I receive a lot of inquiries from students. During the years we have been studied extensively, we have even welcomed and housed numerous students wanting to do an anthropological analysis of our life situation. My first book “Andrea Hejlskov” was a part of the national exam compendium (gymnasium), so maybe I´ve grown accustomed to the scrutiny, maybe I think the creative nonfiction that I do have some sort of value as a field study… but I still find it intellectually challenging to be required to explain and defend every contradiction in my life (anyone who leave the loop will be required to do so, not neccesarily by hordes of students but then by friends and family)
I consider this aspect (the student aspect) of our life rather important – this is what we “give back” to society- a chance for students to think and make up their minds about something REAL.
Below are some of the Q &A´s taking place in my inbox right now. I thought I´d share here so that
1) I can always refer back to this post instead of writing everything up again and again (sorry for the formatting of this post, tried to change it but I couldn´t)
2) I thought you might find it interesting to get a glimpse of what kind of questions preoccupy the young minds
3) I´ll be busy working in the garden for the next couple of days so I probably won´t have the time to write (and if I were a young beautiful musician I would present my thoughts about the whole matter in a song instead- like this one for instance “Lions roar” by Swedish band First Aid Kit) (you can just watch that and skip the rest)
In your book you describe how you think that having realized something and not acting upon this knowledge is the biggest treason of them all. In most cases most people would probably push the thought of being a traitor aside even if one is aware about many of the problems of our post modern society- what made you react instead of pushing the thought aside?
We reacted out of pure and utter desperation. We felt we had to run- or die.
I´m not sure one can necessarily take a major life changing decision like we did without desperation being a part of it, without being somehow “forced” to do something- because there will always be a thousand counterarguments and good reasons to NOT do anything.
I believe that we, in our contemporary system and mindset have a major problem regarding the concept of “escaping”- it is something we talk ill about and look down upon (in a way positive psychology have infected our minds to the extreme that we are no longer “allowed” to rebel out of desperation and suppression – no, we can only rebel when we have a “positive vision of an alternative”) This sentence used to bother me a lot “I don´t want to run away from something- I want to run towards something” but now I think it´s quite logical: you have to react to your circumstances and your situation and it more cases than not you will NOT know what you are running towards, that´s the whole point of “resetting your system” or “starting all over” – you set sails towards unknown territory, you might have dreams about that land but you can´t know everything in ADVANCE.
It´s such controlling thing- to demand positive visions all of the time. You can´t do that (to yourself), sometimes you just need to jump into the deep end of the waters, sometimes you just need to risk everything- sometimes you need to run.
Look to the pioneers and the settlers who went to america. To them it was part dream about a better life- part real downright escaping (poverty, religious suppression, overpopulation, starvation).
I think it is time we begin asking ourself why we have grown to view the concept of “the escape” as we do (which is also why I use “escape” as part of the book title)
Do you think the reason why people do not react (even if they feel trapped in a consumerism) is because they are to dependend of a sense of security?
Yeah, a sense of security but also plain comfort. Most moderns (including myself) really fear the uncomfortable, fear the fight. Before we moved up here I COULD NOT IMAGINE living without plumbing or electricity, I simply didn´t think it was possible (especially not if one had children). We have truly lost a lot of things the last hundred years (including the knowledge that we CAN live without many of these modern inventions and comforts)
Do you think you are more happy than other people, what do you think about the equation “secutiry- happiness?”
I believe the conception that happiness is equal to a sense of security is misunderstood in the regard that a sense of security can never be a THING (or things). A sense of security is exactly that- a FEELING.
I know that we can always start all over, with nothing, from scratch, we can live on a stone (not that I want to) but in a way that makes me feel more secure than I ever did.
I think the problem is that we tend to equate security with things (plans, circumstances, something you can buy) when in fact security is a feeling (maybe a sort of confidence)
Can your decision be called “fighting for the better life”- an escape from the postmodern society?
Is it possible at all to leave society?
No. Not if you have kids. It is illegal to home school your children in Sweden- the state have DE FACTO taken authority over the children in our culture (and I can´t think too much about this because it makes me sick to the stomach) Besides this society is everywhere, it´s in our heads- all the values we were raised to believe in, all the things we take for granted, the way we relate to each other and to reality itself… I see it this way: we have begun some sort of deprogramming here, we try to examine society (also inside our own heads) and we try to negotiate with it and to relate more realistically (and critical) to it.
One thing that annoys me a lot is how our current system/society has somehow patented technology, comfort or progress so that “living outside of society” have become some sort of stone age existence, as if progress, technology and comfort could not exist within a DIFFERENT system. This says a lot- and there´s a lot to say about it.
Where to you feel the line is regarding materialism? Should we live without – just because we should?
Yes. I think so. It is despicable that our privileges and comforts is something we have on expense of other people and of the planet itself. I believe it hurts our (folk) should and destroys our karma, I often think that this might be one of the reasons why so many people our day and age suffer from stress, depression (and so on): in a way I think that we as humans suffer when other humans suffer. I think we are connected more than we have thought for the last thousands of years.
It makes one feel bad to think that we have it so good because of the unhappiness of others. Is the simple life less filled with less bad conscience?
No. We still drink coffee, I have a computer which is probably assembled by child slaves, we sometimes buy a pizza (when in town) and I can´t be sure that the meat on the pizza does not come from tortured animals, raised on factory farms and so on- the truth is that it´s not really possible to liberate oneself from this society- unless you choose to go “all the way”
I know people who have gone all the way. I respect them tremendously. I see our position as someone “in the middle”, like a bridge. I often miss our first year in the forest and I sometimes dream of going back to that kind of life- but at the same time I´m a writer and thus tied to my culture, to the people. I´ve realized that being “an artist” is exactly what makes me “unfree” in some regard and that was one of the harder realisations. I express myself. I communicate. If I yell in the forest I feel lonely- I NEED to be heard in some way (as did- and without comparison – thoreau, abbey, the guy from “into the wild” and so on).
I´m caught in a catch 22. I try to make the best of it.
Is life in the woods easier on a psychological level regarding stress, recognition, work and school?
It is easier exclusively because of one thing: it makes sense.
(thereby not said that I do not struggle with/against ambition and recognition, stress and so on)
Can everyone do what you have done?
No. And why should they?
In this system we have a tendency to devalue anything unless it is something that can be stretched out to encompass everyone in exactly the same way. I believe we need a lot more people a lot more different things!
To say “Stop! I can’t part take in this anymore” is not something for the lucky few- it is something we humans have always done if the system we live in have become too unjust and unfair. What you choose to do afterwards.. there´s a thousand answers to that.
I do feel that I was morally and ethically obliged to say “stop” though, to try to boy cut and to try to create a sort of sanctuary out here (not pure! Just more peaceful) a stronger position from where I could fight the system better.
How do you support yourself? How is it economically possible to live like you do?
It´s not economically possible (if you look at it from an economically perspective). We are poor. We are really poor. People tend to not believe how poor we are- because we don´t look poor (and maybe also because we don´t feel poor- our poverty is more or less self-chosen and thereby not worn as a heavy cross)
We have no steady income. We have no insurances, we have no heavy machinery to help us in our work. We are hustlers and day labourers. We earn some money when I write books or do the speaking tours- we are dependent on gift and sharing economy, we are dependent on the donation I get via my blog.
Have you ever wanted to “come back” to society, if yes, what pulls you in that direction?
I have not WANTED to return to society and the reality we lived in before- but at times I have thought it was our only option…
Would you wish this life for others and what advises to you have to people who want to do the same?
If people wish to live like this I wish for them that they do. Advice: keep going, hold on! And don´t bring all kinds of stuff with you! (you´d be amazed, you need less than half of what you think you need!) Let stuff come to you and- very importantly- prioritize the communication between your partner and yourself, take the long talks, let everything be said. AND remember to say “no” (don´t get carried away, don´t accept being a pleaser…regarding eventuel guests or eventual readers or eventual articles)
What important insights regarding yourself have you gotten out of life choices?
That I was- and am- a very scared person. That I tend to think very negatively and that I CANT always trust my own emotions, that everything changes… that is the most important lesson and the most golden rule. That I´m strong and that I´m stubborn.
Do you think it has brought you more calm and stability to go back to the old traditional societal norms regarding gender roles, taking care of your own children ect?
I worked as a child psychologer- my job was to observe children in daycare, to help them with their “symptoms”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the children! The problem is our culture! The problem is the insane pressure the families live under, the problem is the conflicts in the soul! This system is an evil empire and it´s about time we begin to discuss how it destroys not only our self but not the least the children!
The worst part is how everything is individualised and internalised when in fact the structures are simply…. evil. How are you supposed to raise your children at the same times as having a healthy relationship and body at the same time as fulfill your inner most potential in both your job, your spirituality and your relations to your peers. AND live pretty, AND look good! It can´t be done! Seriously! Stop pretending that it can! Everyone dreams of “making it”, everyone is kept in their places by some insane american dream that they can become on the 1% This system only exists because everyone strives to become one of the lucky few… dreaming and pretending that they can win the lottery, get that promotion, write that book, get that look and so on.
WHO does this system work for? (It´s an important question. I´d like to know)
To answer your question 😉 YES. It does give me more peace of mind to live like this. Mostly because I couldn´t morally or ethically be a part of that system anymore, it ate me up, chewed on my sense of reality.
I feel this is “the real world” and I do not doubt, even for a second, that this is a better life for my children than what they had before. I have lived here for a while now. I have seen the effects of what we did. It took some time.. but I can SEE that it changed us and that we now- at least- believe that we DO have some agency in our own lives.
Regarding the gender roles, this is something I have thought about A LOT (extensively). I no longer think it´s about GENDER-roles. I think it´s about actual real jobs, tasks and things that needs to be done. Somehow these jobs does seem to be distributed in a certain way (I tend to do the dishes more than my husband, he tends to empty the compost toilet more than me) but I no longer think it´s about suppression, hierarchy or relational dynamics – I think it´s about the jobs IN THEM SELVES.
There is kind of higher unit (us), there is kind of higher truth (us)- our flock needs to feel well, things need to function as smooth as possible. It´s a waste of time to nurture the martyrdom because truth is that both him and me sometimes feel “trapped” in our gender roles.
It´s been a real relief to look at it in a pragmatic way instead: What are the jobs, what needs to be done- how do we do as smooth as possible? (this also means that he needs to do the dishes more because I FREAK OUT if I feel trapped in my gender role). There is sort of balance that needs to be tended to and it helps to look at it as a balance instead of our own individual problems.
Sometimes the gender roles are totally reversed here (and this needs to be said to). True that I do the dishes a lot (and a lot of the traditional female jobs) but sometimes it is also me who leaves the home to work while he stays at home and makes everything work here. I think our view on gender roles have become too abstract to really talk about it, at least it has helped me a lot personally to kind of fix the problems on a real practical and pragmatically level.
What aspects of postmodern society do you view as good or bad?
I worry about the climate crisis, I worry about that a lot.
I think the internet and Open Source is one of the finest things we ever invented as a human race (and I´m really sad that it got corrupted). I have high hopes that we will be able to develop our collective consciousness (which is also one of the reasons why I feel obliged to share/BE open source) both by our storytelling and our technologies and by our sheer will to survive. We NEED each other, we need to suck it up and stand together!