This post contains another extract from my new Uncultivated book project. The book is built around negations of what I have chosen to call “the ten commandments of cultivation”. The intention herewith is to challenge taken-for-granted cultural and societal “truths” and assumptions and to promote a rewilding of the cultivated human being.
The ten commandments are the following:
- We have to adapt and behave
- We are superior to animals
- We are separated from nature
- We must be ambitious
- We have to work hard
- What cannot be explained is not true
- We do not talk about death
- Decay must be defeated
- Time is linear
- God is dead
In this post I will share a short passage from the first section: We have to adapt and behave.
We have to adapt and behave
We lived in the city when he was small. He went to a completely ordinary city kindergarten and hated every minute of it. “The children’s prison”, he called it, even though it was actually an excellent kindergarten with sweet educators and children. Every single morning it was a struggle to get him going. Getting him to wear boots and warm overalls in the winter made it even worse. He said: I cannot move! I cannot feel anything! And he screamed. I felt like the worst mother in the world when I left him in the kindergarten while he was being held back crying by one of the educators, who always assured me later in the day that it had stopped (the crying, that is) as soon as I was gone, and that he had had a really good day. But one cannot tame wild nature. Or you can, but it destroys it slowly. And he understood that intuitively. And so, he fought back. Vigorously. To save himself. Or, to sustain himself.
We realized we had to do something. Our daily life was unbearable because we had a constant bad conscience when he was in kindergarten, and every night we feared the morning struggle. We were told that he was challenging us. That it was a power struggle that he was trying to win. That we should stand firm and not let him decide. Not let him win. That he would get used to it with time. But I knew it was not true. I knew that for him it was all about self-preservation. That he fought for the right to his way of being in the world. The right to develop and be who he is. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t adjust to anything, just not to this.
So we did something.
We started looking at farmhouses in the southern part of Denmark; entertaining the idea that perhaps if every weekend we would leave the city and go to the countryside to get recharged things would change. Moving out of the city entirely seemed like too big a step for us at the time. What about schools? What about the neat coffee shops we had at every corner, and at which we thoroughly enjoyed working on our laptops? What about our friends? What about our beautiful, bright apartment in the city center? And, of course, what about our jobs? There seemed to be too many obstacles. But every morning as the struggle began; getting our youngest out of the door, into the cargo bike and delivered at kindergarten, and hereafter, with a growing lump in the throat, bike to work or to a café to write, solely thinking about how soon we could be back at the kindergarten to pick him up, the dream of a tranquil countryside existence grew stronger.
We convinced each other that the weekend country house could be the solution, so we spent weekend after weekend driving around looking at houses. But every time we sat in the car on the way back to the city, we were quiet. We both felt that it wasn’t quite right. It wasn’t the solution. And, one Sunday after looking at a house with a big barn and a beautiful garden for the second time, sitting quietly in the car driving back, contemplating silently on solutions and scenarios, I said something that changed our direction entirely. I said: we will never do this, right? My husband looked at me: no, he said.
And that was that. Our weekend country house dream ended right there in the car on a Danish gray October Sunday.
I think part of why we just suddenly knew that the weekend country house wasn’t the right step for us was the realization that it wasn’t a big enough step. Well, in terms of financial obligations it was a huge step, but not existentially. And the last thing we needed at that point was more expenses and less freedom. It would have been the most conventional thing to do though, and the most cultivated too. Leading a cultivated life tends to involve slowly expanding one’s material possessions and as a part hereof expanding one’s premises.
We contemplated a different strategy too: moving to the countryside and setting up a life there. But we were warned by numerous friends: you must make sure you pick the right area with likeminded people, otherwise you will come running back, they said. It felt right, so we stayed put.