My knowledge of human evolution is fairly minimal, but I am aware that early incarnations of our species were hunter gatherers, essentially hunting and killing animals, as well as foraging for plant life and gathering it for immediate or future sustenance.
Of course in the western world we don’t this today, but I’ve been wondering if some of this ancient instinct still smoulders strongly in our genetic make up.
Personally, I’ve noticed over the years a strong urge to hunt and gather. Not for food, but for a few other things, which I’ve narrowed down to two areas.
An obvious example is cameras. Whilst I no longer have 50+ cameras, I went through hundreds over a five year period to get to the few I love most now.
What am I really hunting for?
Perhaps at one time it was the “perfect” camera. The one beautiful machine that I became so at one with that it would finally end the search for anything other camera for the rest of my life.
Then I realised there is no one perfect camera, but there are a handful that come very close indeed. Close enough to not really need to search for perfection any more.
So then the hunt evolved. Into searching for cameras that give me a slightly different experience, and a view of the world via their lens, sensor and digital brain that I’ve not seen before. A bit like meeting different people and learning about their unique view of the world.
In the past, other objects I’ve hunted for have been Ladybird books (the Well Loved Tales) as well as the “How It Works” series), Star Wars figures (the original ones from 1977 to around 1985 – I loved how the whole set of figures was shown on the back of each pack), and CDs (for perhaps a decade of my life from about 18 onwards I felt more defined by my music collection than anything else).
With all of these objects, of course they weren’t just objects, they gave me a connected experience, providing a gateway to a different world that seemed perhaps more exciting, interesting, beautiful, or fun than the one we live in day to day.
Connected to all of these too was a thirst for research. Or, put another way, they encouraged a quest for knowledge.
Which brings us to the second category I feel my hunter gather has manifested via.
Generally I think I’m quite a curious person, and I really like to have some kind of research topic to get my teeth into.
Again let’s start with cameras as a personal example. I love to dive into the mighty river of the history of cameras and follow it down through minor tributaries.
What am I really hunting for?
It could be a number of things. I think more knowledge (about anything, however obscure the topic) helps us feel we’re learning and evolving, that we’re not static, stagnating.
By narrowing down research to a single channel at a time (like a Mastermind contestant with their chosen specialist subject, say those Pentax 35mm film cameras from 1975 to 1985, or digital compact cameras from 2003-2008) it just makes the world far easier to comprehend, and to manage.
Imagining trying to search eBay for “camera”. When I try this today I get 277,000 results in the UK alone. How do we possibly process and begin to organise this many objects?
So narrowing down again and again to a subset helps us to make this research – this quest for objects and the related knowledge – feasible, and appealing, as opposed to utterly daunting.
Knowledge gives a certain confidence too I think. If we feel we know about something in a little more depth, again it helps to deal with the vast enormity of the world and everything in it.
We find our specialist little nooks (or, in a day job perhaps, we’re given them) and get comfortable. Then we naturally seek out others who have similar looking nooks – hence the appeal for many of us here of having a blog on a certain topic and trying to encourage engagement and build community around it.
Whilst most of us no longer need to hunt and gather food in the wilderness for our daily survival, I believe our primal hunter gatherer spirit manifest in other ways.
We hunt for objects, that give us experiences we enjoy. And we hunt for knowledge, which we learn from and which gives us comfort and confidence.
How about you? In what ways are you a 21st century hunter gatherer, and what do you like to hunt for and gather?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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