Thursday, 25 September 2008

What would our ancestors think of our modern lifestyle?

Wandering about various pagan fora, one often reads discussions/debates about how our ancestors worshipped their gods; how their beliefs affected their daily lives. Alongside this, posters will express a desire to live just as their ancestors did, when life was much simpler, cleaner and healthier ~ whether said poster is referring to mind or body I never know ~ but was it? Furthermore, would our ancestors really want us to live as they did?

As someone recently remarked, if he relied on his crops for survival, he and his family would be starving this coming winter, yet still he was grateful to his gods because in these modern times, it is possible for him (and his wife) to supplement his income with a part-time job, buy his food from the farmer's or super markets, and thus provide for his family.

Our ancestors, however, were in the hands of the gods completely. If crops failed, they starved.

Our ancestors had a short life span, nor did they have the medical resources to counter-act the myriad of diseases that plague the human organism. True, some diseases have become more prolific owing the sendentary nature of the modern, western lifestyle, but, even so, we have treatments for those. Research continues into how best to maintain our health, by scientists, psychologists, and even spiritual gurus hoping to protect our souls in this life (and the next). Our ancestors turned to the gods or spirits for their healing, though they also held extensive knowledge of the uses of local flora and fauna for healing and, perhaps, our methods aren't that more sophisticated.

Today, we have the internet, mobile telephones, cars, climate control mechanisms, supermarkets and all manner of conveniences, but these can also be nuisances, especially when trying to connect with the spirit of our ancestors. That said, I'm sure our ancestors would wish us, their descendents, to have a better life than they did. As it happens, our prehistoric ancestors didn't spend the whole of their lives in survival mode. They created art, they carved, they had music and a sense of community, they traded decorative goods with people from other groups, and even across the seas, all of which gives us the sense that they knew how to enjoy life and would welcome any convenience which might allow more leisure time; time with family and the wider community.

So, why does there appear to be so many discussions on "giving up" various technologies or other modern world conveniences, in order to live more like our pagan ancestors? Why do today's pagans feel the need to live in an historical, rural idyll (that probably never existed) in order to be more like our pagan forebears? [And, don't get me started on the pagan ideal of living rurally, as if pagans can't exist happily in cities/urban environments.]

If our ancestors could see how we live today, would they be happy for us? Or, would they decry our lifestyles and urge us to revert to living as they did?

Personally, I feel they probably envy us some of our lifestyle, and pity us for the rest. Me, I'm not giving up any aspect of my lifestyle - just yet. When I no longer have to work, then I can move and endeavour to become more self-sufficient and indulge in long treks into the wilds of Scotland; just me and my gods.


vaZ' said...

cool blog.. swing by mine.. greatings from portugal!

Geraldine Moorkens Byrne said...

*stands up and applauds*

I used to fall into the same trap myself, of thinking in a vague and unexamined way that our ancestor's life had more spiritual worth in and of itself. I still think that materialism can affect us -as per my last poem lol - but I have no more illusions about how my ancestors lived.
They exploited their environment - albeit with a lots more respect and less greed than we do. They embraced new technology whole heartedly - witness the change from a neolithic and fragmented society to a homogenous "celtic" society on the back of the new celtic technology. They would have scorned any lofty rejection of good things - they liked finery, good food, mead and ale, jewellery, art.

And they were immensely prectical. Both in ancient and more modern times - you should hear my FIL on the subject of "the good old days" and as he says "nothing pretty about TB and polio."

I would love to see the people who yearn to reject technology and modernity actually do so - no hospitals, no medicine, no electricity, no internet. Let's see how it goes then...

I thing my ancestors would approve of my lifestyle - they would like the good things and the comfortable things but I'm not too greedy either :)