I don’t believe I have gone a single year in the past 20 without hearing at least something about the struggle to keep out the “illegal aliens”. People all over our country, and many other countries as well, are deeply concerned with having an invasion of foreigners come into their country. This mindset is deeply rooted in the psychology of being a human. In the past, most of humanity was deeply xenophobic. So in a way I do understand these folks, although admittedly I do not agree with much of their anti-immigrant sentiments. Understanding our past and what programming was/is running is essential for understanding modern humans. It is an intellectually lazy way to peg people down to simply say that their fear of “illegals” is only rooted in ignorance. People are not as evil as modern media from either side would have us believe.

The most interesting thing around this debate over illegal aliens is that the vast majority of us are so completely divorced from our surroundings that it would be a stretch to even imagine that we belong where we live. Does the fact that you eat and sleep in any given place on this planet mean that you belong to your landscape in the same way a turtle or a beaver do? I have given this topic much thought over the past 5-6 years and a few years back I came up with the term “Locally Grown Foreigner” to define the people inhabiting most of this country, and indeed most of the world at this point.

Consider the average American: He or She usually wakes up not by any natural means, but typically by the use of a digital device. Where this person wakes is in a bed that has been designed to be ultra squishy(that’s a technical term) so that the sleeper never experiences any discomfort during the night. Upon awakening, this person will typically start their day with coffee (admittedly I am a coffee drinker), possibly sweetened with sugar and mixed with creamer. After waking up with the assistance of caffeine, this person adorns their body with all types of clothing that has any number of toxic chemicals, and this of course is after he or she takes a shower in (usually) chlorinated water, using a detergent that scrubs off the natural protective oil on their skin. 60% of these people will go to work in an indoor location, heated or cooled to achieve maximum comfort for the busy workers inside, so that not an ounce of productivity is lost.

After this person has spent their day most likely sitting in a chair, staring at a screen, and eating more food flown in from all over the planet, she will make her way home to eat more non-local food and watch yet another screen. And not for a short amount of time either, because the average American is now watching a mind boggling five hours and 4 minutes of television per day (Source)! Let’s not even bother focusing on the T.V. part, the thing that really scares me is that in the picture of how an average American spends his day, more than 90% of his time is spent inside, and most of that indoor time is spent in the seated position. Even a person that goes to the gym a few days a week for an hour is still spending more time watching television on her butt than she is moving her body in the way that nature intended us to move.

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This picture that I have painted for you is intended to show you exactly the dilemma that we face as a society in regards to calling ourselves local to a place that we do not actually inhabit. Sure, our bodies occupy this space, and we could pretend that we are all not foreign to this land, but I think that deep down all of us are more or less aware that we do not know the slightest bit about our natural surroundings. We don’t know our land even 1/1,000,000th as good as a chipmunk knows the tiny patch of ground that a chipmunk calls home. This fact is terrifying to me, and I believe it should terrify you as well. We are on our way towards some Wally-esque future, and the majority of us will happily go there as long as the food is cheap and there is free WiFi!

Let’s contrast this image with the image of a tribal person of the past: Our imagined person starts her day awakening when her body naturally causes her to awaken. The sound of birds chirping or children playing with their siblings could cause this awakening, either way is completely natural. She slept on a firm surface, that in conjunction with gravity helps to relieve any aches and pains in her body (source). Once awake this woman might have tended to the fire that she keeps stoked at all times, she probably drinks deeply of very local water filled with bacteria that her body has grown accustomed to over the span of her lifetime. If she eats any breakfast at all, it is probably leftover food from the night before, but more likely than not, this woman will not eat any food until lunch.

Her lunch is a mixture of roots that she has dug and fish or another source of meat that a close (probably) male family member or husband had killed. This meal could be accompanied by an herbal infusion, or she could instead drink more water. Since this woman is not living in a society that forces her to stay busy in order to have a place to sleep at night, she takes her time in accomplishing the things that need to be done.

This slower start to the day, and the slower pace of things in general promotes a relaxed state, and thus a relaxed mind. This woman does not feel stress in the way that you and I feel stress. Her perceptions are more in tune with the things that are happening around her because she is not busy “grinding” in order to have green pieces of paper. Her relaxed state allows her mind to function better in accomplishing what she must accomplish to nourish her children, and keep her community healthy. Because she feels no unnatural impulse to collect more than she needs, her foraging “duties” are almost always done in a matter of a few hours or less. Most of her journey is done by walking miles every single day. Except for random busy times of the year, our imagined woman probably works no more than 15-20 hours a week (source).

Bedtime for this woman comes at or around 1.5-2 hours after sunset and it usually comes after having ample time joking and sharing friendship with people that know her almost as good as she knows herself. This laughter and playtime was most likely around a fire, and may or may not have involved the use of a mind altering substance found locally. She goes to sleep feeling naturally tired, and sleeps deeply for 7-9 hours.

Quite obviously this layout cannot or should not fit every single American, or every single tribal woman in the world. Every civilized citizen leads a different life in a different culture, and every tribal woman lives differently according to her ecosystem. But the foundation of sanity remains the same regardless. Whether or not our imagined tribal woman was Saami or South African or Central American, she has a supportive community around her and she is eating almost 100% local. Her clothes are local, her jewelry is local, even her gut bacteria is local. Besides the occasional things that are traded from far away this woman is a living breathing inhabitant of the land she resides upon. Her being so interwoven with the landscape that there is no clear and distinct line that separates her from the land.

 Where does the land end and these people begin? Saami family in Norway around 1900

Where does the land end and these people begin? Saami family in Norway around 1900

A locally grown foreigner then is the person that is fundamentally separate from the land he or she resides on. He feels no connection to the land. He possibly even feels that the land should be put to good use and turned into shopping malls and more apartment buildings. Or it may just be that this man does not even notice when an entire forest is clearcut on his commute to work. Either way there is a palpable disconnection. And that is assuming that once there was a connection.

What is the root cause of this insane foundation we are standing on? How are we to go out into this world and attempt to reconnect ourselves to our land? Is that even possible? Is that even desirable? I have been attempting to shake myself out of the Locally Grown Foreigner skin for a long time now. The first thing I will say is that becoming a member of your ecosystem is hard work. Not because you do not belong there, but because our culture has implemented so many ways in which to stifle this desire.

Creating a comfortable marshmallow existence to be in from childhood means that any and all attempts at “going back” will be painful. Whether that pain emerges in the form of learning how to walk barefoot, or from sleeping on firmer surfaces, the pain of transition is real. And I have watched many people over the years give up because it is too shocking on them to go from so much comfort to so much discomfort.

However this pain is only temporary, and the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Belonging to a community and your land contains deep psychological benefits. There is ample evidence that the creature comforts of the civilized have not filled the void in our souls for a very long time. There were so many people fleeing to “live with the indians” that there were actual laws put in place sentencing these runaways to death if caught. For a very in depth look at this phenomenon, I suggest reading Tribe by Sebastian Junger.

Perhaps the phenomenon of Locally Grown Foreigners is the logical outcome of us following a doctrine that extolls us to take dominion over the plants and the animals of the Earth. Perhaps without catastrophic systemic failure there is no way of reconnecting to the land we reside on. I will be writing a part 2 of this piece where I will be exploring what things I believe we should be doing to make this reconnection a possibility. But for now, I would love to know your thoughts. Is reconnection worth fighting for? Or should we ignore it in favor of having great material possessions and a comfortable life? If you feel that you are already on your way towards reconnection, what are the steps that you personally are taking to get there? Does the language we speak reflect the way in which we see the world? I am truly interested in hearing what you have to say!

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