Wednesday, May 24, 2006

HUNTING AND GATHERING

leftovers

I found this thought provoking post on Clare Dudman's blog a few days ago and have been talking about it ever since. Apparently, they have a series on the BBC, which she refers to as "The Happiness Programmes".

In the episode she discusses, they focus on consumerism, the path so many of us take in the quest for happiness, only to find ourselves lost in deep woods, or trapped in a house that is gradually being taken over by a dangerous proliferation of STUFF.

However, according to Dudman's piece, we're hardwired to go out and bring stuff back--just like I'm driven to suit up in my waitressing gear and pick up a tray in the spring. It's as old and primal as the hunter-gatherer instinct, except like a lot of our instincts, it's been screwed up by our distance from nature, and the genius of advertisers.

So yeah, I read this and I was thinking about it for days. Every time, I went to pick something up in a store, I asked myself, "Do I really need this? Or is my over-civilized hunter-gatherer instinct just homing in on the wrong prey?

I was thinking about it at work the other day, too. At the end of the shift, we bag up the leftovers to take home. It's an amazingly satisfying activity--even though half of my carefully wrapped kill rots in my fridge after I get it home.

The other night I got two pieces of chicken parmesan (which were promptly eaten by my son), a quart of minestrone (lunch the following day) and an oatmeal cookie, which someone had left behind on the table. (My mother gobbled that up with her tea when she stopped by.)

While we were packing up our spoils, I decided to share a little bit of the happiness programmes with my co-workers.

"You know why we're doing this?" I asked.

"Because we didn't get any dinner, and we're planning to wolf this when we get home,"
one intrepid co-worker ventured.

But I was already shaking my head, smartypants style. "Nope. Because it satisfies the hunter-gatherer instinct."

"Maybe that's why you're taking it home. I'm doing it cause I'm hungry," my pragmatic co-worker replied as he packed his dinner into a plastic bag.

But we had been overheard by another worker, who laughed out loud. "So that's what you're thinking about while you walk around the dining room with a dreamy look on your face? Hunting and gathering?"

Yup. That's what I'm thinking about.

12 comments:

Fred Garber said...

I must admit to being a participant in hunting and gathering. My wife and I read the newspaper looking for coupons and sales. Kind of like looking for animal tracks in the forest. We enjoy going to Walmart and Walgreens because they are open all the time. Hey the mall is only open till 9 and a guy has to spend his money somewhere. We usualy do not buy much. We mostly enjoy the hunt. We are always looking for black clothes that are marked way down. Our daughter has a goth shop in Mexico and we some times send them to her. http://www.gothimes.com/
I read Clare Dudman's post that you refer to. Interesting. I do agree that looking for happiness outside of one's self is destructive and bound to end in failure. But the conclusions to ban advertising, get a lowering paying job etc...are also not the solution. They are merely attempts to alter the hunting grounds. In my judgement, to get more happiness you have to practice some sort of spiritual thing...meditation, prayer etc. Drugs(legal and illegal), alcohol are just part of the hunter gathering consumerism thing. Except for those little purple berries on that bush over there...I have heard some interesting stories....

Kerstin said...

Funny and interesting. So glad you are waitressing again, I love your kitchen stories!

This reminds me of my post about 'whole' versus 'empty' people whose void acts like a magnet that pulls in as many 'feel good particles' as possible, often resulting in excessive consumption of goods, food and alcohol. Whole people seem to have a much more balanced view of life's hunting and gathering, something I am still working on whenever I have a moment in between retail therapy!

Mark Gamon said...

According to the anthropologists, you were doing the gathering (on account of being female), while your male co-worker was hunting. That's probably why he sounded a little sniffy when you suggested he might have been gathering as well. If you'd told him the leftover pizza was freshly killed with his spear, he'd probably have hugged you (us men being so shallow).

I'm off to track down a woolly mammoth. Thanks for turning me on to Claire Dudman's blog, by the way...

Mark Gamon said...

Also Eugenio Recuenco, now I come to think of it. But for very different reasons...

Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Patry - I love the idea of you going around with a dreamy look on your face thinking about hunting and gathering - now I'm going to think about that tomorrow while I go on my own bit of hunting and gathering...

Patry Francis said...

fred: I love to think of you and your wife, off for a little h & g session in Walmart, armed with coupons and sales flyers. I would have to agree with you about the lower paying job: I've tried that for years, and it hasn't made me any happier. Then again, it probably hasn't made me less happy either...

kerstin: I remember that whole vs. empty post. Yes! This is similar. We have to hunt and gather in whatever form for survival, but when we're empty, the mechanisms go haywire.

Mark: Hmmm...I didn't know that. Wouldn't you know that men got to do the adventurous stuff--hunting, while we women get stuck with the tedious (and endless) gathering? Then again, I've never been much good with a spear. P.s. Glad you're enjoying Clare Dudman's blog--and Recuenco's photos. Both are great finds.

clare: Thanks for inspiring this discussion--and my dreaminess on the job. Sometimes I doubt I'd make it through a shift if I didn't have something to ponder while I worked.

Simply Coll said...

Interesting perspective and could very well be true. :-)

Patry Francis said...

Thanks, Coll. Always nice to see you here.

robin andrea said...

There was a comedian a few years back who did a routine like this about men being hunters and women the gatherers. He said that's why when men go shopping they simply do a quick hunt: See shirt, buy shirt. Women shop, look for ripe colors, dig for bargains. It's in the genes. Very funny routine.

Patry Francis said...

Robin: Just had to run and tell my husband what you wrote. You've described our shopping habits exactly. Now that we know there's a biological basis for it, maybe we'll have more patience with each other next time. What funny creatures we are.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed a lot! Accutane guild nursing home legal

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信,徵信,徵信,徵信,徵信,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,徵信社,