Habit #2 of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers: Be Selfish
In our ancestors’ day, there was certainly a sense of obligation to the group, an expectation of contribution to the joint welfare. That said, in an economy of ample free time, a social network of extended kin, a culture nearly devoid of material ambition, no one was likely required or motivated to drive themselves to exhaustion.
I believe the “pack mule” mentality is a thoroughly modern neurosis. Why would any single person in a band ever accept grossly inordinate proportions of responsibility in our Primal ancestors’ time? With all members free to leave at any time in the natural ebb and flow of band to band interchange, why would any of them lived a wretched life of literal or approximated servitude? If you ran yourself into the ground healthwise in evolutionary times, you put yourself at risk. You were a liability to the group. What was the possible benefit?
Yet, here we are in modern times making excuses for neglecting our health, giving away the chance (and true responsibility) for reasonable self-care and personal fulfillment. Part of the logic is the modern focus on the future. We’re planners, sacrificers for the sake of a presumed future security. It’s amazing what we’ll give up in the interest of a vision twenty years out. The result? We live in a kind of chronic self-debt. Yes, we’re seeking to serve our long-term good, but we’ve distorted that intention with the extremity of its terms.
This flies in the face of our ancestors’ culture of immediacy. There’s something to that living in the here and now rather than for the sometime-down-the-road. I think it’s possible to balance the two for the benefit of both, but it’s a deal with the devil to think we can continually neglect ourselves for the people and projected future of our lives. Our sense of balance must demand current and continual well-being for ourselves. When we are nourished and sustained today, we have more to offer to those around us and to our futures.
To read more, check out “10 Habits of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers” and Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness.