I’ve been waking up with the ravens lately, around 5:30. They celebrate each new day with enthusiasm, jabbering joyfully in the treetops. Then they take wing and spread out across the land, to spend the day exploring, foraging, hanging out with friends, and celebrating the perfection of creation. Near the end of the day, as the sun is setting, they return home from their travels, perch high in the trees, and chatter about the day’s events. They’ve been living like this for more than a million years, and they have left no permanent wounds on the ecosystem. Experts say that ravens are among the world’s smartest animals.
After the birds have departed in the morning, the neighborhood begins rumbling. The ground dwelling tropical primates are getting up, taking a crap, eating Fruit Loops, drinking coffee, and then jumping into 2,200 pound (997 kg), 124 horsepower motorized wheelchairs, with luxurious seats, air conditioning, entertainment systems. They join hordes of speeding wheelchairs, fanning out across a once-thriving wild ecosystem now mutilated by countless permanent wounds. It’s time for another excellent day at the cubicle farm. Joy!
As you can see, the two ways of living are radically different. One is ecologically sustainable, and the other is ecologically insane. Like the ravens, our closest living relatives, the chimps and bonobos, have lived in the same place, in the same way, for several million years, without degrading their ecosystem. We share something like 99 percent of our genes with them. Chimps, bonobos, ravens, and all other non-human critters have never forgotten who they are.
Once upon a time, long, long ago, our ancestors lived as intelligently as all the other critters in the family of life — wild, free, and happy. That is who we are in our genes. That is what we evolved to be. It is our culture that has forgotten our birthright and identity, and turned into a freak show. A few isolated groups of humans still remain wild, free, and happy. But their survival is now threatened by rapidly growing mobs of folks who are lost, entranced, and destructive. Why? How did they get so lost?
The venerable historian William Cronon was the son of a history professor. One day, his father gave him the magic key for understanding reality. He told his son to carry one question on his journey through life: “How did things get to be this way?” Sometime, when you’re feeling a bit bored, eager for thrills and excitement, get a library card and spend the next 25 years reading. Search for answers to Cronon’s question. Read 500 books on environmental history, ecology, anthropology, night after night, year after year, and type thousands of pages of notes. I did that.
In the imperial sagas of our culture, we are told that humans are superior to all of our other relatives in the family of life. We are living miracles that excel in the juju of science and technology. Life has never been better, and the best is yet to come. The sagas do acknowledge that there are still a few minor rough spots in our manmade utopia, but they are nothing more than pesky annoyances that can effortlessly be bleeped out by industrial strength magical thinking. With our legendary big brains, there is nothing that humans cannot rationalize, deny, or wish away. Progress rocks! We are the greatest!
Relax and enjoy! Shop like there’s no tomorrow! Everything is under control. Highly trained experts are protecting us, and there is no problem they cannot lick. Our purpose in life is to work hard, spend like champions, constantly enhance our display of status trinkets, and patriotically contribute as much as possible to our local landfill. It’s almost as if, from their earliest days, our kiddies were taught to be gravediggers.
In any culture, it’s perfectly normal to trust what your elders taught you, and to retain that mindset until your dying breath. It’s perfectly normal to spend your entire life being surrounded by people for whom that mindset is as real as the sun and moon. In healthy, time-proven, sustainable cultures, this is exactly as it should be. In insane cultures, blind faith accelerates our plunge down paths that lead to nowhere good. Among our worst options is to mindlessly live and think like a suicidal society expects us to.
Greetings readers! Welcome to Wild, Free, & Happy! My name is Richard, and I’ll be your loony heretic for this word dance. Please take a seat by my campfire. I have stories to tell. I want to tell you the saga of our ancestors’ journey, the four million year voyage from tree dwelling primates, to planet thrashing thunder beings — from wild, free, and happy, to frantic stressed out maniacs, zooming down the fast lane toward the zenith of meaninglessness. Yippee!
Big Mama Nature is being gang-raped by an absolutely insane society. She is not enjoying it, she is screaming for help, and she is furious. This society cannot hear her, and seems to be enjoying it. Rape is the engine of perpetual economic growth, the golden goose. We are the Crown of Creation. We are all that matters. Big Mama’s purpose is to satisfy our insatiable hunger for every imaginable pleasure.
This is what happens when generation after generation is taught nothing but the ridiculous imperial sagas of human supremacy. It’s very easy to understand why this society is lost in a thick fog of magical thinking and pathological illusions. Growth is our god word. Our society trains us, and expects us, to devote our lives to the gang rape. We deeply admire those who excel at the game, accumulate immense wealth, proudly display their lavish status symbols, and frequently appear on our glowing screens — as champions and role models. How smart is that?
Our society, of course, is a horrifying masterpiece of spectacular insanity. What would it be like to explore a wild, free, and happy version of the human saga, a clear and simple version of the story minus the mountains of bullshit and bad craziness? I mean, seven-point-something billion people are charging at top speed, right past the signs: Wrong Way! Do Not Enter. We are on a dark path that dead ends with our extinction. How smart is that?
Every newborn that squirts out of the womb is a wild animal that evolution has fine-tuned for foraging, scavenging, hunting, and thriving on healthy tropical savannahs. Their genes are fine-tuned for a wild, free, and happy life — like newborn chimps, bonobos, raccoons, chipmunks, and everything else. Sadly, our newborns glide out into a family and society that is the opposite of wild, free, and happy. This culture has no memory of wild, free, and happy — and it proudly celebrates our transformation into hollowed out consumer zombies. How smart is that?
Maybe it’s time to remember who we are, turn around, begin the long journey home, and return to the family of life. Maybe it’s time to unlearn, question, and change. Maybe it’s time to strew tons of banana peels in the path of the monster. Maybe it’s time to goose every sacred cow, and delegitimize the toxic beliefs that make our culture crazy.
Please be aware that this book contains zero miraculous silver bullet solutions to our slithering multitude of predicaments. It provides no instructions for conjuring a powerful magic spell that will throw open the gates to an ecological utopia of love, peace, and happiness. On the following pages, you will find a banquet of outside the box thinking, which may result in something like a mental enema, flushing out a torrent of stinky brown accumulated crud. This book is a hopelessly crazy-assed effort to break the trance.
We’re about to walk right past the No Trespassing signs, jump over the fence, and take a long strange trip, down an ancient path, to a realm of ideas forbidden by the grownups. Please toss your cell phones into the shit bucket. We’re about to begin. Trust nothing I say. Think for yourself. Good luck! Have fun!