Freeing The Human Animal

We often take words for granted. However, on closer inspection there meaning, especial there ‘root’ history can have profound influence in how we understand those words. For example, the word ‘human’ comes from the Latin word ‘humus,’ meaning earth or ground, whilst ‘animal,’ is based on Latin animalis ‘having breath’ from anima ‘breath.’ The human animal then, is one that emerges from the earth, breathed into life.

We are therefore not separate from all other life on this planet. We are just another version of animal that occupies the same home. We are as activist and actor Ian Somerhalder suggests “ The environment is in us, not outside of us. The trees are our lungs, the rivers our bloodstream. We are all interconnected, and what you do to the environment, ultimately you do to yourself.”

We Have Forgotten Our Place

We have forgotten, or should we say rather been indoctrinated to believe that being human is somehow far more special — or should we say we have a god like dominion over the Earth and all that live upon it. It is this lie of separation, or excommunication from the natural world by greedy capitalistic thinking that has laid baron and ecologically devastated our planet. We no longer view ourselves as part of the natural order, as co-inhabitants of this beautiful planet, but rather have been told to take ownership of it. People in the modern world, surrounded by skyscrapers believe this to be reality. How can we not think this, surrounded by our glorious manmade objects. On the face of it, it seems clear we do own this place — but we don’t and never will!

We forget all to often that the human who arises from the earth, goes back to it. There is no escaping our end. We are short term visitors on an exquisite planet, that wont miss us when we are gone. In fact the planet really does not need us at all. If every human being disappeared tomorrow morning, the planet, Gaia, will continue on in our absence. Unlike the delicate ecosystems we are destroying at an alarming rate, where every insect, plant, microbe etc al., plays a vital role in the health of that system, we in fact really serve no purpose. The Earth doesn’t need us in order to flourish, but we need her.

This is a sobering thought. 

In fact, we are food. We are being used as a source of life sustaining sustenance ourselves, every moment of our lives. As biologist Alanna Collen notes,

“You are just 10% human. For every one of the cells that make up the vessel that you call your body, there are nine impostor cells hitching a ride. You are not just flesh and blood, muscle and bone, brain and skin, but also bacteria and fungi. Over your lifetime, you will carry the equivalent weight of five African elephants in microbes. You are not an individual but a colony.”

We are so arrogant to believe that just because we are able to walk, talk, and reflect on ourselves, that this allows us dominion over what we perceive to be resources for our own survival. In turn we are strip-mining the earth until there's nothing left for anyone. And if that’s not good enough, we ensure that we enslave our fellow man, kill him senselessly, abuse him, and hate him for all sorts of ridiculous reasons. I often joke with my partner that I want to sue the world. Am I not a citizen of this planet? Yet, we have to ask permission to go to other parts of the world. We think we are free, but we are in fact enslaved. 

Who enslaved us? 

We did it to ourselves.

As Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk and peace activist so eloquently points out:

“We have constructed a system we can’t control. It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims. We have created a society in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and in which we are so caught up in our own immediate problems that we cannot afford to be aware of what is going on with the rest of the human family or our planet Earth. In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed.”

Reclaiming Our Human Animal

This is why I am adamant that we need to once again reclaim our human animal. We are part of this amazing planet, along with every single other organism, insect, plant, and fellow animal cousin by decent or otherwise.

When I reflect on growing up, I have always felt out of place. I never quit fitted in. I still don't. My happiest times as a child was when I was out alone in the African bush or practicing primal skills, from martial arts, to foraging. These experiences in the natural world were also my two sons most favorite times. It’s no coincidence either. Unwittingly we were re-embracing our natural animal human state. We where born to be apart of this world. We don’t own it. No one does. A Haidenosaunee teaching articulates this well, “We are a part of everything that is beneath us, above us and around us. Our past is our present, our present is our future, and our future is seven generations past and present.”

As Cultural historian Thomas Berry in The Dream of the Earth has argued,

“We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of that spiritual “autism.

Or in the words of Albert Einstein,

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

We can only free ourselves from this tyranny of domestication in the modern world, and the illusion of separation from the natural world — by stripping away the conditioning it has burdened us with. We are clearly not happy. The self-help industry is larger than it has ever been. A new psychological tool comes out every other year to help us deal with our psychological suffering. New ‘happy’ drugs are being developed at an alarming pace. We plug into virtual reality via video games, to escape the current modern reality. The onslaught of mindfulness practices in all its guises are being shoved in our faces everywhere. Non of this would exist if we were happy.

Modernity, with all its fanciful trappings, has made us ill. No amount of reading that next self help book, taking that next happy drug, or sitting quietly in a candle lit room — alone is going to ease our suffering. We are lost, and we have lost something really important, we know it, but we seem to be searching for it in all the wrong places.

How To Reclaim What We Have Lost

To be truly fulfilled requires reconnecting with the uncluttered, minimalist embodied wisdom of our ancestors, our human animal — and in doing so unlock our natural inner rhythm. It’s time to RIˈWILD! To Ri’Wild is to reverse the process of domestication and to return to a more wild or self-willed state.

But as Paul Shepard in, The Only World We’ve Got realizes, “ It is not necessary to ‘go back’ in time to be the kind of creature you are. The genes from the past have come forward to us. I am asking that people change not their genes but their society, in order to harmonize with the inheritance they already have.” Changing society is incredibly hard, but changing yourself, and how you show up in the world is possible.

Ill be honest, even as I close-in on 50, I don’t have all the answers. As you have, I have been pulled by the allure of modernity, and cajoled into the human Zoo, and swayed down the path of domestication. I have fought against it all my life. But as we likely can all agree, when the world as a system works entirely one way, rallying against it is a difficult prospect. I therefore have done, and increasingly so what Paul Shepard noted earlier. Realizing that until there is a mass sway in the direction back to sanity, all I can do for now is be a voice, and activist for the Human Animal. My boys fondly remember me telling them, “Boys we have to be awake and realize we live in the Matrix, but not to be owned by it”. While I readily recognize that I cannot go back to a time of my hunter gatherer ancestors, a time where by all accounts we suffered rarely as we do now in modernity, I am drawing strength from their ancestral knowledge so that I can optimize my life to fit into the modern constraints I face.

This takes the form of recognizing the spirit of Mother Earth, and to be humble within my place upon her. She has gifted me a space to call home, to live, and the opportunity to explore my full potential. While she would not miss me one bit if I was gone tomorrow, I do believe we are here to have an experience of what it means to be in flow with all of life. I often think of it as somewhat like training wheels for the next adventure when we leave this home. Based on how humans conduct themselves here, on this beautiful planet circling the sun, one could only imagine what the human species would end up destroying if they were immediately thrown into the universe as fully fledged citizens. Clearly, we need to go to ‘Earth Kindergarten’ first, before being allowed anywhere near the vastness of space.

As such, I fill my days now with moments of deep connection, and reverence in nature. I try my utmost not to burden to Gaia, doing as a I can to lessen the load on her. I make a point to make all of my activities to honor the natural intelligence that I am. Rather than seeking outwardly for answers or happiness, I look inward, to what I have been given. By applying my breath in the correct way I can manage the flight and fight response of my nervous system. By steadying my mind, I can be at peace exactly where I am, rather than being consumed by self defeating thoughts. Through my martial art practice I am able to experience flow. Through my movement practice, not only can I connect to the natural world, but experience her in way that is not separate from myself, but connected.

In all of the above, what stands out for me is simplicity. As I have written elsewhere, there was a time before the advent of agriculture, where our ancestors lived as part of the natural world, and while lacking all of what modernity offers us now, were happy. Happiness then, or what I prefer to call fulfillment isn’t complicated. The only reason it feels complicated, the only reason so many people are confused on how to achieve piece is mostly down to how we live now. As the anarchist political activist Emma Goldman points out “With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?”

I leave you with these thoughts from John Seed, founder and director of the Rainforest Information Center in Australia and the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi. Should you want to explore Unlocking Your Instinct {Code} with fellow travelers, take a look at my yearly Retreats in Thailand. I hope you decide to come spend some time with us Re’Wilding.  

“May we turn inwards and stumble upon our true roots in the intertwining biology of this exquisite planet. May nourishment and power pulse through these roots, and fierce determination to continue the billion-year dance.”

- John Seed

“Everything you see has its roots In the unseen world. The forms may change Yet the essence remains the same. Every wondrous sight will vanish, Every sweet word will fade, But do not be disheartened, The Source they come from is Eternal, Growing, branching out, Giving new life and new joy. Why do you weep? That Source is within you And this whole world Is springing up from it The Source is full, Its waters are ever-flowing; Do not grieve, Drink your fill! Don’t think it will ever run dry, This is the endless Ocean."

- Rumi