Bread. I wanted to bake bread. Why? Because I didn’t know how to bake bread and that seems like something any civilized person should know how to do. Like it’s one of the cornerstones of society, a thousand-year-old skill that for some reason I can’t do. Bread is only second to making fire which I also can’t reliably do. I’m getting pretty proficient at using a lens on charcoal but this only works well if it’s daytime, it’s not cloudy, and the charcoal is dry. If I get bored enough on my upcoming vacation maybe I’ll try the “rub sticks together” technique. I put fire a tier above bread because it’s hard to bake bread without a fire. Fire was probably the first big invention that humans have pulled off and it seems like a disappointment to the human species as a whole if you can’t make fire or bread on your own.
Bread became more meaningful the more I thought about it, almost an obsession. Why do we outsource bread to companies? What’s so damn bad about baking bread that we can’t do it ourselves? You kind of have to buy a car because you don’t have the skill, the expertise, or the materials to build your own. Cars are fine things to buy from someone else because of this, but bread? This became clearer once I actually baked my first loaf of French bread. (Here’s the recipe. It’s the first one that came up and I’m lazy.) It was easy, like mind-blowingly easy. Like “Why the fuck doesn’t everyone bake their own bread” easy. Not as easy as microwaving some frozen dinners but easy nonetheless. My two loaves turned out amazing especially considering it was my first foray into baking. It tasted better than store-bought bread, was cheaper, sure it took more time than buying a loaf from Walmart, but most importantly it was fulfilling to bake my own bread. Why?
We seem to lose sight of the fact that we’re just one of the millions/billions of species on this planet. We’re moderate-sized, dumb animals just like our relatives in the primate family. Sure were pretty fucking smart — we can buy cars and bread from other people — but at a fundamental level we’re still critters. Our culture seems to miss this fact putting us way above other animals, almost like we’re a diety. Our pet dogs and cats are really more like our distant cousins than “lesser beings” and why do we think we’re so damn special? Birds are even more detached from us, but still an animal, still stupidly similar to us. The momma bird is making nests for the same reason we build houses. Even insects that I share almost nothing in common with bring me awe. What would it be like to be a spider? What do spiders concern themselves with in their lifetimes? Whatever it is, as seemingly simple and dumbed down to us, that’s the state they live in. They’re happily doing spider things like eating and having babies and, damn, isn’t that what we’re doing despite all of the extra bullshit we concern ourselves with?
It’s easy to lose sight of this in our society. It’s easy to think of how advanced and “ascended” we are as a species, how we’re well past the mental capacity of the lesser critters, but is this true? Sure we have all of these fancy things like blog posts and smart phones and cryptocurrency and TikTok, but are we really that different from the other critters we share this giant ball called Earth with? I’m saying a firm “NO” here, and that our detachment from our fundamental animalism is a big part of why so many people are unhappy in our amazingly technical and connected world.
Work never seems fulfilling. Sure I show up and get a paycheck but I’m always wondering what the hell it’s all for. You need money because money is a fun little invention. Instead of bartering for goods, we created money — something everyone can agree on as valuable — and this makes trading a lot easier. If my neighbor wants to trade me goats for my bread cool, but this only works if I actually want goats. If I don’t need goats I’m out of luck. With money, I can trade my bread to the goat guy for cash, and then trade the cash for something I do need that isn’t goats. All of the people whining about money as made up or useless seem to miss this fact; money is damn useful.
Money is what we get for our services to society. If you do something useful you get paid for it, ideally based on how ‘useful’ your contribution is. (Let’s ignore what exactly “useful” means here. I think a bunch of jobs that pay are useless, but if someone is paying for those jobs, then they have some use to someone.) This allows people to specialize is all sorts of fields (pun kinda intended); not everyone has to be a farmer, or a blacksmith, or a baker at the same time. You do your small part, people pay you for your items/services and you buy what you need from other specialized people. It’s beautiful when you realize that you probably haven’t grown or produced your own food or meat in years, maybe in forever. You pay someone else to do that. And your job? Someone pays you to do that so they don’t have too. It’s a great system.
But there’s the inevitable detachment from the animal self, the part imbedded in all of our DNA that wants to survive no matter what. To look death in the eye daily and tell it to fuck off for a bit longer. And what is life other than telling death to fuck off? Maybe I want to grow my own food or kill my own meat? I doubt people go that far though, and maybe most have a nearly imperceptible sense of pointlessness to life in general. A subtle disillusionment with life and society, thoughts at night wondering what the hell your purpose is. In a round-about way I work for my food and shelter, but it doesn’t feel like my survival is attached to my work. It doesn’t feel like a matter of life and death or survival. It feels like a stupid job that I have to work because people told me I need money or something. Sure, I’m aware that this is me playing a role in society and in turn I get to eat food that others provide, but knowing this and believing/feeling this are two different things.
I think that’s my point here. Our society has detached itself so much from survival — something we are required to do as animals, something that I think we have an inherent need to feel — that it doesn’t even seem like it’s there anymore. It’s hard to feel fully alive when you don’t have death and starvation only a few days away. I’m not saying we should turn our society back into a hunter/gather type of thing where kids die before they’re three, but it’d be cool have have our daily work actually represent something in terms of our survival in a more directly and easy to appreciate way. I really think this would make life more fulfilling. I ship packages at UPS, and this is how I survive? How fucking silly.
And bread. I know how to make bread. It felt good to make because it felt like I was actually doing something to survive. Not earning a paycheck and buying food with it. Not relying on some other person (or worse, corporation) in our society to feed me. It was all me. Yes, I bought the flower and the oil and the mixer, but it’s one step closer to real, legit, Jeremy-made bread. It’s one step closer to me having my survival directly in my own hands.
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