The idealized man lives his life with little or no significant possessions, relying only on his two hands, his wits, life itself, and only a few small things humans have devolved into needing to simply stay alive. Every man feels a deep-seated need—whether or not he follows it—to flee into the wilderness with only a survival knife clenched in his teeth, a cloak, and maybe a kilt to fend of cougars, bears, and anything else that wants to fuck with him. Sadly, this existence gets old after awhile (Trust me, I know), but there are trailblazers to follow.
The High Plains Drifter has found a nearly perfect balance. Simplicity is his character, and not a lifestyle-choice. His necessary possessions are (listed in order of importance) a hat, gun, canteen, trousers, jack knife, boots, shirt, poncho, horse, and a few odd sundries. These allow him to follow his gut and take the dusty path to the next opportunity, or to move on from the complications of the last one-horse town. (Adios, Sheila…) It’s difficult to be a cowboy today. A motorcycle and and a trucker cap are poor substitutes for the the badass garb of a cowboy. The cowboy was the Road Warrior before the Road Warrior, and the man the Road Warrior tries to be. That’s another subject though…
More recently, men have abandoned the bullshit of the modern world and simplified by finding the few remaining wilderness areas to fulfill their creed. Many have heard of my man, Dick Proenneke, who ran to the Alaskan Wilderness after an industrial accident blinded him. While hoping for vision to completely return, this verified badass took an axe, a rifle, and a few other ass-kicking man-tools to Twin Lakes, Alaska, where he lived for 30 years. This guy was Alone in the (Fucking) Wilderness! If you don’t know about this guy, turn off all of your electronic crap and binge-watch even if you have to go dark on your social media for 15 minutes. Your SM will improve after knowing about this guy. Everything will improve. We all want to be this guy, except for… the nightlife part.
There’s a modern exploration into the life of a man who simplifies. Can a guy work at Amazon, sip his $12 latte, and still be a High Plains Drifter? The documentary entitled, “Minimalism” explores potential freedom from the grinding, soul-crushing lifestyle that’s been offered to us. Materialism seems to be the court that this game of life must be played upon, yet Minimalism says, “Kiss my ASS! You can’t cage me. I’m moving on to the high plains of First-World civilization. I don’t even need a horse, or a gun!”
But just when you think you can and should approach true manliness by simplifying and forfeiting a lifestyle of materialism and instant gratification, you gotta think about the animals. You can’t deny that there’s a connection between Man and Stuff. Does your Labrador Retriever have or want any killer shit? No… If he does, it’s only because you gave it to him or because you justified your purchase of that new mountain bike because you can now take Baxter on runs in the woods. You haven’t taken him once. No, you want your killer shit and you are special because of it. All men have wanted the new and best shit, and as soon as they get it, they want the better thing. This has been true since the time when “tech” consisted of a cool rock that you could beat the shit out of the next caveman with. All men love excellent shit, and will not tolerate lame shit. Real men love awesome stuff all the time. They would not give a hoot in hell for lame stuff. General George S. Patton alluded to this in a famous speech, I think. The speech is from a Hollywood movie and you kinda have to read between the lines, but we all know what he’s really talking about.
To simplify, therefore, might well be to sell your soul. Where is the line between materialism and spirituality? Is our preoccupation with the tools of a builder an obsession with superficial earthly things or a devotion to a lifestyle and set of ideals? Does the painter wonder about materialism when buying paints? The sculptor when buying clay? Does the poet wonder about materialism when buying… whatever crap poets buy to do poet stuff? Certain material possessions are conduits of internal purpose. They comfort and affirm.
I often wonder what early man did without Sears, Pay’n Pak, Harbor Freight, and eBay. How did they feel when they fled to the garage to find no tools in the tool box, no toolbox, heck, no garage?!? It was, after all, early man.
Pure manliness? I believe it exists. It exists in my Stihl chainsaw, my 6hp Yamaha outboard, and my 110v wire feed welder and some other junk I have laying around. I know I’m doing what I was intended to do when I work with these things. They are low in LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), they’re nonpartisan, and they make me a better man. The jury’s still out on the riding mower. It has a weak head design and the… Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, a man definitely needs some kind of wire feed welder. I think every man needs one as much as he needs a wallet and a pocket knife. A man needs his killer shit.
To hell with minimalism.
First project: sculpture from all those old scraps you have laying around. Ya just gotta pull the trigger.