Quotes By The Last American Man

“I live in nature where everything is connected, circular. The seasons are circular. The planet is circular, and so is the planet around the sun. The course of water over the earth is circular coming down from the sky and circulating through the world to spread life and then evaporating up again. I live in a circular teepee and build my fire in a circle. The life cycles of plants and animals are circular. I live outside where I can see this. The ancient people understood that our world is a circle, but we modern people have lost site of that. I don’t live inside buildings because buildings are dead places where nothing grows, where water doesn’t flow, and where life stops. I don’t want to live in a dead place. People say that I don’t live in a real world, but it’s modern Americans who live in a fake world, because they have stepped outside the natural circle of life.

Do people live in circles today? No. They live in boxes. They wake up every morning in a box of their bedrooms because a box next to them started making beeping noises to tell them it was time to get up. They eat their breakfast out of a box and then they throw that box away into another box. Then they leave the box where they live and get into another box with wheels and drive to work, which is just another big box broken into little cubicle boxes where a bunch of people spend their days sitting and staring at the computer boxes in front of them. When the day is over, everyone gets into the box with wheels again and goes home to the house boxes and spends the evening staring at the television boxes for entertainment. They get their music from a box, they get their food from a box, they keep their clothing in a box, they live their lives in a box.

Break out of the box! This not the way humanity lived for thousands of years.”


“He told me that one of the reasons people are so unhappy is they don't talk to themselves. He said you have to keep a conversation going with yourself throughout your life to see how you're doing, to keep your focus, to remain your own friend. He told me that he talked to himself all the time, and that it helped him to grow stronger and better everyday.”


“Clever, ambitious, and always in search of greater efficiency, we Americans have, in two short centuries, created a world of push button, round the clock comfort for ourselves. The basic needs of humanity - food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, transportation, and even sexual pleasure - no longer need to be personally laboured for or ritualised or even understood. All these things are available to us now for mere cash. Or credit. Which means that nobody needs to know how to do anything any more, except the one narrow skill that will earn enough money to pay for the conveniences and services of modern living.

But in replacing every challenge with a short cut we seem to have lost something and Eustace isn't the only person feeling that loss. We are an increasingly depressed and anxious people - and not for nothing. Arguably, all these modern conveniences have been adopted to save us time. But time for what? Having created a system that tends to our every need without causing us undue exertion or labour, we can now fill those hours with...?”


“We are not alien visitors to this planet, after all but natural residents and relatives of every living entity here. This earth is where we came from and where we'll all end up when we die, and during the interim, it is our home, And there's no way we can ever hope to understand ourselves if we don't at least marginally understand our home.”


“Not making a living,' he wrote, on his first trip to Alaska, 'just living.”


“only those who live in the wilderness can recognize the central truth of existence, which is that death lives right beside us at all times, as close and as relevant as life itself, and that this reality is nothing to fear but is a sacred truth to be praised.”


“We are an increasingly depressed and anxious people—and not for nothing. Arguably, all these modern conveniences have been adopted to save us time. But time for what? Having created a system that tends to our every need without causing us undue exertion or labor, we can now fill these hours with . . . ?”


“You don't have to live like this because people tell you it's the only way. You're not handcuffed to your culture!”


“Revere your senses; don't degrade them with drugs, with depression, with willful oblivion. Try to notice something new every day, Eustace said. Pay attention to even the most modest of daily details. Even if you're not in the woods, be aware at all times. Notice what food tastes like, notice what the detergent aisle in the supermarket smells like and recognize what those hard chemical smells do to your senses; notice what bare feet feel like; pay attention every day to the vital insights that mindfulness can bring. And take care of all things, of every single thing there is - your body, your intellect, your spirit, your neighbors, and this planet. Don't pollute your soul with apathy or spoil your health with junk food any more than you would deliberately contaminate a clean river with industrial sludge. You can never become a real man if you have a careless and destructive attitude, Eustace said, but maturity will follow mindfulness even as day follows night.”


“Life goes on, after all, and one must always seek the lesson even through the sorrow. Never remain static; never stop collecting information. And”


“When the mind is tired, or the soul is disquieted, let us go to the woods and fill our lungs with the rain-washed and the sun-cleansed air, and our hearts with the beauty of tree, flower, crystal, and gem.” The”


“writers like Jack Kerouac (who called himself an "urban Thoreau") set forth to redefine and rediscover ways to live in America without slogging through what Kerouac called the endless system of "work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume...”


“Only through constant focus can you become independent. Only through independence can you know yourself. And only through knowing yourself will you be able to ask the key question of your life: What is is that I am destined to accomplish, and how can I make it happen?”


“..there's no way we can ever hope to understand ourselves if we don't at least marginally understand our home. That is the understanding we need to put our lives in some bigger metaphysical context. Instead, Eustace sees a chilling sight- a citizenry so removed from the rhythm of nature that we march through our lives as mere sleepwalkers, blinded, deafened, and senseless. Robotically existing in sterilized surroundings that numb the mind, weaken the body, and atrophy the soul.”


“Train them to pay attention to their choices. ("Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are good ideas," he would lecture, "but those three concepts should only be the last resort. What you really need to focus on are two other words that also begin with R- Reconsider and Refuse. Before you even acquire the disposable good, ask yourself why you need this consumer product. And then turn it down. Refuse it. You can.")”


“On this day, Eustace was heating iron rods to fix a broken piece on his antique mower. He had a number of irons cooking in his forge at the same time and, distracted by trying to teach me the basics of blacksmithing, he allowed several of them to get too hot, to the point of compromising the strength of the metal. When he saw this, he said, "Damn! I have too many irons in the fire."

Which was the first time I had ever heard that expression used in its proper context. But such is the satisfaction of being around Eustace; everything suddenly seems to be in its proper context. He makes true a notion of frontier identity that has long since passed most men of his generation, most of whom are left with nothing but the vocabulary.”


“Think of the many articles one can find every year in the Wall Street Journal describing some entrepreneur or businessman as being a "pioneer" or a "maverick" or a "cowboy." Think of the many times these ambitious modern men are described as "staking their claim" or boldly pushing themselves "beyond the frontier" or even "riding into the sunset." We still use this nineteenth-century lexicon to describe our boldest citizens, but it's really a code now, because these guys aren't actually pioneers; they are talented computer programmers, biogenetic researchers, politicians, or media monguls making a big splash in a fast modern economy.

But when Eustace Conway talks about staking a claim, the guy is literally staking a goddamn claim. Other frontier expressions that the rest of us use as metaphors, Eustace uses literally. He does sit tall in the saddle; he does keep his powder dry; he is carving out a homestead. When he talks about reining in horses or calling off the dogs or mending fences, you can be sure that there are real horses, real dogs or real fences in the picture. And when Eustace goes in for the kill, he's not talking about a hostile takeover of a rival company; he's talking about really killing something.”


“Over the course of the summer, he taught the children to eat foods they had never known, to sharpen and use knives, to carve their own spoons, to make knots and play Indian games and- every time they cut a branch off a living tree- to cut away a small lock of their own hair, to leave as an offering of thanks.”


“The problem was that, while the classic European coming-of-age story generally featured a provincial boy who moved to the city and was transformed into a refined gentleman, the American tradition had evolved into the opposite. The American boy came of age by leaving civilization and striking out toward the hills. There, he shed his cosmopolitan manners and became a robust and proficient man. Not a gentleman, mind you, but a man. This”


“The English travel writer Isabel Bird, famous for her cool and detached prose, seemed scarcely able to keep from exclaiming hubba-hubba as she checked out the rugged men she kept encountering on her trip to America in the 1850s:”