alienation and belonging

Before I came out to live in the woods, I had some pretty firm beliefs about humans and our relationship to the rest of the world.

I didn’t like when people talked about “nature” as though it were in a separate room. I don’t think there is any such thing as a boundary where nature begins or ends. There is just the world, and what’s in it.

Or when they talked about people as sitting in some kind of hierarchical relationship to everything else. For example, I’m particularly allergic to the notion that the earth is somehow “for” humans, even when it’s “for us to take care of”. I don’t like the pervasive assumption that humans are somehow special, that all of evolution was of course leading up to the end product of us.

And I don’t like the idea that we are ultimately flawed in someway, in need of saving, not able to live here without ruining everything.

I fought any dualistic ideas that separated humans from the rest of the natural world. I believed we are creatures made of this earth, meant to be here, able to exist peaceably (though not in current form). I believed this almost militaristically. Ardently, at the very least. This was very important to me.

I believed those things from indoors. Now that I’ve been living outside for almost four months, the things that were easy to assert have been challenged.

I’m not at all saying that I’m converting back to the ultimately-flawed-humanity theory or the nature-is-separate-from-us camp. But I’ve had to examine how the way we’re living, all of us, does create a very real feeling of alienation from the rest of the world.

Because I don’t at all feel “comfortable” or “at home” trudging along a waterless Pennsylvania ridge line under the July sun, gnats in my eyes and mosquitos swarming my ankles. It’s hard for me to sleep in the humidity. I need a book created by lots of other people to help me find water and food and shelter every night. I feel vaguely anxious because I don’t really know what to do if someone is bit by a rattlesnake or sick from bad water or broke an ankle fifteen miles from a road.

It’s strange. In my body I feel challenged by the world I’m walking through, but my mind insists that I belong here in some deep way. I don’t believe in “nature”, but I can feel the sense of separation that causes others to use that differentiation.

Maybe it’s because I’m not behaving in any naturally human way. My human body does not at all expect to walk fifteen miles a day carrying all that weight, eating a poor diet, walking through unceasingly unfamiliar territory and sleeping in a different place every night, with different people. Perhaps I feel out of sync simply because this is crazy.

It brings up all kinds of things. I want to live “naturally” but what does that mean? Is the iPhone I’m typing this on natural? I want to feel most of the time what I believe–that the world is just the world and we are integrated into it, not sitting above to manipulate–but is that even possible when my culture doesn’t go along with that?

Basically, how can I increase my feeling of belonging here, and decrease the sense that I need a savior to help me live here?

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