I admire Summertime, my cat.
Yesterday, she managed to catch and kill a mouse that I knew had been scurrying about in my apartment. And, as I was cleaning up the mess of blood and bone on my kitchen floor, I came to a conclusion about my beloved pet. My sweet, adorable little ball of fat and fur that I cuddle up to on cold nights and have long, goofy conversations with is a killer. I’m only spared because I’m bigger and viewed as a surrogate parent. It is not my status as an “apex predator” that keeps her calm and docile in my presence… I’m more of a passive god-like being who does all the hard work (hunting for food and protecting “the pride”) for her.
But, as the occasional dead mammal or insect reminds me, she (even in her docile, “domesticated” state) is still a quite capable hunter.
And that’s something to admire. I see it in her facial expressions looking out the window. I see her lusting after birds and squirrels outside. I see her instincts at work when she plays with me, chasing after a fur-covered catnip mouse. Biting it at the neck, raking her powerful back claws at its belly to evisceration. And after play is done, she sits on my lap purring, content with her role as a companion animal. She’s safe and warm inside this tall pink monkey’s cave.
She has had the opportunity to leave. Even now in my ground-floor apartment, I’ll leave the window open on warmer days. So far, she doesn’t want to go anywhere. When I lived in a suburban house and she had access to a large yard, she’d go outside on the pleasant days and play a little… but mostly wanted to sun herself on the cool grass, a pleasure I’d sometimes share. On those winter days when I’ve opened the window, you can almost see in her facial expressions the thought process. “Yes, I COULD go out there, but why would I? It’s warm in here, and that big clumsy ape will kill one of those weird round things and give me the meat anytime I want, so.. *purr nuzzle* Hey, daddy, would you mind killing one of those weird round things now?”
She’s still a hunter, and even though she’s the result of thousands of years of passive domestication she still holds on to her true “cat nature.” Hell, the big clumsy ape isn’t dumb: it is precisely her true “cat nature” that makes her a good companion. She kills the occasional pest, and is otherwise agreeable company. Even her biological processes are compatible with the way I live.. she’s learned to poop in the place I designate, so I don’t have cat turds in my oatmeal. (Part of that bargain is I pee in a similarly designated place, so there’s no monkey urine in her meat.)
I can also see in her eyes part of me as well. I’m a hunter. As a human being with ADD, I’ve been told to not view my neurological tendencies as a “handicap”, but as a different way of interacting with the world. I am one of the last of my species.. a hunter living in a farmer’s world. Like my cat, I look outside the window of civilized existence and see the “prey on the horizon”, although for my advanced primate brain it’s less about killing meat for food and more about a yearning to be on the move. Finding better sources of food and water. Perhaps a nicer place to curl up and sleep. And always on the prowl for more mates. Definitely more mates. Hey, in addition to being a Hunter, I’m also male.
Presently, I balance the desires of the hunter with my human need to be a functioning member of the society I was born into. I do not have any Hunter skills (at least, none I’m consciously aware of). I have a skill that requires sitting in one place for long periods of time and interacting with a hunk of plastic with a wire coming out the back. Not exactly the lifestyle my Native American ancestors would envision as “successful” and “rewarding.”
Yet, I find the frontier in the electronic world to be just as stimulating as any geographical frontier. Like my cat plays with a catnip toy to keep her Hunter self amused, I explore Google Maps and Wikipedia, and keep a perpetual electronic watch on Reddit and Fark. Those who’ve been in my home have seen the constant stimulus: everywhere you look there’s a LCD display with some RSS feed or info-graphic on it. I’m most comfortable in an environment where I’m constantly being bombarded by stimulus, and if there’s one thing on the electronic frontier.. it’s stimulus.
In the wild, my Hunter skills would be valuable. Being a Hunter is a constant state of distraction, where every potential distracting detail demands split-second re-evaluation of your world.
What was that sound of a branch breaking on the ground? Predator, or prey? Or maybe a mate? Now there’s movement over there.. but whatever it is it is too small to eat, eat me, or fuck.. so never mind. Hey, that bird call sounds familiar.. I’ve heard those birds around water. What direction is it coming from? I’m thirsty.
This is what life is like inside the Hunter’s mind: all of that could have been in a split second, my body moving towards the bird calls even before the thought process has bubbled up to the awake mind.
Increasingly I feel like I’m sacrificing my birthright as a human being to be part of a society that holds different values. I often feel like I see things that others can’t. I can smell the foul air in the wind, sometimes quite distinctly. My natural instincts often tell me something is wrong. My body feels undernourished, my mind impoverished, my spirit deadened.. even in the center of a surplus of food to eat, of knowledge and culture to enjoy, and millions of potential mates within my prowling radius. I want to run.
Why is there famine in my heart when there is plenty all around?
Every day I take a drug that has the effect of allowing the Hunter to sit down for a minute and stop hunting. In those moments where my hunter brain is still enough that I can think (without being bombarded by Hunter Stimulus) there’s an unnerving calm. And there’s amazing productivity. But often times it comes at a price. There’s less creativity. Time moves at a different pace. I can almost feel the change.
This, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. The past year I’ve been taking drugs to treat my ADD have been a personal Renaissance. I’ve gotten my feet back underneath me, and I’m re-learning a lot of what it truly means to be me.
But it is also presenting me with a realization. I have a birthright to be The Hunter. It’s my true nature. Regardless of how many pills I take or how I retrain my brain, I will never be The Farmer.. and it would be wrong for me to even try.
Not long ago, I started talking about following the “Paleo Diet”, and I got a lot of feedback. Not all the feedback was good, but even in the bad there was something of value I could take away. One of the “negative” points was, and I’m paraphrasing here, that I’m not a caveman, why would I eat like one?
My initial response to that was indignation.
I’m sure the friend who said that didn’t mean anything by it, but my response was very telling to me. It was almost like something inside me was rebelling in that moment against the thought that I was anything but a hairy, smelly, feral caveman; knuckles dragging on the ground and monosyllabic grunts for speech. My higher self (in a moment of non-caveman clarity a split-second later) said “Fuck you, buddy, maybe I am a caveman!” It was almost an instinctive response, channeled through my layers of consciousness with considerable reverberation, only being amplified by The Hunter Mind’s need to defend his territory.
I now realize just how much of my true self came out at that split second. There is, somewhere deep down, an “inner caveman feedle” that has been yearning to come out.
There are primal, very human needs deep inside me that aren’t being met by society at large. Every once and a while, that part of me gets touched, and it feels wonderful. It feels empowering. It feels natural.
And I realize how many aspects of my life this manifests. My diet (while not strictly “Paleo”, those are the foods I’m the most comfortable eating). My spirituality (a blend of neopaganism, tribalism, and animism, with a huge dose of skepticism). My sexuality (bi, poly). Even with all my affinity for technology and all my “forward thinking”, deep inside I feel like I’m a throwback. I’m a very intelligent “caveman”, who has learned to put on clothes and “behave” with the “civilized farmers” out of necessity.
So, I want to substitute a different word for The Hunter. I don’t really have the right word yet. “Paleolithic human” is cumbersome, but it accurately describes exactly how I feel sometimes.
This increasingly looks like the beginnings of another life journey for me. I want to find ways I can let the “paleo human” out, to let him explore the world the way he wants it to be. To hunt, to eat, to explore the natural world in a way that allows those very primal needs to be met, while still holding on to the comforts of Neolithic civilization. And, hopefully, to find other “Paleolithic humans” who are willing to show me the skills I haven’t learned yet to make me feel empowered.