missing my flight because I overslept. I am a master at maneuver. I am the quintessential, hyper-modern human being.

And the end of all of this, however, it occurred to me that my embrace of Western modernity is lifestyle of choice. In being a choice, I find that it does not infuse my essential nature as a human animal. I may have acquired tools for expressing my intellect or material desires, but underneath all of this, I am still an animal--an intellectual animal, perhaps--but an animal nonetheless. Despite all of these levels of masterful manipulations, and social dictates to which we, as modern beings, are told we must conform, we simply cannot ignore or exclude who and what we really are. I'm light-sensative. I get motion sickness on the Metro. I crave fresh air. My body responds to the moon. I'm phermone-driven. And I'm ok with this.

Sometimes it's good to step off the fast track. Sometimes it's good to stop for a moment, do something outlandish, passionate, and reciprocally wonderful. And sometimes, still, it's such a relief to answer the call of the wild.

1 comment:

VJ said...

Thanks for the insight N, it was very amusing. But the pic was a trifle confusing. That's not precisely the call of the wild. That's the call of 'OK Darla Z. we're in the same pen here now for, hey 2 years now?' 'How's about a go?' You could see this almost any night in most bars in DC. It's the only way the geeks get to mate with the sleek fast pretty things. But never underestimate the value of a decent field dressing! Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'