The Imaginary Easy Relaxed Lifestyle of our Ancestors
Having just gone through a pretty dreadful year due to the cancer treatment, I have tried to read everything I could find on what causes cancer and how to avoid it. Page after page on the internet, some written by well respected doctors, list ‘stress’ as a major cause. The go on to say that are living in the most stressful time in history. I agree we live in stressful times, but I disagree that this is the most stressful time ever. The world is and always has been a stressful place. People look to the distant past with nostalgia. It is a place in their imagination where the world was much simpler. In their dreams of a less stressful life that world is a place of safety, peace, harmony, and plenty. Unfortunately, that place is not somewhere in our actual past. That place never existed. Let’s look at a few things then and now and do a comparison. Let’s look at survival then and now
Then – In the past people grew a lot of their own food. The individual family was responsible for growing, processing through canning, drying, or smoking, and storage of their own food supply. Some products were available at stores providing funds were available. Farmers and ranchers of all generations faced a life of brutal hard work. They faced floods and drought. They faced uncertainty on every hand. Farm families in the past had a limited diet of seasonal foods and foods that they were able to preserve. Each meal was a lot of the same thing with some variety through something like killing a chicken or snaring a rabbit. I know many of these people led contented lives of joy and satisfaction. However they worked so hard they probably didn’t have time to reflect on their joy or even consider if they were content or not.
Nomadic people were always in dire situations. Moving and living off the land was a dangerous lifestyle. In addition to facing the elements, rugged terrain, and the constant search for food, nomadic people faced hostility from other nomadic wanderers. There just wasn’t enough food to go around. There was seldom a day that they knew from where their next meal would come.
Without refrigeration food had to be dried to preserve it. In the more recent past canning food was another way of preserving food. Vegetables and fruits could be stored for part of a winter, but they would rot long before the next harvest.
Now - Food is still what sustains life. It still requires work to get it. (There are instances where government provides some things to people who do not work. This article is written to encourage Christians who are committed to serving Jesus. This type of person works if they are able.) Today there are fewer farmers. Food is sourced out to big business. The food supply depends on crops growing, processing food, distribution of food through a variety of means, and buying power of the individual. There is the added stress of food choices. Today we do have the luxury of food choices most of the time. We also have the responsibility of making healthy choices, cooking nutritious meals for our families, concern over GMO foods, trying to afford organic foods, avoiding things that are known to cause cancer and other diseases, and the list goes on and on.
Then – More often than not there was no pre-built home to purchase. People had to actually chop down trees and build their own home. If trees weren’t available they made homes from bricks made of mud, animal skins, and even ice if happened to be an Eskimo. If there was an already built home available it cost a lot of money just like a home now. The roof was made from wood shingles or even straw. The houses were drafty. Heating them was close to impossible. Windows were not even available for most of history. There was no indoor plumbing. There was no hot and cold running water. There was no electricity. There was no central heat and air conditioning. If you think these are not big deals then you really need to try primitive living for a few days. Even this won’t give you an exact idea of how primitive families lived because you can pack up and go home when you want to. This life was especially hard on women due to the fact that they actually are the weaker sex; add child bearing to their load and a shorter lifespan was often the case.
I remember going to graveyards with my grandad to catalog information from gravestones when the family was doing a family tree history. I saw firsthand gravestones lined up where a man might have three wives one at a time. When the first wife died the husband remarried. He needed a helpmate to raise the children from his first wife. When the second wife died, the husband married again. This wasn’t due to any evil on the part of the men. It was just life. Primitive families did the best they could do under the circumstances in which they lived. The headstones for babies and small children were overwhelmingly sad generations later. I can’t imagine what sorrows these families went through.
Now – Shelter is still the most expensive thing on anyone’s budget unless they have a huge budget and collect classic muscle cars or jet airplanes as a hobby. We have homes that are more easily heated today. In many instances we do have air conditioning. We have electricity. We have indoor plumbing and running hot and cold water. These things are expected in civilized nations today. They cost a lot of money. Today, someone could attempt to live a primitive life; in fact I am sure some people have made that choice. But, having lived with modern conveniences it would be very hard to live a primitive life permanently. It is overwhelmingly harsh and unforgiving.
Then – Keeping a family clothed was almost a full time occupation. Animal hides or woven cloth was needed. Then the material had to be made into clothes. This was done by hand up until a few hundred years ago. Can you imagine the hours of work that went into growing wool or cotton, spinning the raw material into thread, and weaving the threads into cloth? Then an actual garment had to made by hand. Shoes were an equally difficult task. I can’t imagine the difficulty of keeping even a small family adequately clothed. Things changed when bolt cloth became available. Store bought shoes of any quality were never cheap. Most people of a bygone age would have laughed at the thought that hand-me-downs weren’t wearable. The idea of used clothing was equally laughable. People wore their clothes until they were worn out.
Now – Decent wearable clothing is available for almost free. I say that because I have shopped in thrift shops. There are days when a large part of the inventory is 99cents. It may not be the most fashionable clothing, but in today’s world where people wear anything fashion is really what you personally can afford and what you want it to be. Clothing is so readily available that the skill of sewing is almost a lost art. I made a lot of clothes for my kids when they were small because I could still do it cheaper than buying the clothing that I wanted them to wear. I was good with a sewing machine so it wasn’t a big deal for me. The winter coats in thrift stores today are amazing. I absolutely can’t imagine how readily available they are. I think of growing up in Alaska and the struggle mom went through to keep warm coats for her six kids and I still can’t believe it. Shoes are available in all price ranges and styles. Some people have over a hundred pairs of shoes! Most of them would be worthless if they actually had to wear them long, but they still have them. And people have shoes for walking, running, dancing, working, and resting.
Then – For most of recorded time there was no ‘modern medicine’. There were no antibiotics although some herbs have antibiotic properties. Doctors did not have the resources to adequately diagnose disease. If they were able to diagnose a particular illness their recourse was still a simple natural remedy. Obviously this worked often, but often it was not enough. Surgery was not something available for even something as simple as appendicitis until recent history. I am 100% in favor of herbal remedies, essential oils, vitamins, and other supplements. However, without modern medicine I would have died as a child. And that is what happened with many children who lived a primitive life.
Now – Eternal life is still only available through Jesus Christ, but modern medicine has made vast improvements in diagnosis and treatment of disease. Death because of childbirth is almost non-existent in developed countries. Cancer treatment is available. Knee and hip replacement is available. Day surgery for heart blockage is available. Medicine to lower blood pressure and improve heart function is available. To truly go to a primitive lifestyle all these advances would have to be given up. And do not worry that modern medicine is contributing to global over population. Remember that the earth has a creator, a Savior, and a sustainer.
Then – In a truly primitive culture supplies for anything were either not available or difficult to come by. Even salt was a commodity that was in short supply. There were no hardware stores or building supply stores. There were no supplies easily and readily available.
Now – Supply stores are available for just about anything you want. If there isn’t a store near you then it can probably be ordered on line and in your hands in just a few days. Building supplies, remodeling supplies, soap making supplies, hobby supplies, baking gadgets, restaurants with ready made meals, frozen foods for easy cooking at home, shoe stores, clothing stores, specialty size stores, pet supply stores, farm supply, fabric stores, and even herbal remedy shops. If you can think of it someone has it for sale! Of course there is still that one little problem. You are required to pay for whatever supplies you need or want.
Then – People walked. Can you imagine walking everywhere you go without adequate footwear? I don’t know what people did for shoes, but I am sure it was expensive. I am equally sure that people often went without shoes when they really needed them.
People rode a horse or mule or donkey. Or they used a draft animal to pull a cart. The animal(s) were not free to begin with. Then they required food and shelter to keep them healthy enough to do their job. My dad said that transportation has never been cheap.
Now – we have all sorts of transportation available today up to and including air travel. Like anything else it grows more expensive every day. It doesn’t cost to feed a car on the days you don’t drive which makes it cheaper than a horse in that way. But the cost of a vehicle and fuel is substantial. Dad was correct. Transportation has never been cheap.
Then – The first recorded incident of peer pressure causing someone to misbehave is recorded in the book of genesis. Eve was talked into disobeying God by Satan. Peer pressure has been with us ever since.
Now – Satan is still with us influencing people to follow other people instead of thinking for themselves.
I am not suggesting that anyone who currently lives a primitive life or wants to live a primitive life should change their mind. If that is what you want to do, then you better give it a try! But don’t think a primitive lifestyle is going to be free from stress. It will be different stress, but I believe it will be equally difficult to live with.
Everyone on the planet is facing political and social unrest. Obviously this is stressful. People all have ideas of how to solve at least some of the problems, but no one has power or authority to implement their solutions. The uncertainty of the future is in itself overwhelming without faith in the Almighty God who created us. No matter what the social, economic, and political outlook may be Christians can be confident that God has not changed. In the world today Christians need to live a life that is pleasing to Christ. Don’t worry about anything. Continually give thanks for God’s daily benefits fail not. Do not fall into compromise in seeking to get along with the world. Do not set feelings above scripture. True compassion for the lost people of the world demands that we do not waver from the truth that God has revealed to us in the Bible. Certain behaviors are sin. No one, Christian, atheist, or otherwise, has power or authority to change God’s message. Christ died for all humanity. He never wavered even when faced with the cross. Will a Christian dilute the message of salvation when God Himself did not water down the truth?
There never was a time since God created the world that stress has not been a major part of life. Even Adam and Eve were faced with the stress of dealing with the lying serpent. Nothing has changed. And nothing will change until God Himself sets up a perfect world. Until that day there is going to be stress. In the meantime there is rest in the Lord. There is comfort in obedience to God’s instructions.
The changes that are going on in the world are temporary. They are not going to last. Evil is not always going to be with us. God Himself will one day separate His children from the devil’s children for all eternity. In the meantime Christians can’t pull off a dramatic military style coup and force a Godly population on the world. Christ Himself said His kingdom is not of this world.
What we can do is the same thing Christians have been doing since Jesus gave His followers the great commission. Live the gospel. Preach the gospel. Do not back down when standing on the Bible as your source of truth.
Ultimately there is coming a day when stress actually will be worse than at any other time in history. This is what is known as the ‘great tribulation’ and ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’. It will be a time of turmoil such as the world has never seen. As long as God leaves us in this world our job is to tell the world the way of salvation. Some will hear and follow Jesus. They will gain eternal life. We have been commissioned to take the gospel to the world. No matter what is going on in the world the job description of a Christian does not change. Our God does not change. The foundation on which we stand is the Rock of Ages. ‘And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.’ Galatians 6:9
I raise Siberian cats - and kittens are available a couple of times a year to pre-approved homes.