I’ve wondered how to live “naturally” for a while. I probably got into it when I started learning about the paleolithic diet and how humans used to just roam around like gorillas and munch on leaves, dig up starchy tubers, devour wild berries, and hunt game.

It sounded like an awesome lifestyle to idiots like me who wanted to live “naturally.” I mean it’s actually a shitty lifestyle. Life today is way better, let’s just establish that as a fact. We don’t have to spend hours searching for food like animals do. We can do fun things with our time and just buy food to save time. Now buying food all the time will likely not lead to the best health, but I’m just saying; we have more time because we don’t have to spend all day hunting and being hungry.

But that life could be wicked fun too. What if you were part of a community that did everything together? The men went out and found food. Women made crafts and such. Kids played all day long and learned from the elders. It could be a very abundant lifestyle filled with more joy than people experience in today’s hyperstimulated environment. I don’t go out hunting with people I could call family and just chill all day. I have to work in order to buy food so I don’t die. I study because I have the choice to and it’s my passion; but it takes a lot of energy. I don’t have basic skills that I would have if I was a hunter-gatherer. I live in a city away from family, alone.

I eventually realized something. There is no one natural lifestyle. Culture also influences lifestyle, and it’s hard to call anything “natural.” Your best bet at figuring out what’s “natural” today is studying what extant hunter-gather tribes and other indigenous people do. But still, among those people are many permutations of what is natural. We have the ability to define natural, with our intellect. We can pave the way.

In contrast, you could easily study the natural lifestyles of various animals. Lifestyles would differ depending on the species, but there would be some predictable elements. With humans, the only predictable elements are that we shit, eat, sleep, and reproduce. But how we do those things can differ depending on culture. We defecate in toilets today, but “naturally” you could just use a hole in the ground and some buckets with water to clean yourself. We shower in the shower, whereas poor people in India bathe in the Ganges river.

There is no natural.

Nevertheless, it’s still inspiring to watch this documentary on gypsies in northern India. They are so happy, at least as portrayed in the film.

The men go out and look for cobras, honey, meat, and the women make crafts and do other things.

I think even though there is no real natural, there are shared elements among indigenous people’s lifestyles. One is that they walk a lot to find food or whatever. They do a lot of chores. They spend lots of time with their kids. They spend lots of time outdoors. They have a strong sense of community and family. They play. They certainly don’t eat processed junk food. They take things slowly and aren’t in a rush to accomplish things either per se. They have passion. In this case, the featured gypsies make all their own clothing and take pride in their dance. People travel from all over the world to learn dance from this beautiful people.

So let’s make a list of the elements that comprise a natural lifestyle:

  • Traditional diet with fresh foods
  • Time spent outdoors and in the sun
  • Community and family
  • Responsibility
  • Passion/crafts/arts
  • Play

And if the assumption we hold is that a natural lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle, then these elements comprise a healthy lifestyle as well. I see no reason to disagree that a natural lifestyle with those elements is a healthy one.

However, when we get into the semantics of diet, as some people do when discussing a natural lifestyle, we forget the more important parts. We can thrive on a variety of diets. But we need social circles and community, play, passion, and the other elements listed as well for a healthy existence. There’s no point getting caught up over what exact diet we should consume.

So in conclusion, the advocates of “primal” living definitely have some of these elements down. I understand and share their desire to live naturally. They just want to be healthy and want to get away from the mundane lifestyle they were living before. They may have rigid diet beliefs, but I have to agree that the thought of having all these elements in my lifestyle is a beautiful and inspirational one that puts a smile to my face. I think I have the passion element, but it’s accompanied by stress.