The generational amnesia that has eroded our conscious connection with the lifestyles of our indigenous relatives and those of our ancestors in the distant past is, perhaps, not a permanent form of memory loss. In many cases of trauma-induced amnesia the memories return with time, and much of what doesn’t return can be relearned. We lost touch with our wild nature slowly, generation by generation, immersed in civilization’s corrosive epigenetic bath, but a core wildness still remains active and ready to respond, deeply embedded in the genetic tissues of every newborn child. Although it took 10,000 years to get this far away from where we belong, it can take just one generation to bring us to the beckoning threshold of home.
In this there is hope.
However, rewilding is not a matter of simply dropping our cell phones and fashioning atlatls and spears. It’s not a matter of simply adopting the material trappings of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. An authentic human life is not a role to be enacted, something to be read off a script and supported by the appropriate props. The world is not the same place it was prior to the Neolithic. The world is not the same place it was even as little as 200 years ago—or yesterday, for that matter. Many of the life-ways appropriate to the artists of Lascaux or to the Cheyenne of ten generations past are no longer relevant or even possible given recent changes in the physical environment. Adopting a “primitive” lifestyle, living in the forest, rediscovering the skills of the ancients, learning to craft Stone Age technology and master Paleolithic hunting methods, and surrounding yourself with wild nature is a better option than taking a job at a fast food franchise, perhaps. But it is important not to get stuck on the surface. The tendency to get stuck on the surface is a characteristic feature of a mind that has been thoroughly alienated from itself, a mind that is cued by distraction, a mind that no longer knows how to get beyond its own reflection, the shallow narcissistic mind of a consumer.