Going Feral

So I attended a one-day MovNat workshop in Eugene, OR this past weekend. And I’ll go into more detail about that soon, I promise.

But what’s remarkable to me is how well that experience demonstrates the “Zoo Human” concept central to its philosophy:

The “zoo” is a modern, global and growing phenomenon generated by the powerful combination of social conventions, technological environment and commercial pressures.  Increasingly disconnected from the natural world and their true nature, zoo humans are suffering physically, mentally and spiritually.

Are you experiencing chronic pains, are you overweight, do you often feel depressed or do you suffer from frequent illnesses and general lack of vitality?

These symptoms indicate that you are experiencing the zoo human syndrome.  Modern society conditions us to think that this is normal and unavoidable.

For example, check out this post by MovNat’s founding father, Erwan Le Corre. Look at the photos with captions and I’m willing to bet you’ll laugh at how ridiculous our “modern” notions of exercise really are. When birds fly, are they performing a wing muscle exercise? Are snakes properly engaging their core when they slither across the ground? See? It’s ridiculous.

As I sit here integrating my experience with my daily life (car, toddler, house, chairs, memory foam mattress…), it occurs to me that many will see their MovNat experience as a novelty. As something precious that happened away from their “real” life. Jumping on monkey bars and writhing around in the dirt are nice and all, but it just doesn’t jive with our lives lived within concrete and glass and drywall. It’s much easier to just swing by the gym on the way home from work, bang out a half hour on the elliptical under fluorescent lighting (it’s snowing outside after all), grab some take-out Chinese, and head home before passing out in front of the TV. Right?

Chances are, if you’re here reading this, you’ve already decided that the “food” considered normal in our society wasn’t good enough for you anymore. What about the rest of it? If you stick around long enough, you have probably started questioning some other things in your life too: dental care, medical decisions, personal care products, footwear. Maybe you’ve changed your exercise regimen and maybe you haven’t, but either way, it’s worth examining your motivations. Once you realize you’ve been lied to in such a major way, it’s easy to see the lies everywhere, and the realm of fitness/health/exercise is essentially one. Big. Fat. Honking. Doozy. Lie.

I’ve officially reached a point in my life when I no longer want to “exercise”. I don’t want to “burn calories”. I don’t care how cut my biceps are or if I have 6-pack abs. I won’t lie to you and say that I don’t care how I look—that wouldn’t be true because I’m one of the vainest mothereffers out there. So what do I want?

I want to get outside. I want to hear my beating heart interrupted by a bird call. I want to smell cold air. I want to see the mountains and forests around me in every season. I want to be prepared for anything, adaptable, ready. Form and function. Covered in dirt.

No, I’m not chucking it all to live in a van down by the river. I have a 2-year-old daughter, a husband, and a laptop. We’re in the middle of some cosmetic changes on the house we’ve been in for three years. I’ve had to make decisions about light fixtures, paint colors, and pillow fabrics. I have friends and commitments and miles to go before I sleep. This is all fine and dandy, the stuff of life.

Where we get into trouble is mistaking light fixtures for reality. Because while I’m up late at night trolling every last online source for lighting fixtures (“Is the chrome too shiny? That one looks like it belongs in a truck-stop bathroom. Ugh, too frilly.”), the world goes on without me. Pebbles shift in the rain, a tree limb loosens and falls, a raccoon kills a fish in someone’s pond. As different as my surroundings appear, I am not separate from these processes. And yet, we forget this.

I don’t need to disappear down a trail every day. That’s simply not going to happen now anyway. But I do need to prioritize time outside, no matter the weather. Boulders, streams, trees, dirt. And I’ve simply been failing myself on this front. Such a shame, considering where I live.

It’s all about engagement. A mindless 6-mile run is not engaging, nevermind the silly motions most people call a workout at a gym. When I can get so sore it hurts to close a car door from seemingly simple movements like jumping, climbing, and rolling around, the game has been permanently changed. I realized when we were playing around the bars during the MovNat session that I had a buzz going. That’s engagement.

But in order to engage, you have to quit being afraid of looking like a total ass out there. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be sitting on a park bench and see a woman running past in barefeet, jumping on picnic tables, and heaving rocks overhead. And there’s a part of me that instantly recoiled and a part of me that whooped and hollered. As I learned this weekend trying to swing from one bar to another, there is no benefit to holding back. You have to go for it, or it’ll never happen.

Just as with Paleo-style eating, there’s a danger here of romanticizing the past. Sure, it’s great that indigenous people squat all day long, but we don’t. I have no doubt that moving in a functional and natural way aligned with our evolutionary heritage is helpful for our modern lives, but we do, in fact, have modern lives. For me, success will lie in the balance of the two. We have to take what works for us from all that modernity has afforded us, and we have to leave the rest behind. There is nothing the rest can give us except grief, anxiety, and longing. Unless you’re able to go all off-grid Grizzly Adams in an Alaskan cabin, you’re stuck here with the rest of us trying to sort through the dross and noise.

As MovNat teaches, engage where you need to and nowhere else. So where are you contracting that isn’t necessary? What’s sucking up your energy that doesn’t deserve it? And what are you going to do about it?


3 Responses to “Going Feral”

  1. Excellent post! This is exactly why I was so ecstatic to move to Colorado!


  1. Going Feral – MovNat « Thor Falk's Reading List - 01/25/2012

    […] Going Feral | The Paleo Periodical. Inspirational Share this:TwitterRedditFacebookMorePrintEmailStumbleUponTumblrDiggLinkedInLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. Weekend Reading #27 | Live Fit with Stephanie - 12/22/2012

    […] Do we all have "Zoo Human" syndrome? […]

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