Never before have I been very fond of Alaska. That is not to say that I disliked Alaska, it would be more proper to say there was just a level of indifference there.
Every time I saw something on Alaska it all looked so remote, and cold, and basic, and did I mention remote? It didn’t appeal to me much.
Recently Discovery Channel started airing a show called Yukon Men. I set the series to record but didn’t catch the first episode as it aired. The first time that I watched it I didn’t even finish it and wasn’t impressed with it. Everything was so remote, and cold, and basic, and yes…remote.
I sat down to watch it again and watched it all the way through. As the episodes wore on they started to grow on me, there was something to their way of life that was appealing. Then it occurred to me, they were as Tom Goode said “Working at the game of life itself”.
So much of their life was connected to the land and to the seasons, they weren’t paying 20 different people to do and provide all the necessaries of their lives while they went shopping, watched football, lounged around, even recreationally hiked on the weekends or sought out other superfluous activities.
The extent of providing for themselves wasn’t summed up in coupon cutting and a trip to Target.
They were chasing caribou herds many miles for meat, trapping martens, foxes, and beavers for their furs. They awaited the migration of Canadian geese for springtime food.
As more episodes rolled on I tuned in and would replay others and I started to hone in on the native identity and cultures. The group seems very tight knit and reliant on each other, and their culture and traditions are important to them. I started wondering what culture and traditions I could claim and none came to mind. Compared to the native cultures ours seemed to be baseball and politics and pursuing the “American Dream”, 2.5 kids with a dog and a house in the suburbs.
They seemed to be very tight knit and dependent on each other while we are islands to ourselves in vast subdivisions and multi-story complexes. They are together and we are disjointed, yet we are “advanced” and they are “primitive”.
The show helps to clarify a sentiment of mine, that what most of what we are doing in our cities and towns is not life, it is not living. It is merely an anesthetized, monotonous, stale existence as a part in someone else’s financial engine. It is captivity.
What happens to most of us is, to me, the same thing that happens to zoo animals. The vitality is sucked out of us so that we will dutifully pace back and forth in our little box for others amusement. We do it so long that we know how to do nothing else and are afraid to try, we become dependent on the very thing that took our soul away. We become sick and unhealthy in our bodies and our souls but the master of the engine plugs us full of dope to keep us going. Perhaps that is our tradition, our culture.
I envy these Alaskans, there is no insulation between them and life and it would seem they would have it no other way. I long for that sort of life.
Theirs is life, theirs is living. Theirs is being in direct contact with the reality and necessities of true life on a daily basis. Theirs is a realistic understanding of just how small and trivial we are in this world, theirs is coming face to face with the reality that we are not the pinnacle. Being in such constant contact with the realities of life I believe gives your life vitality and spirit and energy.
Ours is not life, ours is mere existence. Stagnation, sterility, monotony, and all more or less looking the same. Nothing of depth, no risk, no exposure, disconnected, no traditions, nothing passed on except how to deaden your own senses and deny your spirit on a daily basis for the rest of your life. How sad.
What bothers me more about our existence is that we have bought the lie and trapped ourselves into doing it. We are led to believe that we must have a home in the suburbs, we must have two brand new cars (and those get traded in within 2 years too), we must have 300 channels and video games, and 5 computers. Believing this line of bull we go out and get ourselves into hock for the home and the cars and the other luxuries. When we finally finger what it is that displeases us we come to the realization that we know the cure but also that we have trapped ourselves into the sickness as well because now we have mortgages to pay, and car notes, and credit card debt. It is heartbreaking and soul crushing. If anything is left of our spirit at this point it is all you can do to keep it from dying.
Dick Proenneke, Henry David Thoreau, the monastics, Native Americans, all of these could tell you that so much of what we have piled on top of life is just chaff.
While we kick our brains into overdrive with energy drinks and multitasking and technology and media overload our souls are in the process of starving and dying. We have sought out every vestige of silence and stillness within ourselves and promptly filled it with something from the app store. We have exchanged providing for ourselves and the development of our hearts, souls, and minds for being busy with and good at things that would all become irrelevant after an EMP or a blackout. We are obsessed with a facade. We are enraptured, enthralled, overcome by, and addicted to a facade and we have lost our way. More so, we have lost ourselves.
I will continue to watch this show and more like it. I will continue to read about this life. I will continue to put such a life in front of my face as often as I can and I will hope that my soul will continue to reawaken and push me to accept nothing less.