Updated date:

Writer Without a Clause: Paleo Living

What does it mean to live a meaningful life? In this article, I look to our ancient ancestors as an example of what it means to live fully.

Writer Without a Clause


Writer Without a Clause

Writer Without a Clause is me, approaching my laptop, with nothing particular on my mind. Then I begin typing. That's it. Nothing more. I hope you enjoy this little essay.

Living Moment by Moment, Day by Day

The Paleo Diet took recreational dieters by storm when it resurfaced in recent history after being dormant for about ten thousand years. Proponents believe that the experience of our Stone Age ancestors can teach us a thing or two about healthy eating. I’m not for or against this particular food fad although I tend to believe if we simply eat less of whatever it is we eat, we will find a healthy balance.

But I’m not really writing about dieting. In fact, that is the furthest thing from my mind as I type and munch on my potato wedges that just came out of my new Audew Air Fryer...Watch for the review. I want to talk about what it means to live. I want to wax philosophical and consider what it means to live moment by moment, day by day.


Indigenous People of Papua New Guinea

What does that have to do with our Paleolithic brethren and sistren? Consider how they must have lived regarding food. I spent three months in the wilds of Papua New Guinea in the summer of 1983. I was probably in as remote a place on the planet that one can be from modern technology. It is my opinion that the way these Papuans came upon their food was likely close to how the latest Paleolithic people lived.

So what did I observe In Papua New Guinea? I saw groups of men go out one day from the village. Each man carried a bow and arrows. Hours later, they returned with many small animals, plus an enormous wild pig.

They wasted no time preparing the fire. I don’t remember how long they cooked the pig, but the time finally came to consume it. The entire tribe ate and ate and ate.

Interestingly, I and my friend of European descent got nothing. How rude, you might say. We were guests in the village, yet they gave us no meat. Why would they do such a thing? Here is why. We didn’t need it. They did. We all knew it, and they ate the whole pig in one meal. They stuffed themselves. Again someone might say, why? Why didn’t they save some for another day? I think we all know the answer to that question. They had no way to preserve it. The diet of these people consisted mainly of carbohydrates from sweet potatoes and the sago palm.

That’s how many of the Paleolithic people ate. Lot’s of meat one day, and no meat for a long, long time. At least some of them loaded up on carbs because that was what was available...just like the Papuans.

Wild Pig

Daily Life of the Paleolithic People

What was life like for those Stone Age people? Let’s comprise a list of activities that made up what they must have called life.

  1. Gathering food. It was a never ending task. Grains, nuts, roots, fruit, vegetables, and meat.
  2. Preparing food to store or eat.
  3. Eating.
  4. Making clothing.
  5. Making/repairing dwellings.
  6. Defending themselves against wild beasts.
  7. Defending themselves against other people.
  8. Sleeping.

The Epitome of Living According to Modern Western Man

Now let’s make a list of what we consider to be the elements of a happy life today.

  1. Taking a vacation from work.
  2. Relaxing in the evening and watching television.
  3. Reaching the weekend and resting after working all week.

That’s it. Everything else enables us to do those three things. We look for quicker and easier ways to do everything so that we have more time to—to what? Live? Do you see the disconnect between the paleo list above and the list for modern western man? For our ancestors, doing the things that sustained physical life was what life was all about. We attempt to either eliminate or reduce the time requirements of such tasks so that we can Live.

What do we do on vacation? What do we do in the evening after dinner? What do we do on the weekend? All too often, these “activities” include a couch and a television. Everything else serves these ends which we consider to be the epitome of living.


Living Differently; Living Fully

We try to eliminate or reduce the time requirements of those annoying things like acquiring food, preparing food, storing food, getting clothing, building or fixing our homes. These often involve gaining the assistance of other people to do these things. We order meals off GrubHub. We find clothing on Amazon. We hire others to build or repair our dwellings. We do this so we have time to Live, which we have already seen, often means, lying on the couch.

What is the alternative? There is a way of living life that is at the same time, simpler and much more exciting. Here is another list. This one suggests a few ways we can live differently.

  1. Grow at least some of your own food. This can be done with little or no land. Google it. You can do it.
  2. Preserve/store food for future use.
  3. Have fun and satisfaction preparing food you grow yourself.
  4. Learn to make/repair clothing. Reuse clothing by shopping at thrift stores.
  5. Build your own house. Build a tiny house. Build a big house, but learn to do it yourself.
  6. Learn to do the repairs around your house and on your vehicles.

Back to the paleo people. Did they go camping on the weekends? No, they were camping every day of their lives. Did they go hunting for deer in the fall? No, hunting was part of daily life. Did they get their vegetables from the grocery store? No, they foraged constantly. Did they hire a realtor to get them their dream house? No, they built their own dream house.

My Son´s Back Yard (He´s buying the place from me)

Reengaging With the Past

The lifestyle of Paleolithic man has more to offer us than a somewhat misguided (In my opinion) food fad. The desire for a meaningful life has been reinforced in us for tens of thousands of years. The elements of a meaningful life have also been permanently stored in our brains. When we reengage with these primal, instinctive, and essential parts of our psyche, we will experience a meaningful life.


manatita44 from london on November 09, 2019:

Perhaps you were one or two or all three. We believe in reincarnation. Anyway , Love is not bound by plans and She shapes you according to the experiences necessary for the soul

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 09, 2019:

Manatita, I was born at the wrong time. As a child, I was Tom or Huck. I longed to be Boone, Bowie, a Native American. Even now I could happily return to a very simple life of mere sustenance. I may yet. Peace, hope, love, joy, and all good things to you.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 09, 2019:

Patricia, we can be creative with these things these days. It might take the form of a hobby. But we can practice one of the ancient ways of living. Our human nature cries for it.

manatita44 from london on November 09, 2019:

You are a pioneering American. You remind me of Eric, John Hanson, Bill ... the Divine gave you guys this nature. I seemed to have it as a child but it's all gone. Haha.

Some noble ideas indeed but in this evolutionary cycle it may get worse before being better, yet never backward.

Evolution always pushes forward, seeking ever new ways to enjoy its game. Life is an ever- transcending dance. I hear you though. Much Love, my brother.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 04, 2019:

It would behoove us, perhaps, to adapt more of these folks' habits than rush through life without living fully. In my family we have really (we try I should say) learned to savor every single moment given to us each day....thank your for sharing Angels are headed your way this afternoon ps

Nikki Khan from London on November 01, 2019:

Baby is good, getting bigger and bigger with grace of God. Would share some on him soon with his pics.

Thanks Chris, bless you!

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on November 01, 2019:

Nikki, It's nice to see you. I'm glad the article was meaningful to you. By the way, how is the baby?

Nikki Khan from London on November 01, 2019:

Great article Chris! I'm impressed! Lol.

I also support Sean brother's point, if you add up love as well to this list, would be good.

In Ancient times, people had more family time, rather doing some physical activity or learning how to protect them. Their kids and wives used to be part of all this circle. But now, in modern times, every member of family is busy with phone, laptop, tablet, watching TV, or whatsoever means. Even people are busy in using their phones on public transport. No time to look around or enjoy outside views.

We really need to get this mechanical life off our couch to get some quality and meaningful time.

Thanks for reminding us this my friend.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 30, 2019:

Bill, It's good to see you here today. Tiny? How tiny? I'm doing the same in about three years. I've been living that way, in a sense, for the last 6+ Years. I'll start off in a travel trailer and then build my own tiny house later. Miniature rocket mass furnace and all. That's good to hear, Bill. I am excited for you.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 29, 2019:

I love your reflections, Chris. I'm trying to latch on to that simple, meaningful lifestyle. It's a process, of course, but I'm getting closer to the goal. We are selling our house and going tiny in April...and looking forward to it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 28, 2019:

Doris, that must have been an awesome way to be raised. And you add to it the compassion of caring for your neighbor in need. You have suggested the same thing Sean mentioned. Thanks for sharing.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 28, 2019:

Sean, I wish you could know my son, Scott. He knows exactly what you are talking about. He and his wife reach out in many directions in love. It's his mother's imprint on his soul. Thanks for reminding me to include love in everything.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 27, 2019:

I never realized what an Ozark farmer had in common with Paleolithic man, but at least we had electricity and a refrigerator. No freezer, so we also had a well-used smokehouse on the place, and our winter diets were supplemented with the fruits and vegetables that the women canned after the harvest. A lot of people agree that our diets were healthier then because of no fast-food joints. But at least we shared food with our neighbors and our guests. And I'm speaking of post-Depression farmers. I've heard my grandparents speak of how people shared during the Depression, too, so apparently modern people are more compassionate than Paleolithic. Good article, Chris.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on October 26, 2019:

You are a wise man, my brother, Chris, and I am glad to see that you have brought up a wise son too! I fully agree with your article and I would like to add a number 7 suggestion: find time to love. We have forgotten that this is the meaning of life. Love and appreciation for everything we have! I appreciate knowing you!

Simplicity frees a lot of space for Love!


Ann Carr from SW England on October 24, 2019:

Amen to that, Chris. You're welcome.

Life is much more exciting when we see, literally, the fruits of our labours. Imagination and ingenuity go a long way.

I think it will be a mixture of both and I know which ones will survive.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 24, 2019:

Ann, I am learning much about the people I´ve met here on HP over the last seven or eight years. It is exciting...yes, I said, exciting, to see how people make their way through this life. You, your partner, and your children live this way naturally. You barely think about it. I watch my sons live this way out of a desire to exist in cooperation with the natural world around them. I contrast this attitude with the bumbling and bungling of modern society and know that we all must get on board because the norm is not sustainable economically, socially, materially, or physically. We will change. The question is whether we will do it by choice or by force of the will of nature. There, you´ve allowed me to preach my sermon. Now I´ll get back to writing fun flash fiction. haha. Thanks for being here, Ann.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 24, 2019:

My partner would survive happily anywhere. He can fix cars, grow trees, mend just about anything, build a house, decorate, do carpentry, fix microwaves, improvise tools, and much more. I never have to take my car to a garage, I help him with painting, sanding wooden floors and recycling all sorts of things.

I grow fruit and veg, I plant and nurture favourite flowers and shrubs.

One of my daughters uses all sorts of recycling to make crafts and spends lots of time with her own children doing the same. They don't need to spend money to enjoy themselves.

So generally we have a simple lifestyle but so much importance is given to the material these days that I wonder how quickly such abilities or interests are going to die out, how we're becoming dangerously close to not knowing how to be self-sufficient.

Great article which has obviously got us all thinking.


Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 24, 2019:

Dora, That was 36 years ago. They probably have skyscrapers and internet now. hahaha. I can do the gardening and looking for opportunities to acquire meat. There may be some ways I could barter as well. In the end, if the bills are paid, all is good.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on October 24, 2019:

Chris, my oldest son is a landscaper, and he relaxes by working with the dirt. His 3 year old son is following in his footsteps. Someone left some seeds on a side table on the deck. He found an empty pot and 3 weeks later, we transplanted them to the veggie garden. His green beans are beautiful, and he takes care of them every time he comes out. I do use a little tech on my gardens. I have an irrigation system set up automatically. I kept forgetting to turn the water on.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on October 24, 2019:

Very interesting! The Paleo People experience both labor and fun in the same activity. I do believe you that our lives would be more meaningful if we learned some of their habits. But for the wild pig, I covet your adventure (I think) living temporarily among them. Thanks for sharing.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 24, 2019:

John, you´ve done it. You know how to do it, and I am sure you have brought lessons from those days with you that help you live now in a very different way from what is normal or average. And you share that lifestyle in your writings here. Thank you for being an example of the good life.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 24, 2019:

Liz, Yes, this is what I envision, life stripped back to basics where we choose to rely on our own, personal resourcefulness to put food on the table of our children and grandchildren. It does not need to be forced. It can be a beautiful thing.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 24, 2019:

Becky, you are living the life I´ve tried to describe here. For many, it is do-able. Plant something. If it doesn´t grow, try again. You have not succumbed to the modern interpretation of ¨the good life¨. You are finding joy, purpose, and peace in how you live. Blessings on you today and every day. May your children and grandchildren know and understand the importance of the life you live.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 24, 2019:

A very informative and interesting essay, Chris. You make some very good observations about how we live compared to how we should. I lived for two years in a shed with an outdoor kitchen and shower, no running water, home-built composting toilet, and without electricity other than 12-volt car batteries and a generator. then I built a bigger shed that had two solar panels and lived there for five four years.So I know how to get back to basics. Love your ex garden, now your son's.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 23, 2019:

I meant 'simple' in the sense that there is no technology and life is stripped back to basics of hunting, gathering food and providing for people. Lives can sometimes feel complex and overloaded with so much clutter around us in terms of possessions and activity.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on October 23, 2019:

I have what I consider the perfect life. I have a veggie garden, where I grow all those wonderful fresh veggies. I stay at home, and my idea of relaxing is digging in the dirt to garden, and preserving the produce. I dry them, can them and freeze them. I have planted some fruit trees, and love to watch them grow. I sew a lot of my own clothes, because I learned how when I was young and just keep doing it. People freak out when they find out I made something they really like.

I love to get creative and make a gorgeous quilt. I hand sew them and embroider on them. My family loves getting one for Christmas. They don't get one every year, because they take quite a while to make. I do one for one kid one year and another one the next.

I crochet beautiful sweaters, scarves and hats for my kids, and grandkids. They love to get hand crafted by grandma gifts.

I very rarely sit around and watch TV, but I will watch while working on something else. I guess you could say I live like my grandmother and her mother before her. They did a lot of the same things that I like to do.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 23, 2019:

Liz, I´m glad it has caused you to consider these things. You mentioned ¨a simpler lifestyle¨. I wonder, is it really simpler? I mean, it is more time consuming, and harder work. It is simpler, I think, only in that it requires less money. We take care of our own needs rather than paying someone else to do it for us. Does that make sense?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 23, 2019:

Pamela, Provoking thought is my goal here. You are so right to point out that not everyone can do all of these things or even some of them. But many of us can change one thing regarding how we live, and it will make a big difference in our contentment.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 23, 2019:

Shauna, I miss it every minute of every day I´m gone. I´ll get back, though. Thanks for asking.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 23, 2019:

This is a thought-provoking article with a strong message. I especially liked the couch potato illustration. We can learn a lot from our early ancestors and their lifestyles and even, as you saw, from those who still live a simpler lifestyle.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 23, 2019:

This is a thought provoking aeticle Chris. I really love your sons yard with a garden and much more.

I am not phtsically able to do some of the things you suggested, I use to make most of my clothes. I made draperies for our house and I have had a garden and canned many kinds of food. It is a good life,

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 23, 2019:

I love the yard, Chris! Gardens, resting spots, home-grown food and even a few huglekultur beds! I love it. It looks like a peaceful place to live. Do you miss it?

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 23, 2019:

The video should be working now.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 23, 2019:

Wow, this rings a bell loud and clear. I can't imagine an evening without TV. I can remember my Grandmother making clothing, even coats. We have everything so easy, but I wouldn't want to hunt for food. The thought of killing an animal turns me off BIG TIME. Interesting article Chris. Oh I forgot to tell you, the video is not working.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 23, 2019:

Video still won't play, Chris.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 23, 2019:

Interesting. Papuanese? I think we are over consumers. I liked the idea of a vacation. I need to do more vacating from vacating. Perhaps I should go more paleo. But our Pho' dishes are so good. Loved this piece and have shared it.

Chris Mills (author) from Traverse City, MI on October 23, 2019:

Shauna, I´ll fix the video now. Thanks for letting me know. I appreciate your thoughts here. I don´t want to come across like a preacher or a know-it-all; I just want to share some things I think I´ve learned. Thanks for stopping by, and don´t forget to watch the video.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 23, 2019:

Chris, this article certainly offers plenty of food for thought. Modern man takes so much for granted in addition to needing instant gratification. We blame it on lack of time. But what is it really? Lack of desire? Lack of motivation? We hustle and bustle five days a week doing the same things day in and day out only to become stressed and miss what life is really all about. Then we plop our butts on the couch to de-stress. All in all, what have we accomplished?

We need to break the routine and venture out of our comfort zones. Gain new skills, dream dreams and do what we can to make them reality.

Great reflection, Chris. I was looking forward to viewing your video, but it's marked as "private", so it won't play. Boo hoo.....

Related Articles