Do we still know anything about the world, disconnected as we are in our cities of stone, outside the flow of nature? The Hadzabe taught me that what is necessary fits on someone’s back. Everything else is extra.
It’s six o’clock in the morning and life begins. The women have come together to nurture the children and keep warm a bit longer before the sunlight warms up the land and they can go about their business. The men have gathered up in circles to smoke cannabis, check their weapons and get ready for the morning hunt. The energy of these two groups couldn’t be more different. Everyone is cold, and I am freezing! Their animal skins and small furs are not really a match for the cold nights of the savannah, especially this time of the year. As for the houses, they look more like small igloos made of leaves. How could they be warm? How could they protect themselves from wild animals during the night?
I ask myself why they don’t build stronger structures, better equipped to handle the wilderness of the land. The answer comes quickly: they are nomads. I laugh thinking of my very European education and my need for external stability to feel safe. Life doesn’t really work the way I am used to in this part of the world; people’s brains don’t even use the same logic as we do. But it is logic, and it does work! And then it strikes me that I am back to where it all began, and suddenly those young hunters look so much older to me; like they possess an ancient knowledge about the world that simply defies time. It makes me wonder whether we still know anything about the world, disconnected as we are in our cities of stone, outside the flow of nature. Maybe we do, but is it enough?
I start asking questions, lots of them, about traditions and rituals, their belief system and Gods, and little by little I begin to see things through a different lens. It relates to movement and what movement is to life as well as what life is to movement. The Hadzabe see any change that affects the tribe in its whole as a reason to change place. They all get up in the morning, take the children and whatever they need for their travel and leave the rest behind. Their leafy houses remain as witnesses to the land having given people a sum of experiences and a taste of life. Although they are hunters, warriors, they seem to choose their battles well and not hover when the world moves, but rather move with it. The Hadzabe move camp when a conflict arises or when someone falls ill or dies as they believe the spirit of death has arrived in that place and will continue to claim people. They move with the migration, for better hunting grounds and in case one of the tribe members kills a large animal somewhere far away. Relocation is easy for them, as houses can be built in a day and they possess only what’s necessary and nothing more. The Hadza taught me that what is necessary fits on someone’s back. Everything else is extra.
I started thinking of all this ‘extra’ in my life that I felt I needed at a certain point and somehow forgot to discard when it stopped being useful. I thought about the luggage I took with me to Tanzania for three weeks and that it was the same size as a Hadza’s entire possessions. I wondered whether I truly needed any of the things I had left back home and what it would have done to my back if I had decided to take anything more with me. I realized then, in the middle of the hunt, in the now ‘too warm’ savannah, that I’d rather be someone, than have something. I’d rather move through life than get stuck somewhere in it. And luggage often does that, it brings heaviness and blockages into people’s lives. It took some courage to realize that everything I needed right then I had already brought with me. What a comforting thought!
There is something beautiful about falling into alignment with the movement of life, in being able to recognize when it’s time to stay and when it’s time to go. This piece of knowledge, as simple as it sounds, has a profound wisdom attached to it. When change comes, often what is needed is a new place, a repositioning in the world. To be honest, I don’t see a lot of that back home. People tend to stay put and wish for change to happen, like this is a real possibility. I can’t help but smile thinking of how far we’ve pushed the boundaries of science and how little we see. Life is a story of movement and this couldn’t be clearer than when I was walking and hunting with the Hadzabe.
I promised myself that I’d bring that walk home with me and see what changes. I am on the way to becoming a nomad through the land of my life, learning when to build and when to move towards new possibilities and new structures. I am learning about what is necessary to carry and what is meant to be left behind as it’s outlived its usefulness. I am learning about feeling at home wherever I am as the world keeps providing resources wherever I go. I already feel lighter and more prone to movement. In five months I changed three houses and two countries. My ‘possessions’ are quite minimal as they didn’t all survive the relocations. I look at the usefulness of things in a different way, even when I buy something new, the question is, “Will it make it in case I change house again?” If the answer is no, I simply walk away, feeling no regret whatsoever. After all, I didn’t really need it and I’d much rather keep walking.
So how about you? When you feel the change coming do you follow it, get into the flow of things, or are you trying to fit a river into a lake?
May 2015, Lake Eyasi, Tanzania