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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 31, 2018

5 Suggestions for Becoming Less Civilized (and a Giveaway)

By Mark Sisson
236 Comments

Inline_How_to_Uncivilize_YourselfCivilization has given us great gifts. Infectious diseases rarely kill us anymore. We have hot running water that’s safe to drink (usually). We can go down to the market and buy a thousand different foods. Things are, for the most part, safe and comfortable. Of course, many of the benefits of civilization have been solutions to problems it introduced. That we rarely die from infectious disease is significant because the high population densities of early civilizations created such high infectious disease burdens; nomadic hunter gatherers didn’t have that issue. But there are benefits.

Civilization has also harmed us. There’s the usual laundry list of maladies, like industrialized diets, sedentary lifestyles, dysfunctional circadian rhythms, skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes, and cancer that we discuss on here all the time.

But there’s also our wildness. For a civil society to function, it must tamp down excessive wildness among its citizenry. Someone’s got to maintain the roads, fix the plumbing, drive the buses, and get up and go to work on time. Yet, the call of the wild persists….

Humans have always represented the intersection of wildness and order. We have animal urges and instincts, and we have reason and logic. We’re subject to the natural world, and we mold and shape it. We’re civil, but with an edge. It’s that precarious balance between chaos and order that helps us do incredible things. The crazy vision of stepping foot on the moon and the discipline necessary to get us there safely. When we become “too civilized,” we lose that edge. On the balance, I’ll take the civilization, but we can do it better by reintroducing wildness into our personal lives.

“Wild” isn’t “crazy” or “savage” or “violent.” It can include ebullience, but it’s mostly about loosening the shackles of what civilization expects you to be and do.

Besides the obvious and dependable ways to become less civilized, like taking wilderness skill classes, flouting conventional dietary wisdom, camping, and hiking, what are some other suggestions?

Adjust Your “Create:Consume” Ratio

To consume is to be passive, comfortable, civilized. Civilization needs consumption. It’s necessary. But civilization and the humans who populate it also need creation, and that’s a bit more wild. It’s pushing the boundary, riding the edge. This isn’t an either-or situation. Everyone consumes. Everyone should create, too. How’s your ratio?

You don’t have to start a blog or write books. You don’t have to become an oil painter or sculptor. Although those are all great options for cultivating wildness via tweaking the create:consume ratio, they’re not the only way.

Creation can be almost anything as long as it introduces something new to the world. It can be minor or monumental. If you’re reading a blog and a thought comes to you, write a comment. If you’re scrolling through a Twitter conversation and have something to contribute, do so. Participate. You could be dungeon master for a Dungeons and Dragons group—that’s creating a narrative for others to inhabit. You could convince your buddies to start training with you—that’s creating good, healthy habits in people who didn’t have them. Direct your energy outward, rather than be a passive recipient of exogenous energy.

Learn a Martial Art

There’s a real human predilection toward violence that, if ignored or repressed, often explodes into tragedy. Martial arts can be a good outlet for that. Now, I don’t know this first-hand. As a kid, I got into my fair share of mostly-friendly scrapes and rough and tumble play, and it was great. Every kid should do that (few do these days). But I don’t have any real experience with martial arts. Not learning one is actually one of my major regrets in life. In recent months, however, I have done some very easy grappling drills with an acquaintance who’s been training for most of his life. It’s been awesome. Nothing too serious or intense. But I get a real sense of how I’d respond in a violent situation.

Don’t do what I did. Learn a martial art. There’s an element of wildness—you’re learning how to do and avoid violence, how to face another human being in simulated mortal conditions—tempered with control and the boundaries of civilization—no one’s going to die or get seriously hurt. From my limited experience, I’d say try a grappling art like Brazilian jiu-jitsu or wrestling.

Indulge Your Fandom

Humans have a sense of tribalism encoded in us, a desire for allegiance toward and acceptance from a group. For some, that manifests as ethnic or religious hatred. There are obvious problems with those manifestations. Could there be a positive outlet for our tribalism? Research shows that diehard sports fans see physiological benefits when their teams compete, such as boosts to testosterone and increased empathy. Sports fans even have a higher-than-average sense of meaning in their lives, something many modern humans lack.

I’m guessing this may apply to more “nerdy” allegiances, like Star Wars vs Star Trek, Marvel vs DC, or Playstation vs XBox, though I have to draw the line at adult My Little Pony fans. Sorry.

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t let these tribal allegiances consume your life. Don’t spend every waking moment following sports, politics, or pop culture. That’d be like engaging in perpetual warfare with a rival tribe—no good.

In fact, I think some of these “open-ended” tribal conflicts are the most dangerous. In sports, as on the battlefield, there’s a definitive, objective conclusion to the conflict: Your team either wins or loses. Everyone accepts the outcome, because the outcome is undeniable. In politics or pop culture, the battle never ends. It drags on, and drags you down with it.

Get Your House In Order

When chaos envelopes us at home—dirty dishes in the kitchen, clothes strewn around, papers everywhere, bills unpaid, responsibilities mounting—we devote most of our creative energy to blocking it out, to ignoring it, leaving us little energy left over to embody our true, wilder selves. Don’t do this.

Instead, deal with the issues directly. Clean the place up. Address all the energy suckers. You’ll probably find that most of them resolve rather quickly, and you have far more time and energy left over to create, learn, play, and indulge the call of the wild.

And, yes, I think there’s an argument to made for minimalism here.

Interact With the Environment In Atypical Ways

Civilization has created neat, linear environments with walkways and paths and boundaries. Normally, we stay between the lines, stay off the grass, and generally follow the rules. Try not doing that.

  • Climb trees, randomly. Do so in full view of others; it may inspire them to do something similar.
  • Walk or bear crawl along the backs of park benches. Be cautious about it.
  • Take shortcuts. Vault over fences.
  • Sprint up stairs.
  • Do pullups at crosswalk light posts, overhead branches, ledges, anything that you can grip and hang from.

Be a weirdo, not a jerk.  You shouldn’t walk through wilderness protection zones or trample someone’s garden. Don’t trespass.

I’m curious how you foster de-civilization in your life? Any comments, reactions, responses? I’d especially love to hear about martial arts more experienced folks can recommend.

Now For the Giveaway…

As we wrap up this kickoff month of 2018, the question becomes: how do you take your intention to the next level? Today I offered up some ideas for those often neglected but still essential “other” foundations of a healthy and fulfilling Primal life.

primalconnection_400x400And I want to offer one random commenter on today’s post something to help in that regard—a copy of The Primal Connection and a $50 gift certificate to PrimalBlueprint.com to apply to other books (or anything on the site) that might support his/her next steps.

Just tell me some thought inspired by today’s post—or something you’d like to see me cover about these “extra” essentials of Primal living: play, sun, sleep, nature, barefooting, etc.

Be sure to comment on today’s post by midnight tonight (1/31/18 PST) to be eligible.

Take care, everyone. Be well!

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236 Comments on "5 Suggestions for Becoming Less Civilized (and a Giveaway)"

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Robin O\'Sullivan
3 months 22 days ago

I thought the idea of finding a positive outlet for tribalism was interesting. I do tend to think of obsessiveness as detrimental, but I like that you noted the physiological benefits of healthy tribalism. In future posts, I’m always interested in hearing more about the human relationship with nature.

David Regan
David Regan
3 months 22 days ago

This article really helped me understand the importance of getting our house in order. For me, having a house that is out of order will cause unneeded stress and anxiety. I dread the time it takes my wife and I to bring the inside of our house back to life especially with two kids under the age of 3 but the end result is satisfying and the stress and anxiety soon disappear.

Mike
Mike
3 months 22 days ago
All great ideas. I would add that even “micro dosing” nature helps. I take my dog outside first thing every morning and last thing before bed, barefoot and coat-less, regardless of the weather. While she’s doing her business I stand quietly and notice the feeling of the grass (or snow) underfoot, the air on my skin, the sounds and smells in the atmosphere, and what’s up in the sky (colors, clouds, etc.). I simply get quiet and observe, both externally and internally. Once you start doing this, your relationship with nature will strengthen, and you may even start feeling a… Read more »
sandy mchenry
3 months 22 days ago

<3

Lisa Z
3 months 21 days ago

I love this idea! I let my dog out on his leash several times a day, and in the process often stop and look out at the world from my deck (I feel so lucky to have a pretty backyard with a pond and lots of trees and wildlife), but I hadn’t thought of it as “micro dosing” nature. I am going to do this more intentionally now, thank you! And barefoot more often too.

Leigh
3 months 22 days ago

I love this! It’ll be easier as it gets warmer and I think I’ll try it. My dog would love it, of course!

Melani Gerzon
Melani Gerzon
3 months 16 days ago

I like that. Going to do that, Thanks for sharing

NaturalGirl
NaturalGirl
3 months 22 days ago

I love this article. So much fun to look forward.

Chad Clark
3 months 22 days ago

This post has everything: solid advice, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and Dungeons and Dragons. 10/10, would read again!

From your experience with grappling drills, how would you adopt martial arts into Primal aligned fitness endeavors? Also, what is keeping you from becoming more involved in the martial arts you listed? Or Dungeons and Dragons, for that matter?

LlamaAnna
3 months 21 days ago

Jiu Jitsu and D&D, perfect 😉

Anthony Munkholm
Anthony Munkholm
3 months 22 days ago

How about some tips for indoor rock climbing. Really been getting into this lately as great cross-training. Went outside in Colorado last summer and I’m hooked.

How do I increase finger strength? What about how being outside on a rock brings you so present?

Elizabeth Resnick
3 months 22 days ago

I used to do a lot of indoor rock climbing (both top roping and bouldering) and loved it. Definitely had issues with grip strength though. Still want to try doing it outside…know it would be a whole different experience.

Damien Gray
Damien Gray
3 months 22 days ago

As a former scoutmaster, I used to encourage my scouts to do exactly this, but not too much (adolescent boys have no brakes on their behavior). But it was amazing to me how much I had to tamp down technology. At one time, I actually had two scouts texting each other from opposite ends of a hiking line. Phones were soon banned on campouts, much to the chagrin of the scouts (this was before phones were essentially banned by sexual harassment/predator laws). The best campouts were the ones with no technology involved.

Georgina
Georgina
3 months 22 days ago

Excellent ideas. How about an article on “walking meditation in nature.” This is a formal practice with a blueprint to follow.this can be done solo or holding the hand of another. It connects us with the earth. It cultivates joy and gratitude. It places us in the present moment. Peace from n.c.

heather
heather
3 months 22 days ago

I vow to be more of a weirdo.

Antonello
Antonello
3 months 22 days ago

I think that practicing a martial art, or parkour (which is in a way what you suggested on point 5) has definitely the advantage to make you understand how your body moves on a deeper level than other physical activities based on simpler, or more repetitive, or more structured, movements. I did for me at least, making me less clumsy on the way.

Jenya
3 months 22 days ago

Yes! This was my primary reason to enrol my 7yo in martial arts (I, like Mark, am regretting not learning it as a child). I find we have a set of movements in which we feel comfortable and very few civilized opportunities to explore more and expand that set.

Nichole
Nichole
3 months 17 days ago

It’s never too late to learn a martial art. It can be hard to find a good school that has a good environment for adult beginners, but they are out there. I came back as a thirtysomething woman and love everyday I get to train.

Lucius
Lucius
3 months 22 days ago
My journey started with your website and the Paleo diet, but I’ve slowly began exploring more of the anthropological aspects. What is a true homo sapien supposed to be? How are we designed to thrive? The Stoics (and Aristotle) tried to teach people to live like we’re created to live. They taught that we’re social creatures (and lots of other stuff). They were on the same track. JSM Ward wrote in “Freemasonry and the Ancient Gods” about men’s/women’s social groups in still wild tribes that were disappearing quickly during the early 1900s and how we should study them to preserve… Read more »
Janna Sedgwick
Janna Sedgwick
3 months 22 days ago

The idea to climb trees, jump fences, and bearcrawl park benches sounds like such a great way to have fun in nature.

Linda
Linda
3 months 22 days ago

I eat in a healthy way and have released 80 pounds. (Almost 65. Did this post-menopausal!) I walk a lot and do planks among other exercises. But I can be wobbly at times. I’m thinking martial arts might be more interesting than PT! Since downsizing, our house pretty much stays neat and orderly. I just rearranged a linen closet to make it function better. Little tweaks are all that’s necessary now.

corrie
corrie
3 months 22 days ago

Hi Linda- I have found yoga helps with wobbly balance muscles… (as a fellow post M woman) Congratulations on the weight loss!!

Alan
Alan
3 months 22 days ago

Good article. I would like to see you write more in the future about finding balance between living less civilized and still within society. For example, whether love or hated the reboot of Point Break, there is a line in there that Bohdi says that really resonated with me. He said “We live on the grid, just on our own terms.” I would like to see you write about how that applies to the primal lifestyle. Thank you! Alan

gabe
3 months 22 days ago

I went outside and climbed a tree after reading this. Considering I live in the middle of town and it’s January, I got a few strange looks 😀

Isaac
3 months 22 days ago

I really like the idea of creating and consuming being a ratio. and being the weirdo who does pull-ups on the trees in the park in worth it, most especially because I can show my kids that playing doesn’t stop as you grow older.

Alfred
Alfred
3 months 20 days ago

Amen

Thijmen
3 months 22 days ago

i plan to replace as much stuff as i can with homemade items, for now i am starting with plates and other items i can make from pottery clay, it might be interesting to find a local item trade platform for homemade stuff, ranging from my stuff like pottery to homegrown food, to self made clothes. (though it will take a while untill i’m skilled enough to trade.)

Mike K
Mike K
3 months 22 days ago

I really is just so simple to change. Run, jump, and just play your way to feeling better.

Curt Hunter
3 months 22 days ago

I am lucky in that I enjoy the outdoors so much. I have a woilderness search and rescue team, I hunt and fish, and generally just try and be out more than in.
One thing I have done is to leave my shoes put away at all times after I am home. Whatever the temp or situation, I just leave them off until I am leaving. So even if I walk outside in January, I know it won’t kill me to get some barefoot time in the cold.

Debra Pratt
Debra Pratt
3 months 22 days ago

I have been thinking about Tae Kwon Do; thanks much for giving me a needed nudge!

wildgrok
wildgrok
3 months 22 days ago

I am ok in several of these items:
* Martial arts – lots of judo as a kid, looking forward to learn taikwando. Love aikido, but cannot do it (bad elbow)
* I climb trees at least twice a week: this part of the slackline ritual in the park, it is like the “dessert”
* Being considered a weirdo? – check!
* Barefoot at all times excepting when I am at work, even ride my bike daily barefoot: funny how this piques the curiosity of people, much more than walking barefoot

bamboosmith
3 months 22 days ago

I live out in the country and do a lot of hanging from trees type pull ups. i’m older and wondered about going back and learning karate. i studied the martial arts in my 30’s for a few years and miss it. i feel like i may be too old 30 years later. any thoughts?

KLL
KLL
3 months 21 days ago

You’re never too old! Just find a good instructor. 2 of mine have been men in their late 60s.

Monika Marcovici
Monika Marcovici
3 months 22 days ago

I totally love this. I have 6 year old (wild) twins and it seems that this is what they do all the time. All I need to do is join them:)
I also like to break out in dance or song spontaneously, and then the kids join me:)

Heather Hopper
Heather Hopper
3 months 22 days ago

I appreciated the martial arts suggestion. I sometimes have a hard time staying motivated to exercise, but reading your thoughts on martial arts inspired me to look at it in a different way. I would view martial arts as both exercise and education, whereas I feel that exercise is just exercise; I already use my knowledge and don’t learn a whole lot from my current routine. I am now looking at kickboxing and Jiu Jitsu classes in my area. THANKS!

hunter
hunter
3 months 22 days ago

I am an avid outdoorsman. I hunt , fish and train hunting dogs. I eat wild game and fish several times a week with my family. I actually had trout for lunch which I caught through the ice last Friday. We also heat our house with wood there is something to be said for escaping so called civilization whenever possible

Otto S
Otto S
3 months 22 days ago

What I didn’t read verbatim, but inferred – Get out of your comfort zone!!! Easy to say, much harder to do. That is my new focus!

Dana
Dana
3 months 22 days ago

I am married to the “weirdo” you were talking about. I want to be more like that and have the energy to do those things. When your life is out of order it’s difficult to be in that creative space. I will be doing spring cleaning early this year. I’m ready to get weird!!?

Lisabeth Robinson
3 months 22 days ago

Eat your weeds! Nothing more wild than cooking some dandelions, or putting them in a green smoothie, or making a green juice out of nettles (or sauteeing them). Eat some small wild raspberries on a hike from ripening vine (just know that is what you are eating). And of course, make sure civilization hasn’t ruined them with pesticides!

Mike
3 months 22 days ago
I tend to avoid the whole “Yay, sports ball, move the ball to the thing!” tribalism, I usually find watching sports, on TV to be a waste of time, and in person, a waste of money. I do think the science around the belonging to be interesting. I live in a State that is almost defined by how a particular college does in football. The loyalty among people who didn’t even attended the school they root for is manic. As far as finding a creative outlet, I have pursuing photography, even so much that I was up at 3 am… Read more »
JMHB
3 months 22 days ago

I frequently sit on the ground – especially at the beach. It uses more muscles to keep your back straight instead of constantly reclining.

Katy Sutton
Katy Sutton
3 months 22 days ago

My husband and I recently started practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu together. It has been a fun and challenging way to learn to move our bodies differently, and to connect with each other. It has also encouraged us to be more active in everyday life to help build the endurance and mobility we need to succeed on the mat.

Traci
Traci
3 months 22 days ago

I love the idea of finding easy ways to de-civilize. My husband and I are trying to do this frequently as we have become miserable with the rat race we are living in and raising our kids in. Thanks!

Lisa
Lisa
3 months 22 days ago

I’m sixty-six & enjoy Tai-Chi & yoga. I think I’ll try kickboxing too Ha!!! Maybe. Lisa

Sue Moore
Sue Moore
3 months 22 days ago

Great article! New goal for 2018 is to take the road less travelled and be more spontaneous.

Megan
Megan
3 months 22 days ago

I work with elementary aged children with behavioral issues. Your post, especially the parts about embracing your inner weirdo, really spoke to me today. I’m going to take my students outside this week (or around the building if it’s still 15 degrees out here in Chicagoland) and look for ways that we can empower creativity and diversity of action inside the educational setting.

Ethan
Ethan
3 months 22 days ago

This post feels like it was inspired by Jordan Peterson.

I’d like to see posts on how we normal, full-time workers, with kids, and all of that chaos, can find time to create, or play, or get involved.

What are the practical ways to do this?

2Rae
2Rae
3 months 22 days ago

I’m not suggesting that this is a solution, but I was in my garage with my bare feet on the cement floor to ground myself for as long as possible (very cold here in the Northwest) because I don’t get any “wild time” anymore…… I get your point!

roberta wells
roberta wells
3 months 22 days ago

Great to hear my obsession with all things Whovian…as in Doctor Who…helps to set the wild in me free,

Gus Frey
Gus Frey
3 months 21 days ago

I have always wanted to learn a martial art, and was happy to read your lifelong desire and recent dive into it. Why do you recommend a grappling style as opposed to something like Kung Fu or something less about grappling? Thank you

Trish
Trish
3 months 22 days ago

I loved the idea of wildness and being a little weird too by letting my inner child be allowed to play! Thanks for the invitation!!

HealthyHombre
HealthyHombre
3 months 22 days ago
“no one’s going to die or get seriously hurt” My son got hit in the ear by a spinning back kick, a very powerful and deadly kick, he went down like a ton of bricks and his ear was swollen for a week. My blood froze when I saw it happen, a few more inches towards his temple and that might have been a fatal blow. And he once (the guy for some unknown reason stepped right into his punch) broke someone’s nose so badly they had to be taken to the hospital and have reconstructive surgery. When I was… Read more »
wildgrok
wildgrok
3 months 21 days ago
wow I get this 110% I am living proof: I had a dislocated shoulder in my judo days, the guy who threw me landed on top of me. After that the shoulder dislocated several times, and I can say now that I am cured of it, I can hang from a bar with a single hand (could not do it for decades after the incident). This incident had the effect of stopping my judo: I came back to it, but had to keep my left arm always near me, scared of a repeat of the dislocation (which happened like 6… Read more »
Monica
3 months 22 days ago

I find it interesting to think about being more orderly as one form of being less civilized, but it makes complete sense. With those energy drains, we don’t have the space to question our conventional ways of doing things.

Jen Richard
3 months 22 days ago
I can get mentally paralyzed by the thought of doing Primal movements in public -outside gym. Even at a park, I get weird looks as an adult. It’s all about building confidence and adding to our Arsenal of what is outside the social norm but we’re gonna do it anyway. Just last week I added balancing on curbs while carrying boxes and groceries. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds a bit of balance to boring parking lots and a splash of play to errands that can get dull. So thanks for the encouragement. I’ll be on the lookout… Read more »
Brad
Brad
3 months 22 days ago

I’m interested in your take on grounding.

Matt Elliott
3 months 22 days ago

I would love to see an article on earthing/grounding and the benefits therefrom.

Thanks!

Peter...
Peter...
3 months 22 days ago
Ive said it before on these pages, but I hunt. It takes you off tracks, because that is where the game is. There is a pattern dictated by terrain, weather and vegetation – wild stuff – and there is a randomness, because you are pursuing something that you cannot know perfectly. Instead of following that trail that others have walked, you go where the situation dictates… even if no other human has set foot there for centuries, if ever! There is sitting around a fire with your “tribe”. People who are there for the same purpose that you are, with… Read more »
Kevin
Kevin
3 months 22 days ago

I’ve thought about the lack of striking and grappling skills in most modern training. I’ve explored a wide variety of movement skill training but would love a review of various martial arts that highlighted their various features.

Keith Owen
Keith Owen
3 months 22 days ago

Why not learn martial arts now? I am in my 50s and started re-learning. I did some training in my 40s and had to take some time off, but you are never too old to learn. Just need to find a good sensei.

Sarah Collins
3 months 22 days ago

I love this! I watch my kids and how happy they are when they play outside. Why not join them?
Good motivation. Thanks!

Roberta Frees
Roberta Frees
3 months 22 days ago

I would have never thought about interacting with nature by climbing a tree at my age. But I love that you are inspired enough to be brave and step outside the norm. That is definitely a trait I need to aspire to!

Alison
3 months 22 days ago
For me, I think getting back to a primal connection is simplifying my life through the choices I make. All the ‘noise’ online and off can really drain my focus, intent and energy. Plus, time has become a valuable commodity. And the pace set by technology is super accelerated. Sometimes, I think it would be great to have a universal dial back and slooow everything down. Don’t get me wrong, I think mental and physical activity are vital to keep us engaged, sharp and feeling alive. My next move is to do a ‘clean up,’ to remove the unnecessary distractions… Read more »
Jan
Jan
3 months 22 days ago

The weirdos are the fun people to hang out with! I am definitely joining this trend!

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