[“In Search of Bigfoot (Ode to Thoreau),” by Tricia McKellar, for sale at Society 6.]
Are we born nomads? Are we meant to be restless? How does one tackle a chapter on that ocean called “community”? These are the sorts of questions I wrestle as I research for my book about modern nomads, drifters and next-gen communities.
What does this mean? Well, I’m wading, like a child who is only learning to swim, into a deep philosophical pool of citizenship, community and home–those esoteric things of which there are many definitions and no fixed answers. And with uncertainty comes restlessness.
But I’ve leave aside these intellectual insecurities for a moment to share a thought by Benjamin Phelan about another restless soul, the late author Bruce Chatwin. In the following quote, Phelan is thinking about the transition from nomadism to agriculture and about Chatwin’s theory that humankind was built to be nomadic. (I’m quite broadly synthesizing this, so if you like Chatwin, follow the link above to read Phelan’s book review in the New York Observer.)
It’s a long quote, tangentially linked to the meaning of home and notions of community, so bear with me:
Since Chatwin died, it has been shown by molecular genomics that humanity teetered on the verge of extinction in the distant, prehistoric past, and that our genomes are still reeling from the violent transition from nomadism to agriculture. The humans who survived weren’t the strongest or the smartest, necessarily, but the most restless—the ones who upped sticks and left the trouble behind. We are their descendants. We carry that DNA that saved them.
This hyperbolic assertion of our innate nomadism is one I only partly share. But I find something comforting in it, as if it affirms the inevitability of restlessness.
Tangential, eh? Geeky, certainly.
Well, you were warned.