Experiencing What It Means To Be A Human Being

One of the more philosophical individuals who’s taken our semester program over the years posed a very good question to me a few years ago, and since then I tend to pose it to others who engage in long-term bushcraft and survival practice.

It was a year after he had taken the course, during which he spent twelve weeks living outdoors and living the bush life full-time, and we got together for a beer.  He said he was trying to figure out what the point was, and to figure out what to do with it all. 

Our discussion kept coming back to me.  Very few, if any, people who get involved in bushcraft are going to forsake the modern world and live in the bush full-time.  In addition to there being very few places where one could do this, it’s a lonely way to live out your days.

So his question of why, or what’s the point, remains.  Are the skills the means or the end?  An end in themselves?  Is it just a hobby?

This question has provided great campfire discussions over the years, and I’ve heard a lot of eloquent and inspiring answers.   But in the end it’s a question we all have to answer for ourselves.  Why do you do what you do?

For me, it’s about a connection to the land on a deep, non-superficial level as well as a connection to the past.  It’s about the real human experience, and a way of living that’s self-reliant.  Teaching provides me with an opportunity to share this, as well as to have the amazing opportunity to facilitate people’s “A-HA!” moments.

Maybe my friend Ben McNutt put it most eloquently during the winter of 2008 as we were traveling through northern Quebec in the white tube of misery (the now retired 15 passenger van).  “It’s about knowing and experiencing, if only for just a little while, what it means to be a human being.”

This was originally published in October of 2009.

Blog, Educational Philosophy

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • BF

    To me shelter building, foraging, hunting, and fishing are a form of rehearsal for hard times. It fosters awareness that in a world of danger, loss, betrayal, and self interested or incompetent authorities, it is at least possible to survive on one’s own if necessary. That knowledge alone provides a sense of relief, confidence, and security unobtainable from the more artificial and abstract forms of accomplishment in society.

    Ultimately we can count on no one but ourselves to survive, and sometimes not even ourselves. But when I cast a line in the water and catch something there’s a sense of relief knowing that I just might be able to keep myself alive if I had to. That knowledge alone can lessen the panic of failure in other areas of life. It can take the edge off and so relates directly to whatever else we do.

  • I love this post, and hardly ever comment, but am moved to respond. Yes, these experiences are there for us to heighten our humanity, no matter how boring, painful, and frankly sometimes boring in the midst of all the rest of the lesser experiences we are steered into in this compromised world we generally walk through.

  • bruce

    My reasons for bushcraft,

    – It satisfies my inner pyromaniac

    – It satisfies my paranoia about our unsustainable way of life by providing a comforting illusion of self-sufficiency

    – It gives valuable perspective on the idiocy of modern life with it’s petty rules, constant lies and little tyrants. When was the last time a tree tried to sell you pointless crap or told you “don’t walk on the grass”?

  • Tim

    All great responses. Bruce from NB? Great to hear from you.

  • Jeff Butler

    The white tube of misery. I remember it fondly?
    Nice post Tim.

  • Thanks Jeff. Whenever I think about the white tube of misery I think about our trip to Canoecopia. Epic times.

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