The Man on the Silver Mountain
Updated: Jan 22, 2022
The importance of play .
As I have written in connection to diet, we evolved to be lazy. This characteristic applies to all human activity.
Hunters and gatherers didn't /don’t really “work”.
What Western social anthropologists classify as “work” for these people is -- or was -- actually less than 14 hours a week--as much “play” as anything else--with song, dance, humor, story telling, and social schmoozing, not to mention occasional sex. It was cooperative and multi-generational. "Lazy" is not sloth: it's active!
We are Pans Ludens. The Ape that Plays.
Play teaches us to cooperate. It keeps us fit. It’s fun. And, just like other animals, we learn from it. It is social exercise for body and brain and ultimately a survival skill.
Our brains are smaller than some of our predecessors but more efficient, so we can do things more easily, with less effort. We do more with less.
"Lazy "works. (pun!).
Hunters and gatherers were/ are “immediate return” survivalists. That means they lived/ live here and now.
The first settlers to North America noticed that the native Americans didn’t do things “by the clock”. They didn’t have clocks, of course-- so how could they. But the colonials called them "lazy savages" anyway.
They were really, really bad at “scheduling”—although very good at predicting near time events. If they said they would do something, they would -- eventually. They did what needed to be done in the present home. If the Present was OK, the future pretty much looked after itself.
This mentality is obviously productive. It is the original version of what today's Lean Management Theory should be. We talk a lot about spontaneity, seizing the moment, creativity, and energizing focused activity. We spent hours in training to do such things. Countless hours preparing PowerPoint Presentations about it, whatever "it" is.
Our ancestors just did it.
And they enjoyed it.
In our world, we make plans on top of plans. By the end of it all we have forgotten the point, or the situation has changed, and we cannot react or adapt. We live in our heads; not in the real world.
Our ancestors did not "work" in our modern sense where it is a four letter word, literally and figuratively--something you are forced to do, structured by social forces beyond our control, limiting our choices. Our ancestors were free; they had choice. Our "choices" are many but usually superficial, like deciding whether to buy Nike or New Balance--Same-Same -- with minor differences.
If you have to make yourself to do something, it isn’t fun. And if it isn’t fun, think of another way that is more enjoyable.
So, “Lazy” can mean “smart”
Working out without work
This is true of physical fitness, too.
Our ancestors didn’t have gyms, dumbbells or exercise machines. And they were fit.
They did it through simple activity.
As I said – “play”, song and dance, story telling, games, sex.
There was an element of “play” included even in hunting, which involved of course a lot of walking, was usually performed in groups, with a lot of humor, and even song and dance. Joking. All part of the Great Game -- aka Life.
If you want to be fit, make it play-- whether you just walk, cycle, swim, go to the gym, use resistance bands, . Walk, cycle, swim, go to the gym. But take the "work" out of "work out" . And do it your way!
For example, I live in the middle of one of the world's largest cities--Tokyo with 40 million people in the Kanto Plain. It has the world's most developed transportation system--buses, trains and subways. Taking a subway means walking to the station, enduring the crowds, stuffy air, enduring a boring ride. It's a drag. Driving a car would be an exercise in road rage. Takes hours, if ever, to find a parking space.
I don't drive. I cycle everywhere. It's faster, cheaper, more fun, and I stay fit.
I don’t use a racing bike with narrow tyres. Nor do I use special clothing. Cycling is part of my life. My bike is a modified mountain bike with slightly slimmer tyres, a noseless seat which forces me to balance with my arms, and shocks for rough roads and potholes. It’s heavier and takes more energy to pedal. But I pedal head up. I can see the world in all its diversity and complexity. I laugh at traffic jams.
When I get tired, I just stop. Drink some coffee. Take in the surroundings. Talk to a stranger.
Yeah, I’m lazy.
I used to work out too. I chose a gym that had what I needed. No spandex thank you. Running machines? Boring. Why run going nowhere? Our ancestors didn't jog-- they walked. Less chance of injury and just as good exercise in the end and easier to talk and sing and play with your mates.
For me, the gym was also a social venue. In between sets I could joke and talk and make friends and the occasional lover.
With COVID, I switched to using exercise bands at home, listening to rock and roll and singing along. (You can do that even if you are a bad singer,as I am – but only at home).
Do a little exercise.Sing. Yes, you can do that, even when exercising -- sounds better than "groaning".
Today, I did squats listening to Richie Blackmore.
I'm a wheel, I'm a wheel
I can roll, I can feel
And you can't stop me turning
I do a set, then sit down at the computer and write this article. Lazy!. But productive. The break stimulates creativity.
COVID makes you feel lonely? Get a bluetooth headset and talk to your friends on WhatsApp while you walk. Or take up pole walking with a friend who you can talk to, outside with social distance.
As Richie says....
Come down with fire
And lift your spirit higher
You're the Man on the Silver Mountain. (PS ...BUY the album!)