I’ve put that documentary up here so you, too, can experience Michael’s life. Given our situation, it is time to think about what would, could, should human life look like as we work to weather (ha) the changes now upon us. The separateness stance would have us striving to protect our selves from the changing climate, and from each other as things get challenging. There are many among us who will do that.
Michael chose to move away from others to be free to interact with his environment in his own way. Being authentic with your environment is a slow process. It takes time to get to know it, to understand how it lives, and then to bend your needs around what needs to happen, in the place where you are. It is a slow, respectful, process.
His place was beautiful. It did not speak of difficulty or hardship, yet, he was not connected to the traditional electricity, water, sewer system so these taken for granted comforts were managed in an unusual way, a way that did not pollute his environment, or disturb it in a way that would impact its health and vitality.
There was no talk of food, but we know he managed. He had a garden and the ocean. His environment allowed him to be able to gather all year around, so I suspect that storage was not an issue. As we move into warmer times, how will we address that? Food will become a more consistent area of attention. Will we have the bandwidth to keep animals? Will we be able to provide for them as well as us? Will the need for food require us to live in community?
One of the stories that so sticks in the mind, is his five years playing with a pod of dolphins. His comment that their culture was about being polite, is worthy of some reflection. How will we learn to be together in a way that supports OUR survival? Will we splinter in protective groups, groups intent upon robbing from others what we can’t do for ourselves, or will we discover the joys of sharing and working together? I suspect there will be both groups, at least for a time. Robbing of others is a luxury, one that presupposes that someone else is able to survive well enough that they can ‘afford’ that kind of parasitic behavior. How long will that be tolerated?
The story also speaks to the role of play in our lives. That is a big part of the life of a dolphin, and Michael seemed to have enough time, free from life needs (shelter and food) to be able to join them, for at least a good part of the time. That too, is a luxury, on that all successful peoples have found ways of incorporating, play and art are fundamental ways of spending time. Maybe that is even part of the definition of success, having time for play and art. How have we been doing in that department?
He has a strong spiritual practice. His mind has a natural turn to both the abstract and the beautiful. Both are conducive to the spiritual. Still, he found that guidance from another person, and from an established tradition, provided strength and support. Will we, in this new challenging situation, be able to bring forward those traditions that have supported us for thousands of years? Will we lose all of that? Will we develop new ways of understanding the deeper meaning of life instead? There is a lot of conversation, now, about how to rethink a global ethic, and certainly I’m a part of that conversation. Will we look to nature, or remain stuck in trying to figure out how and why we are different from nature? Will we keep that illusion or seek another way of being?
Another point of rumination, for me, is gender. We have few, if any, stories about women who have gone off into the wilderness to live. In thinking about Michael’s story, I’m not sure if I could have done what he did, even in my youth. The simple physical needs of such a life feel overwhelming, to me. Separation comes naturally to men, (this is another whole essay) and it is a path to connection, as Michael so clearly shows. In my experience, women find a joy in connection, that is natural to us. We do not need separation in the same way. This brings to mind several thoughts. In nature there are certain animals who live solitary lives, not many, most living things live in groups. I wonder if that is an expression of how food is obtained. For the human species, I have heard of an experiment by a tribe in Africa, where children were left on their own at five. That tribe was not successful. The ability to feed children, is a mark of success for any species, and that often requires, for humans, community, of some kind.
So, this film, and our situation, makes me wonder what lessons will we bring forward that will help us, not only survive, but replenish? What understanding do we need to carry forward, so we will not repeat this? Will we know enough to manage our numbers? They say that the story of Atlantis was the story of power run a muck. What will they say about this time?
Kathryn Alexander MA has been absorbed by trying to understand how we should live. Is there some way to actually determine right from wrong and ensure a moral life - and there is. It does not conflict with any religion, creed or ethnic culture. It clarifies and strengthens them all, and at the same time can be independent of them, as it stands on its own. Live in connection with the Earth.