My Mission

Several years ago, while waiting tables in New York City, a friend turned me on to the writings of Daniel Quinn. If you have ever read any of his works, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say that it completely changed my life. That is no hyperbole. From that point on, I had to rethink everything. I began to realize that everything in the world comes from the earth and that all life comes from the sun. It reshaped not only my view on civilization, but it made me rethink my faith as well.

I have spent the following few years responding to the things Quinn taught me. If civilization is doomed and man was never meant to live this way, then what am I to do? How do I change the way I live? Can I escape this prison that civilization had me trapped in? It was often overwhelming and discouraging. I tried little things, taking advantage of the resources I could find in New York. I went on foraging tours with Wildman Steve Brill. I kayaked for free thanks to the Downtown Boathouse. I started exploring the city parks on my own, bringing various plants home to try out. I even found a job for a summer harvesting wildflowers in New Jersey for a man who sold them to florists in Manhattan’s flower district. Even though I was able to learn and do a lot, it was never enough.

I decided to leave the Christianity I’d grown up with behind me. It was hard to make that step, but it was important to me. I needed to look at this world in a different light, and the halo on top of Baby Jesus’s head was casting too many damn shadows. I started to eat the Paleo Diet for a while, and felt a relief in that as well. My body and soul were both being purged. But there were some things I just didn’t know how to break free from–like paying rent.

I saw the musical Rent on Broadway and thought “Well, maybe young bohemians could get away with being squatters in Manhattan in your day, Jonathan Larson, but I’m not about to try it in this day and age.” I would day dream of living in a debris hut in one of the city parks. As I walked around Inwood Hill Park or Van Cortlandt Park, I would scrutinize sites where I thought someone could get away with living in a small, discrete shelter. But I never had the guts to try it–not even for a night.

So I remanded frustrated for quite some time, wishing I could do something to with these primitivist urges inside me, but never really getting off my ass to fulfill them. I even bought an inflatable kayak, but I only got to use it a few times while we were living in NY. Then I got hooked on video games and got very involved with my job. I felt like I was just getting stuck deeper in the mire.

Cut to a few years later: My wife and I have a one-year old son now and are living back in Arkansas where we both grew up. I know a lot of the wilds here already. And now I have a few friends nearby who might be willing to try some crazy shit with me. They both have kids too, which can be limiting–on one hand. But on the other hand, it can also be a reason to get out and do stuff–crazy stuff that you would never do for yourself. If having a kid can make you glue macaroni to construction paper, then why can’t it also spur you to build a debris hut in your back yard and spend the night there? We can make our own fruit leather with berries we pick on my parents’ ranch, we can go to the farmer’s market to buy organic, free-range meat and fat and come home and make pemmican. We can try permaculture. We can eat the dandelions in our yard. Just because I didn’t learn how to live doesn’t mean he isn’t allowed to. And as I teach myself, I can teach him as well.

Does it sound like I’m planning on pushing my freakish ways on my child? That’s exactly what I’m planning on doing. And I think that’s a big part of what parenthood is about–even for the “normal” civilized folks. We’re always pushing ourselves on our kids, even if we’re not trying to directly indoctrinate them. And I don’t figure that he’ll always want to do these kinds of things with me. There will likely grow a distance between us as he ages and starts making his own choices. That’s part of life, and I accept it. But I would like the choices he makes to be based on the things I’ll have taught him. I think that’s all that any parent can hope for.

But I’m not just doing this for my son. When the Crash happens, whether it’s as fast as Anthropik predicts or as slow as Ran Prieur depicts, I want to be ready. And I want my son to be ready too. And if you want to be ready, then I suggest you start doing some experimenting for yourself.

Aftermath suggests:
Learn these things now. They are not things to look at and think that since you know how to do them, though not know how to do them expertly, that you will survive. Learn them and then do them everyday as practice until you have to do them everyday because of necessity. Do not fall into the belief that since you know something you can move onto things that are nice to know, though not essential for survival…never abandon the essentials. Do them until your muscle memory could do them without you even having to think about them.

Alright. Time to get learning.


7 responses to this post.

  1. “Does it sound like I’m planning on pushing my freakish ways on my child? That’s exactly what I’m planning on doing.”

    Haha. That’s awesome. Kids are great motivators… I mean, I imagine that they would be, seeing as I don’t have any.


  2. Posted by Rix on 02/27/2007 at 3:19 pm

    Yeah, I decided to stop seeing my son as a hindrance to my goals and start seeing him as a reason to pursue them. I mean, hell, if the “normal” father/son relationship focuses around tossing a pig skin around, why can’t we make it an actual pig–that we track and kill and skin and eat and use. Instead of “Hey son, wanna throw the ball around?” why can’t it be: “Hey son, wanna practice with our atlatls?”


  3. I think I’ve got a similar background as you. I haven’t totally given up Christianity yet. I’m still trying to make it work given my new consciousness. Lately it’s hard to not consider the collapse with every conversation I have with someone. It’s almost like a little secret I know that no one else does.

    I don’t have any children, but if/when I do, I will do the same as you. Teaching is a great way to learn skills too.


  4. Sassmouth,

    Amen to teaching being a great way to learn. It definitely helps solidify the skills and your understanding of all the dynamics involved. Plus, with the knowledge-drinking, constantly-questioning nature of kids, I feel certain that I will be forced to look at thinks through his eyes and have to make sense of them in a whole new way.

    On Christianity, once I realized that humans aren’t fallen, then I had to conclude that there is no such thing as “sin”. That’s not to say I don’t believe in “good” actions and “bad” actions. But I don’t believe that there are eternal consequences to “bad” actions.

    Once sin was out of the picture, I started to realize that the crucifixion had no meaning. If there is nothing to save me from, then I don’t need saving.

    I still find a lot of beauty in the mythology of both the Testaments, but they have no salvific meaning for me now. I tend to think of myself as a witch more than anything else simply because I sometimes want a label and my feelings of connectedness with the earth and energy tie in nicely with witchcraft’s concepts of the Mother and Consort. But then if I’m explaining it to someone, it gets tricky about having to explain that I consider myself a witch but not a Wiccan–kind of a non-denominational witch, if you will.

    I know what you mean about the big secret, too. I have one friend that I have broached these feelings with, and we both find ourselves thinking of the future in two lights: crash and no crash. Not that I think there’s any chance the crash won’t happen. I just don’t know if it will have hit full-bore by the time of the future plan that I happen to be considering at a given moment.


  5. Posted by corinajoy on 04/16/2007 at 8:26 pm

    you might like this blog:

    My most basic nature has always been ‘a longing to be with trees.’ I remember in high school when I first learned of transcendentalism I was just like ‘yeah, these are my people.’ i first learned about making my own fire and debris huts at the ‘outdoor women’s conference’ right there in good o’l arkansas. since you aren’t a woman you could go to this conference by being…an instructor or you might suggest that susan go if she’s into living as close to our mother as possible. Then she could teach you when she got back.

    As for losing my religion, that was certainly a long process, but the final shreds of it dissipated into the cosmos while I was watching the movie ‘Pearl Harbor.’ i was on the verge of being pagan already, like i had already abandoned the notion of hell, had much issue with christianity not really being as inclusionist as it prattled on about, and ultimately was having a real problem with the christian dogma being the only dogma that can help one cultivate a relationship with the creator/creative force of/behind the universe. watching ‘Pearl Harbor’ and seeing the hands of the soldiers as they tried to survive certain death by drowning…i knew that i could no longer believe in the god christianity described. i am very happy christianity is part of my past; that is i’m thankful i was and i’m thankful i’m not. thankful to whom or to what? well, that’s another blog entry…

    Sincerely, corinajoy, otherwise known as chad’s wife, joanna.


  6. A few weeks back, Ran had a series of comments about how slow things have gone lately–9/11, Iraq, the collapse of the dollar, the mortgage crisis, gas prices rising a penny every day and so on, yet so little in real, day-to-day changes in peoples’ lives–and how it proves we’ll face a slow, gradual collapse. Meanwhile, watching the same events, my first reaction said, “Woah! Everything seems to happen now way faster than I expected!” Americans have already started buying smaller cars, for example. After reading Ran’s comments, I felt REALLY confused. He calls this slow and gradual? Just how hard a crash did people expect? Something akin to flipping a light switch? You go to bed one night after watching TV, and wake up the next morning in a sunny glade? I do think of myself as foreseeing a hard crash–I mean, ten years from now, you’ll likely find large parts of the country where you don’t really have to pay taxes anymore. (Mind you, such areas exist today.) Of course, if you insist on living in a city, I expect you’ll have that option for a century or more to come. Heck, Romans didn’t think they had much of a collapse on their hands in 475 CE. In the long view, we’ve had collapse going on for a century already. But always, people living through collapse experience it as a fairly sudden–sudden meaning 10-20 years–shift from “mostly civilized with some pockets” to “mostly uncivilized with some pockets.” But reading Ran’s comments, I started thinking, he must call it a gradual crash because it could take something like ten years; I call it a hard, fast crash because it will probably happen in less than 20 years. :)


  7. Posted by Rix on 05/21/2008 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks for drawing my attention back to this post, Jason. I needed to refresh my mentality.

    As for the speed of the crash, I think you nailed the question of perspective. That you would look at a think and call it fast, and Ran would look at the same thing and call it slow.

    I wrote this post before you published The Slow Crash and gauged my sense of your crash-ology simply from the 30 Theses. But when you published The Slow Crash, I thought, “Well, when you look at it like that, like the whole last century marked the beginning of the collapse, then you redefine the concept of slow in a way that Ran probably didn’t even envision.”

    But what do we mean by “crash” or “collapse”? Ben’s definitions make sense for the sake of his argument, but nobody seems to delineate between them that way. Most people just use them interchangeably.

    I think a lot of people do expect the crash to look like an overnight event — like 9/11, like the Blackout. One day life feels normal, and the next day it feels like chaos. But I doubt we’ll have the ability to define that moment until it has already long passed.


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