From October until April the Northwest is a cold wet place. I’ve always felt January and February mark the coldest, wettest months. During these months I have to fight this strange sensation that I am “not being productive.” Rather, I’m inside staying warm and dry and simply doing… not much. This has always made me feel guilty.
I imagine this guilt is mostly the pressure from our culture to always be “productive,” which mostly means working or making money. Beyond that, there is the pressure to work your way up the pyramid; when you are not at your wage-slave job, you must be working on something else that will raise your social status. This might be another job or two, it might be an art project like writing/selling a screenplay, or perhaps investing in stock or real estate.
This societal pressure has remained inside of me despite my personal transformations. The subconscious need to always be productive has permeated into my motivations and passions. Instead of always working towards climbing the pyramid, I must always be working toward being more primitive, to survive the collapse of civilization. I must spend all my time learning new plants, flint-knapping more blades, sleeping in a debris shelter, etc. Even though I know that is bullshit, and have discussed it before, I still have an emotional response of guilt during these cold idle months, when it is just too cold to do shit.
I feel I should spend more time “outdoors.” Part of this I think is that I should somehow be able to transcend my discomfort of the wet and cold. I think it is true that every ones comfort zones can be expanded. But to what end? Should I feel guilty that I feel discomfort? Why does it make me guilty? Because I am not a perfect native? What were the local natives doing during this time of the year? Shivering in the cold chewing inner Pine bark? No. Mostly they stayed inside and slept, told stories around the fire, played games, ate food gathered that fall, made sweet love and slept. I doubt they felt guilty for not “getting outside more.”
Not even the Eskimos spent much time running around in the harsh elements of mid winter. So what can I do to make myself feel better about doing nothing? When I think about it, I realize that I am doing stuff. I read, watch movies, sit around a fireplace and tell ghost stories, play some games, work out. There is plenty to do… The problem with these things is that generally speaking, they don’t produce anything that Civilization values; things that can be measured or put on display at a gallery or used to increase stock funds.
The pressure is increased right now because I am not making any money. I don’t have a job. I’m living rent-free couch/back yard surfer. The money I’m living off of is a small inheritance that I have invested into this project. I should be experiencing a feeling of freedom, which until recently, I was.
These winter elements of culture have been part of our psyches for millions of years. Reading and Storytelling is information gathering which allows us to focus on “how to do something,” such as fish or prepare an edible plant for medicine. It allows us to reflect on the previous year and plan how we can improve our practices in the next. Playing games form or maintain relationships and strengthen communications during the rest of the year. Sleeping and dreaming physically restore our bodies for the coming seasons.
These elements are like seeds, which lie quietly and patiently underground until they explode with inspiration in the spring. Like seeds from which all things grow, these elements are invisible to most until we see the resulting flower or “product.” I feel as though Civilization only values the end product or the pretty flower. It cannot see the invisible things that need to take root so that the beautiful things can be born in the spring.
In order to shed the guilt, I must see and more importantly feel the value in these actions. I need to let myself enjoy hiding inside and watching movies instead of feeling like I should be doing something more “productive.” This is productive bitch. Get your bullshit values out of my fucking head!
Show your support and appreciation for Urban Scout