Lessons from the Last American Man.

Living in the Appalachian mountains is very interesting because resilience is much more common here than most of the US.  This is an area where people have been living off the land since people arrived on the continent, and some still are.  This weekend I got to spend some time with the uncle of my kid’s soccer teammates.

Me and Eustace

Eustace Conway.  He lives less than half an hour from my house but at the same time he lives 500 years away.  I’m not sure if it’s 500 years in the past or the future.  Perhaps it’s both.  You can find all you want to know about Eustace in Elizabeth Gilberts book The Last American Man or for a more abridged version you can read an article she wrote here. LINK

Conway is a mountain man who still lives off the land.  If the shit hits the fan he probably won’t notice. But I’m not going to get into how to make fire (which I did this weekend) or slaughter a chicken or blacksmithing,  or working a loom, but instead I want to comment on something else I noticed.   Something very interesting.  It first hit me when I looked up and saw a boat.

There was a tree fort, made to look like a boat about 40 feet up in a tree.  Suddenly I felt like I was back at Burning Man and the more I looked around the more I saw and felt the similarities.  Why would someone build a boat way up in a tree?  Why would someone haul a boat to the desert?

Why would someone build a giant teeter totter?  These are not for kids. These are built by adults and for adults.


What about a giant swing?

What do these places have in common?  Well they have self-reliance in common!  What I felt was more important than what I saw.  There was a palpable feeling of joy and fun in both places.  There also was a sense of personal responsibility.   There was a very real possibility of getting hurt at either place.  There was no one telling you what your limits are.  You have to be so tall to ride this ride etc.  You had to decide for yourself.

Lack of personal responsibility can be used as a scapegoat for many of the problems our society faces.  The banks made bad loans, they should have paid the price. People sue McDonalds for spilling hot coffee on themselves.  And about a million other examples.

But what I notice is that living with personal responsibility is more fun.  And not just because of the giant swings.  There is a real feeling that life is good.

This same thing holds true for life in Panama.  We have had renters ask us if they would be allowed to take their dog to the beach, or perhaps to have a fire on the beach.  Well that’s because this is what they are used to…

But this is what they get….

Which would you rather have?  Along with the freedom comes responsibility.  There is no lifeguard who is going to come swimming after you if you get caught in a rip tide.

We are only on this planet for a short time so you better start living now.  As it turns out, what is good for the planet, and what is good for the future is also just good clean fun!

Have a great day and enjoy yourselves!

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6 Responses to "Lessons from the Last American Man."

  1. contrarian says:

    Your musings help me imagine that though I have one foot crippled in NoAm, I reach with my other foot for the balance that you have embraced in Panama. I am determined to get both boots on the target. Regards.

  2. Amlad says:

    Hey, could you tell me exactly where the 2nd swing picture was taken? I really would like to visit that place :) !

  3. Dud says:

    Very nice article and wonderful thoughts on self reliance. But, I want to point out the woman with the coffee burn wasn’t a frivolous lawsuit. Here’s a Google search of the 81-year-old’s burns. WARNING, these are strong images. http://www.google.com/search?q=mcdonalds+coffee+burn&hl=en&tbo=d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=31e7UK_hA8P30gHerIDwAw&sqi=2&ved=0CAQQ_AUoAA&biw=1530&bih=935

    Careful of the stereotypes you help perpetuate. You end up a tool of those we’re fighting against.

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