Enduring the Winter Cold, Guilt

From October until April the Northwest is a cold wet place. I’ve always felt January and February mark the coldest, wettest months. During these months I have to fight this strange sensation that I am “not being productive.” Rather, I’m inside staying warm and dry and simply doing… not much. This has always made me feel guilty.

I imagine this guilt is mostly the pressure from our culture to always be “productive,” which mostly means working or making money. Beyond that, there is the pressure to work your way up the pyramid; when you are not at your wage-slave job, you must be working on something else that will raise your social status. This might be another job or two, it might be an art project like writing/selling a screenplay, or perhaps investing in stock or real estate.

This societal pressure has remained inside of me despite my personal transformations. The subconscious need to always be productive has permeated into my motivations and passions. Instead of always working towards climbing the pyramid, I must always be working toward being more primitive, to survive the collapse of civilization. I must spend all my time learning new plants, flint-knapping more blades, sleeping in a debris shelter, etc. Even though I know that is bullshit, and have discussed it before, I still have an emotional response of guilt during these cold idle months, when it is just too cold to do shit.

I feel I should spend more time “outdoors.” Part of this I think is that I should somehow be able to transcend my discomfort of the wet and cold. I think it is true that every ones comfort zones can be expanded. But to what end? Should I feel guilty that I feel discomfort? Why does it make me guilty? Because I am not a perfect native? What were the local natives doing during this time of the year? Shivering in the cold chewing inner Pine bark? No. Mostly they stayed inside and slept, told stories around the fire, played games, ate food gathered that fall, made sweet love and slept. I doubt they felt guilty for not “getting outside more.”

Not even the Eskimos spent much time running around in the harsh elements of mid winter. So what can I do to make myself feel better about doing nothing? When I think about it, I realize that I am doing stuff. I read, watch movies, sit around a fireplace and tell ghost stories, play some games, work out. There is plenty to do… The problem with these things is that generally speaking, they don’t produce anything that Civilization values; things that can be measured or put on display at a gallery or used to increase stock funds.

The pressure is increased right now because I am not making any money. I don’t have a job. I’m living rent-free couch/back yard surfer. The money I’m living off of is a small inheritance that I have invested into this project. I should be experiencing a feeling of freedom, which until recently, I was.

These winter elements of culture have been part of our psyches for millions of years. Reading and Storytelling is information gathering which allows us to focus on “how to do something,” such as fish or prepare an edible plant for medicine. It allows us to reflect on the previous year and plan how we can improve our practices in the next. Playing games form or maintain relationships and strengthen communications during the rest of the year. Sleeping and dreaming physically restore our bodies for the coming seasons.

These elements are like seeds, which lie quietly and patiently underground until they explode with inspiration in the spring. Like seeds from which all things grow, these elements are invisible to most until we see the resulting flower or “product.” I feel as though Civilization only values the end product or the pretty flower. It cannot see the invisible things that need to take root so that the beautiful things can be born in the spring.

In order to shed the guilt, I must see and more importantly feel the value in these actions. I need to let myself enjoy hiding inside and watching movies instead of feeling like I should be doing something more “productive.” This is productive bitch. Get your bullshit values out of my fucking head!

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7 Comments on “Enduring the Winter Cold, Guilt”

  1. hey scout-i know just what you mean. guilt is one of my main problems in life. And the conclusion I’ve come to is that it is a waste of time, because I don’t think “oh i feel so guilty about not going outside” and then get up and rush outside, I just get depressed and become even more inactive. Yup, best to just do whatever you want, watch movies and read until you can’t stand it any longer and your body is just dying to get out. Then it will feel so good. Or other times it is nice to just go for it get out for a while get REALLY cold and wet and dirty and then come back in when it gets dark and sit next to a fire, eat a warm dinner, crawl into a clean bed. mmmm contrast.
    This doesn’t support your conclusion but I was reading and they asked chief cornplanter why he didn’t chink the walls of his cabin, and he replied that then it would be too warm inside and no one would want to go hunting in the winter. But screw cornplanter. He was a sellout. Sold most of the senecas land to the white people and his own private reservation, land that was awarded to him and his descendants for being such a good friend to the whites, is some of the only seneca land left.

  2. I know that feeling very well, Scout. I maintain a busy busy schedule, paralegal stuff, recording studio stuff, as well as writing, recording, filming, gardening, and all kinds of other crap. I’ll probably say Davinci’s last words on my death bed, “I could have done so much more….”.

    But I always feel guilty for not “doing more” or “being productive”. Especially in the wintertime. Yet another of Civ’s memes to try to exorcise.

    I really liked the last two paragraphs. When can I look forward to reading the Urban Scout’s Little Book of Tracking? or more along my tastes “THe Primitivist Kama Sutra, or How to Make Love in a Debris Hut”?

    oh yeah, and fuck Chief Cornplanter too.

  3. You know, it really is scary how similar our approach and situation is. Right now I’m living on a small inheritance, no job, and am temporarily “couch-surfing” at my parents’ house. I’m currently feeling a bit guilty about living with my parents, even though I’ve barely moved back in from the Teaching Drum, having spent this last week with friends who were back from college and prior to that being on vacations with my family.

    “I feel I should spend more time “outdoors.”” and “I should be experiencing a feeling of freedom” — Haha, oh man do I know these feelings. “Goddammit what is wrong with me I’m supposed to be feeling free right now!” It’s a vicious circle for me, that’s for sure — when I’m in this mindset I often experience the double bind of “I am required and obligated to feel free”. I start to feel guilty about feeling guilty!

    “Get your bullshit values out of my fucking head!”

    Crazy, I’ve been meaning to write something with a very similar theme to that, about how I hear voices and they’re not my own. How I often feel like screaming “Shut the fuck up! GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HEAD!”

    Right on.
    – Devin

  4. PennyScout,

    Haha. Maybe if Cheif “Cornflower” spent less time planting corn and more time drying meats and fermenting foods he wouldn’t have to hunt during the cold. Sounds like he’s got the “Cornflower Blues.”


    I like the primitivist kama sutra! That’s hilarious. I appreciate your comments. Thanks!


    Our parallels are creepy and awesome. I wonder how many others who don’t use the internet are tapping into what we’ve done. Like flight being developed around the world all at once, how many others do you think have our ideas? It’s a pretty cool thing.

  5. Scout, I wonder a little about why you aren’t outside more. I mean, don’t you need to be working on your cold weather foot callouses or something? just kidding. It’s winter man – if you haven’t gained some nice paddage around the belly from sitting on your ass and hibernating, well, you’re just that much further from “nativity.” Spring is the time to shake it and make it baby.

  6. When the sun, source of all our energy, goes to sleep for the winter – the living world around us does, as well. Even simple molecules and atoms respond accordingly, slowing down in the cold…

    But our culture compels us to forget what we feel in our bones, repressing our own reflexes and instincts, until we can’t even gag up the bullshit.

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