Andy Dear | Sunday, 9 February 2020

The Search Part III---Survival
Only recently have we come up with the technology to turn lazing into a way of life. We've taken our sinewy, durable, hunter-gatherer bodies, and plunked them into an artificial world of leisure.
---Christopher McDougall

  1995 was an interesting year in my life. It was the year I started building rods, the year I started fly fishing, and the year I also changed my educational major to Anthropology. That first year I had the privilege of studying under a very interesting professor named Dr. Barbara Winkler. Dr. Winkler and I had several interesting "after class" conversations, but one, in particular, has been ingrained in my memory above all the others. I dont'remember exactly how the conversation evolved, but Dr. Winkler and I along with several other students found ourselves involved in a discussion of what she termed "archaic memories". It was her position that the circuits in the human brain had been wired over tens of thousands of years in a way such that many of our behaviors are driven by emotions that were the result of the life or death situations our hunter-gather ancestors experienced as a daily way of life.

  This is not a new idea and has been discussed thoroughly in several different social and behavioral disciplines. However, the part I found most interesting was that Dr. Winkler felt that an observable physical manifestation of these "archaic memories" was the recurring dream many people have of "falling". I can't speak for any of you, but when I was a child, I remember several times of having dreams of "falling" endlessly through a pitch black void. She contended that this was a sort of archaic memory from when our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to take refuge above the ground in trees to remain safe from the nocturnal predators that hunted the ground below at night. Falling out of a tree at night could mean almost certain death, and it was her belief that the overwhelming fear of death by nocturnal predator had been hardwired in our subconscious many millennia ago, and occasionally manifested itself through our dreams.

  In last week's Front Page I proposed the idea of tradition as least for me, one of the strong motivating factors for the reasons I fish. But, it is a very CONSCIOUSLY driven motivating factor. One that I consciously plan my angling choices and behaviors around. And, in the interest of full disclosure, one that I consciously think about almost 24 hours a day. Having said that, I believe that there is much MUCH more to the reasons behind why we fish, Yes its fun, yes it's relaxing, but I believe it fills a much deeper archaic demand in our subconscious. Thousands of years ago hunting, fishing and gathering were the very activities that facilitated the provision of sustenance for ourselves and the members of our clan. Without those skills and the primitive tools that we developed to refine and execute those skills, homo sapiens may have never had the level of dominion over their environment that has allowed us to flourish as we have.

  So what does Dr. Winkler's idea of archaic memories have to do with all this? Well, it is my position that the dopamine rush that we all get out of lashing dead animal parts to a hook and fooling a fish into eating it may well be a result of an archaic memory hardwired into the circuits of our subconscious. It is a rush that at some point in our distant past wasn't pursued just for sheer enjoyment like it is now, but rather one that ultimately decided our fate as a species. One can only imagine the overwhelming relief from anxiety our early ancestors got from knowing that because of a fish they caught, or an antelope they killed, that they would live another day. And perhaps more importantly that they could provide fish and game for the members of their tribe so that they too could live another day. It would also be my position that the ability to devise methods to effectively pursue and deceive prey for our survival would be one of, if not THE most defining hardwired circuit engrained for our success as a species. After all, most of us live in a reality that is completely devoid and entirely lacking in any sort of life or death scenario that demands that we go out and kill something to drag home and cook over an open fire to eat. But that doesn't mean that the primitive portion of our brain has lost the need for the rush that can only be satiated by the act of fishing. And, perhaps it is those archaic hardwired circuits that play a defining role in the reason that we fish.

Hope you all have a great week,