The alarm clock buzzes, trills, and honks, injecting tendrils of wakefulness into the depths of the dream Joaquin’s mind had only moments before been so thoroughly involved with. The dream regretfully evaporates, and he can no longer remember exactly what was happening. He had been hunting – or had it been the other way around? The thrill of it all still coursed through his body, culminating in a wiry contracting in his shoulder blades, a slight anticipatory tension in his legs. He had been ready to spring – and by all rights still was. As wakefulness rudely crowds out the last vestiges of the dream and any hope of sleep, he pushes himself slowly onto his side, reaches over to the nightstand and, without so much as a twitch of his eyelids, fumbles three times before finding the button to silence the horror that is the alarm clock. For a moment he contemplates a long, luxurious return to the mattress, but grumbling slightly to himself, manages to push his fleshy body up to a seated position. His forehead is already wrinkled in a mix of pain, grief, annoyance, and frustration. It’s definitely going to be one of those mornings.
Of course, he reflects, as he slides his feet between the layers of nine hundred count Egyptian cotton sheets, over the edge of the bed and to the soft StainMaster(tm) carpeted floor below, every morning seems to be one of those mornings.
He manages to swing just enough of his mass over the floor to propel himself upward. Not bad, he thinks to himself, no hands today! It’s the little things that count. He stumbles past clothing hastily doffed in a rush to get into bed and get to sleep and heads towards the five piece master bathroom. AS he crosses the threshold, his hand snakes out and flicks the light switch. His eyes, currently normalized for sleep, are not any kind of ready for the visual assault the bathroom lights offer him. His eyelids, still puffy with too few hours of sleep, snap then squeeze tightly closed. He forces an eye open the scantest of distances and manages to see the glass shower door, which is covered in a haze of soap scum and some pinkish bacteria that seem to be thriving on the low levels of they municipal water district has infused into the water. With a tug, the shower door swings open silently. Moments later, he has turned on the shower water and is anxiously awaiting the pseudo-scalding he enjoys in the morning.
This is an all too familiar scene in the houses of many modern day ‘Westernized’ men and women. Instead of listening to the natural rhythms of their own bodies, of their sleep cycles, and of the diurnal and seasonal cycling, modern man has instead opted to become beholden to another decider of things: the clock. A paleolithic man would look at a modern man and his strict adherence to the clock and wonder What kind of magic powers does that clock have over this man who wears shiny and bright clothing, wraps his feet in something like tree bark, and looks as though a mile over rough terrain might well kill him? The paleolithic man would find this clock worship amusing (or perhaps hysterical) and would not at all understand why someone would take such a large part of their day and give it to pursuits which have no bearing on real life. He would then, probably, go off, kill a rabbit or two, grab some bulbs or tubers out of the ground, and proceed to eat. Being around in a modern country, he might well go and take a nap. What else is there to do, for today, really?
“The things you own end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club
Flippancy aside, a primal modern man daily walks a tightrope between wanting to enjoy the conveniences and luxuries of modern society, while still respecting his own life and anthropological history. We modern primals have electricity, petroleum powered locomotion, 60″ television sets, 5000 Watt surround sound THX certified home theater systems, video game consoles, refrigerators, super markets, malls, space age fabrics, and shoes so thick that even a princess couldn’t feel a pea beneath them. And to compound the whole thing, every last thing is wired up to the internet so you can check in, let everyone know what you’re doing RIGHT NOW, all 9000 of the people that you know so incredibly well that you’ve agreed to be friends with them on face-ter.
This is the background noise modern primals must adapt to. No longer do saber-toothed tigers stalk us through the wilderness, nor in general do we have to contend with hyenas or bears or things that go bump in the night. Instead, we have to contend with something much more insidious – the things we own.
Now, I’m not advocating stripping your life clean from the vagaries of technology – far from it. I have a very fond place in my heart for technology – indeed for many of the things I listed above. But a modern primal must determine a way to use these tools to his advantage, and not vice-versa.
But, for example, what happens when you limit your email exposure? Is it really so terrible that you only check it twice a day (or only a couple of times per week)? Does the world come crashing to a stop? The reality is that it won’t, and after you get over the initial anxiety of not checking your email every hour or half hour or ten minutes (as you probably do – via your phone or instant notifications or whatever), you’ll discover something wonderful – you don’t have to deal with your attention being fragmented, you can focus on the task at hand, and end up getting a lot more done.
As I take a journey towards becoming a modern primal, You can rest assured I will be taking steps to ensure that my devices do not control me. I have already taken steps at work to limit my email exposure (exactly as detailed above – twice a day, at 12 and 3), and have further taken steps at home. My wife and I cook nightly and, while we don’t get to bed as early as we should (and have a little one that acts as an alarm clock), we manage to do all right. My wife enjoys needlework some evenings, and today we spent time in the garage building furniture, took a trip to the park, and even cooked dinner outside. It was a great day, and I even managed to wake up without an alarm clock (or the little one).
Remember – this is not about restriction, or withholding, or technological abstinence of any kind. This is about asserting your control over the things that you own, taking your life back from the beeps, boops, and blips of modern conveniences, and ultimately living and enjoying your life without dependency on the electronic doodads and jimmywhatsits that are so everywhere today. After all, what good is life if all we’re good for is operating machines? We aren’t just, thumbs, fingers and eyeballs. We’re a whole being – let’s get out there and use it.