An Instinct for Freedom

Watching Captain Fantastic left me dreaming of a different kind of lifestyle

Sarah Gooding
Tunnel Vision


Photo: Erik Simkins / Bleecker Street

There is a place where people live without cell phones and hand sanitiser. They buy only what they need and hunt, forage for and build the rest with their bare hands.

Hands that bare cuts and bruises, from scaling rock walls and scouring wood sculptures. Hands with dirt under their fingernails from bushwalking and building. Hands that grip knives and books and makeshift drums.

This place has no endless scroll, no 9% battery anxiety. No needless 30-inch plasma TVs taking up space in areas that are supposed to be for living, anyway. No long, empty hallways, extra bathrooms and double bedrooms requiring regular cleaning but providing no discernible extra quality of life. No locks on doors. No fences.

No shower scum or wrong mail or Wi-Fi drop-off. No career transitions or life in limbo from missed promotions or rejected job applications. No Uber rides with grocery bags and alarm clocks on Mondays and back-aches by Fridays. No deflated sighs, no deodorant, because no one cares how you smell. Your shower is a waterfall, which beats the grief out of you.

Your dinner is whatever you can find in the forest, or harvest from your garden. No makeup, because no one cares if your skin tone is balanced and blemish-free. No one is blemish-free here, anyway. No haircuts, because they’re unnecessary.

Besides, reading and climbing and hiking and singing take up your time, and are far more fruitful, exciting endeavours than haircuts. Or mail. Or bills. Or normal school. All the education you need is in nature and literature. Chomsky, Kafka, the great Greek texts.

Religion, especially Christianity, is a tool for obstructing your vision. It’s a crutch for the oppressed, an excuse, a curtain to hide behind, to vilify from and judge with. Religion has no place here. Ignorance has no place here. Greed has no place here. Sexism has no place here either, because everyone’s smart and safe and respectful. I want to live in this place.

A place where you search the wilderness, not the web. Where you can’t help but actually talk to each other, not avoid phone calls and forget emails and abandon text messages. A place where you are connected to each other through shared experience, not internet connections.

A place where books are read with passion and vigour and regularity. Where intellect is valued, and debate is reasoned and fair. Where radical ideology is the norm, Noam Chomsky is Father Christmas and gifts are practical things wrapped in precious cloths. Where Nike is a goddess, not a shoe, and Adidas is unknown. Where suicide is talked about, and sadness is shared. Where death is a celebration of life, and bodies are burned with wildflowers and feathers and danced around. Where mental illness is discussed openly and rationally.

Where adults finish sentences, and “whatever…” isn’t a thing. Where 8-year-olds can drink wine and read The Joy of Sex. Where you sleep under the stars, even in the suburbs. Where the campfire circle is your dinner table. Where crucial facts can be recited, like the Bill of Rights. Where supermarkets are abhorred and capitalism is questioned. Where food is shared and never over-consumed. Where physical fitness is attained naturally through daily life, not strenuously applied to its margins for a fee. Where self-sufficiency reigns and intelligence is gained by days and nights spent reading the greats. Where analyses, not synopses, are shared and discourse is created, and education is your own creation. School doesn’t have to follow the rules, and neither do you.

Because sometimes you have to do it your way, however weird it may appear. But if you do it together, there’s no reason why you can’t do it forever.

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”

- Noam Chomsky

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