July 17, 2009
I finished reading this book as we departed the Marquesas & set sail for the Tuamotu Islands. Some of you may be more familiar with the book, Kon Tiki Expedition\”, written by the same author. Thor and wife Liv left their home in Norway to live a primitive lifestyle on the island of Fatu-Hiva. This was their goal:
\”We wanted to see if the two of us, man and woman, could resume the life abandoned by our first ancestors. If we could tear ourselves away from our artificial life. Completely and utterly. Be independent. Independent of the least aid of civilization. Independent of everything except nature.
\”The island of Fatu-Hiva became our choice. Mountainous and lonely. Rich in sunshine, fruit, and drinking water. Few natives and no white men. \”
I won\’t spoil the story by telling you any of their adventures. But near the end of the book, his reflection and conclusions struck me as valid today, although the year they lived on this Marquesas Island was 1936. The book was published in the 1970\’s.
\”We like to think of progress as modern man\’s struggle to secure better food for more people, warmer clothing and finer dwellings for the poor, more medicine and hospitals for the sick, increased security against war, less corruption and crime, a happier life for young and old. But, as it has turned out, progress involves much more. It is progress when weapons are improved to kill more people at a longer range. It is progress when a little man becomes a giant because he can push a button and blow up the world. It is progress when the man in the street can stop thinking and creating because all his problems are solved by others who show him what happens if he turns on a switch. It is progress when people become so specialized that they know almost everything about almost nothing. It is also progress when reality gets so damned dull that we all survive by sitting staring at entertainment radiating from a box, or when one pill is invented to cure the harm done by another, or when hospitals grow up like mushrooms because our heads are overworked and our bodies underdeveloped, because our hearts are empty and our intestines filled with anything cleverly advertised. It is progress when a farmer leaves his hoe and a fisherman his net to step onto an assembly line the day the cornfield is leased to industry, which needs the salmon river as its sewer. It is progress when cities grow bigger and fields and forests smaller, until ever more men spend ever more time in subways and bumper-to-bumper car queues, until neon lights are needed in daytime because buildings grope for the sky and dwarf men and women in canyons where they roll along with klaxons screaming and blow exhaust all over their babies. When children get a sidewalk in exchange for a meadow, when the fragrance of flowers and the view of hills and forests are replaced by air conditioning and a view across the street. It is progress when a centuries-old oak is cut down to give space for a road sign.\”
\”We felt an urge, an inconvenient need, to return to civilization. But we did not want to be a single step farther from nature than life in our part of the world made necessary. Primitive life in the wilderness had filled us with a well-being, given us more than the city life as we knew it had ever been able to give us.\”
Our 5 weeks diving with the manta rays at Islas Revillagigedos last winter were as close to his feeling of \”back to nature\” that we have experienced so far. Except for the time we will spend in Tahiti & neighboring Society Islands, we look forward to visiting less developed, isolated islands where we can immerse (and submerse) ourselves in nature and breathe in that sense of well-being that Thor spoke of.
Cindy & Scott