Now and then it’s good to escape civilization. Huckleberry Finn said it best: “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways; and so when I couldn’t stand it no longer I lit out.”
The degree of civilization in the United States increases from South to North. Northern states are way too civilized. We had to leave Meadowcreek to spend some time in Iowa recently. As we drove into Missouri, the roads got better, wider and had fewer curves. The hills weren’t as tall and more land was cultivated. As we moved through Missouri, wilderness decreased more and more and nearly everywhere you looked was either field or town,
Then we got to Iowa and civilization completely took over. Even the steepest hills were cultivated. We rarely saw any woods and when we did it had been planted. Everything was controlled and arranged by man.
It looked like Germany, the Netherlands or Sweden. Which makes sense when you realize that most Iowans are descended from Germans and adjacent Northern Europeans.
They brought their passion for education with them. 99% of Iowans can read and write. We could do a lot of comparisons between Iowa and Arkansas since they are both primarily rural states with the same land area and population. On all the marks of civilization–education, health, income–Arkansas ranks lower.
But when you’re in Iowa, you look at their streams and they are murky masses of grey. Topsoil and fertilizer from the over-cultivated Iowa fields have destroyed them. Ecological diversity has been wiped out in Iowa as the state has become carpeted with corn and soybeans interrupted occasionally by feedlots and chicken and pig houses.
We couldn’t wait to get away from civilization and back to Meadowcreek where the streams are clear. More crucially, we couldn’t wait to escape that uniform Midwestern way of thinking and acting. There’s a certain right way to act there. It’s called Minnesota nice. They don’t really say what they think. They are very controlled and always thinking about the future.
Nowadays, most all of America is civilized and some of us have to escape America now and then. Two or three times a year, I get this itch that can only be scratched by leaving the good ole USA. As soon as I cross the border, something just falls off my shoulders. It’s something about the way Americans think. I don’t even realize how much it is weighing me down until I cross that border. When I do I’m light and free.
I have to leave the land of the free to be free. After a couple of weeks, I’m ready to come home, but I need to escape from some uniform way of thinking which is American. I haven’t succeeded in defining it yet, but the feeling is very physical for me when I leave the U.S.
Every country has some similarly unique mode of thinking, but not all countries are so uniformly indoctrinated in this mode. All African countries still have multiple tribes each with a different view of the world. To survive, you need to know several languages and several views of the world.
In America, for most of us English is all we need and no strange tribe or nation lives within a thousand miles. So, once you adopt the common American approach to the world, there is nothing to contradict it. You might say that Americans have violent disagreements about lots of things. I contend there is no controversy about the basic way of thinking. There is an American way of thinking which controls all superficial differences of opinion.
If you’ve never spent much time away from America and Americans, you are like the fish who has never been out of the water. How can that fish know what its like out of the water?
At Meadowcreek, we’re trying to create a space where multiple modes of thought are welcome and encouraged. With one exception. You must engage with Nature.
Many come to Meadowcreek to escape civilization. But then realize they have forgotten adult beverages, or coffee or hair dryer or some other product of civilization that makes them comfortable. All that baggage is fine to bring, as long as you engage with Nature.
More than escaping civilization, we seek to bring back something civilization has stifled. You’ll begin to taste it when you’ve heard the coyotes howling on four sides of you, seen something big and black scurry off the road, seen that snake slithering away.
Or as Huck says, “The stars were shining, and the leaves rustled in the woods ever so mournful; and I heard an owl, away off, who-whooing about somebody that was dead, and a whippowill and a dog crying about somebody that was going to die; and the wind was trying to whisper something to me, and I couldn’t make out what it was, and so it made the cold shivers run over me.”