Panguitch Manifesto: A Social Critique from a Naturalist’s Perspective

Introduction

As an avid fisherman in Northern Utah, I’ve kept a journal of every fishing excursion I’ve taken since 2002. Included in this log were catch quality and quantity, water temperature, weather conditions, and various other details. The goal was to create a database reference that would point me towards optimal fishing in the future based on time of year and water conditions.

Between 2008 and 2012 I noticed a sharp decline in fishing success at most of my favorite fisheries. These included Causey Reservoir, East Canyon, Echo, Mantua, Willard Bay, Pineview Dam, Ogden River, and Weber River. Correlating to this decline is the ever-increasing human population along the Wasatch front, and the subsequent rise in fishing pressure.

The problem was clear: In Utah (and most everywhere else), we humans were once blessed with a great abundance of natural resources. But these resources are finite, and when the users of said resources become too abundant, the quality declines sharply. It’s a simple law of nature: quantity destroys quality.

By 2012 most of the above-mentioned waters were no longer worth visiting, and any hope of a successful fishing day meant traveling hundreds of miles away from a large population center like Northern Utah.

To a non-fisherman this might be of little concern, but to the naturalist-outdoorsman-adventurer it is a travesty of unimaginable proportions. The decline in fishing is only one indication of a much bigger problem:  Decline and/or loss of natural resources in direct correlation to Too Many People, or TMP. TMP and the subsequent development of open spaces leads to a decline in wildlife habitat which directly impacts big- and small-game hunting as well as other outdoor pursuits such as hiking, biking, photography, climbing, skiing, etc.

Nature isn’t just an amusement park for our whims, but the source of all life. The impact of TMP on nature affects everybody by degrading our most precious natural resources: air, water, and food. Here are some examples:

  • For much of the year the brownish-blue air along the Wasatch front is thick with lung-clogging pollutants, leading to—or exasperating—all manner of illnesses.
  • In 2019 a “fecal bomb” warning was issued for Salt Lake City’s water source–the adjacent mountains to the east–due to overuse by humans and the consequent fecal runoff.
  • Much of the mass food grown in, or imported to, Utah is depleted of nutrients, and high in pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, and other toxins.
  • In 2017 a fish consumption advisory was released by Utah public health officials showing that 23% of the fishable waters in Utah had elevated levels of arsenic, mercury, selenium, and/or PCBS. Ironically, eating a healthy diet of wild-caught fish could lead to great unhealth!

Utah is the #1 ranking U.S. state for population growth this past decade, primarily due to high birthrate and the lure of a growing economy. Utah’s population is currently growing at an annual rate of 1.9%, and has added 400,000 new residents since 2010. This is the equivalent of two Salt Lake City populations. Considering the already finite resources of our desert state, one must consider the long-term impacts on of all this growth.

Certainly most people are good and decent, but for every X number of people in a given area there is a correlating number of “bad” apples. In Utah for example, about 1 in every 463 residents are currently in the penal system. This doesn’t bode well for rapid population growth because of the compounding effect of criminals in a confined space.

Again, let’s look at this from a natural perspective. Animal poaching in Utah has steadily increased for several years. Let’s say that 1 in 20,000 people are willing to illegally shoot a deer out of season (it’s probably much higher). With a population of 3 million, that would amount to 150 poachers. If we added 400,000 more people—as we have in the last decade—then there would be an additional 20 (a tremendous burden to an already diminishing resource). Taking into account a myriad of other offenses to nature (e.g. littering, polluting, vandalism, etc.) you can now see how rapid population growth can be detrimental to our natural world.

Nature can only take so much abuse before entire systems shut down. But rest assured Nature always wins, and when she finally makes necessary corrections, people will suffer and perhaps even die en masse. Sure, individuals can change; individuals can help the environment. But most don’t, and thus too many individuals doth a tragedy make.

Even wonderful people, if piled too high in one place, are detrimental to each other, whether it manifests itself in a toxic environment, a decline in natural resources, or simply by shaving invaluable hours off each other’s lives while being stuck in traffic or lines at the DMV.

Of course we all hope technology will rescue us; and maybe it will. Who knows? All I know is I won’t be around to see it. Nature is my true home and my true love, and I can no longer sit around and watch it wither away. I may not be able to change humanity, but I can change myself. From this, the Panguitch Manifesto is born.

Aside from outlining the many factors that pushed me out of the big city, the purpose of this is to help others identify various systems of control that are creeping into our lives and eroding our freedoms. Freedom of movement, for example, is suppressed simply by living in high population areas.

This manifesto is not a judgment of others, but rather an assessment of my personal values, particularly from a naturalist’s perspective. In reality the exploding population bomb doesn’t adversely affect most people because they are content with the conveniences of modern life, and view population growth as an innocuous inevitability. If you don’t value freedom, space and time, this manifesto won’t be your cup of tea.

To reiterate, if I have a problem with society, I can only change myself. Still, there are many others with similar values, living a life where freedom is becoming much more of an illusion than a reality. This manifesto is dedicated to you.

Freedom

What is the most valuable thing in the universe? Love, purpose, life, time, power, family, religion, water…? Nope, it’s freedom. What good is existence without the freedom; freedom to move, love, explore, and pursue happiness? Freedom supersedes all else because life is meaningless without it. Many wars have been fought over natural resources, but the worst are always fought over freedom.

The Job

Life is many things, but above all, life is work. You can’t do anything, go anywhere, or even eat without work. Work is the grease that moves life along. That being said, one must not conflate the almighty Job with work.

There are all kinds of jobs: big jobs, small jobs, good jobs and bad jobs. In my experience, the best jobs are creative jobs in which you use your mind and might to create a useful product crafted with skill and love. The worst jobs are reactive jobs such as customer service, wherein you wait for something to go wrong, and then attempt to fix it, wishing the whole time it wasn’t happening.

For the last thirty years I’ve had both types of jobs. Reactive jobs tend to pay more, but they also make me suicidal. Creative jobs, no matter how pitiful, are infinitely more rewarding. At the end of the day, I can stand back from my work and look with pride at tangible results.

The unfortunate tragedy of the last decade is that, although creative work has kept me endlessly busy, I’ve been hopelessly poor. After a decade of photographing screaming kids, stuffing dead animals, and guiding outdoor adventures, I stand in the mirror now and see nothing but old age and impending death, and with little to show for it.

Creative work (e.g. photography and taxidermy) is inherently difficult to quantify. As a perfectionist, I tend to infuse many more hours into a project than is necessary, and thus earn less money for my time. For years I systematically added more and more jobs to my schedule just to make ends meet, but finally concluded that I was just adding more stress to my life at the expense of invaluable time.

Meanwhile Esther slaved away at the tire store for nine years in a purely reactive job. Shortly after taking the job, her overbearing bosses began thrusting, or “delegating”, each of their own responsibilities upon her, tasks far beyond her job description, to the point that she was under constant duress just to get through the day.

All the while customers continually abused her, blaming her for every possible auto-ailment, or lying and harassing her just to get a better deal, or to rip off the company. Worse yet, due to the nature of modern corporate protocol, she was required to just take it; absorb all that abuse without taking a personal day or shooting someone. The customer is always right, right?! No, customers are horrible, manipulative, and usually wrong.

Soon Esther’s chosen work became required work. Why? Because of the corporate business model that so graciously provided her with health insurance, something the government suddenly and illegally required of its citizens. Then there are retirement plans and other benefits, and the bigger they got, the harder it was to leave.

Basically, the average American corporation systematically builds a cage around you that’s nearly impossible to break free from without undermining the well-being of you and your family. Any lucid, freedom-loving individual will eventually stand back and see that it’s all one big scam designed to make slaves out of employees.

In the end, when that shiny retirement date finally comes, you see that the pot at the end of the rainbow is actually empty. The almighty JOB consumed your entire useful life, leaving you to rot in un-health and infinite regret for not having pursued your dreams while you still had your youth, your health and your energies.

Still, Esther labored on; bills must be paid and benefits maintained. But what is the long-term effect of all this abuse and negativity upon such a naturally sweet and innocent person?

Mass Animosity Syndrome (MAS)

After a few years in this negative environment, Esther went form a sweet, trusting, smiling person to the exact opposite: hopelessly reclusive, despondent, angry, and distrusting of people.

Similar to “New York Syndrome,” in which too many people being horrible to each other all the time, MAS perpetuates bad behavior in people. When a person is taken advantage of on a regular basis, they begin to take on similar negative traits, and then pass it on to the next person.

The formulation of my mass animosity theory began ten years ago when a close friend and work associate promised me $1000 for a weeklong photo-editing project that he’d contracted for. After delivering the photos, my “friend” disappeared without paying me, never to be heard from again. A few years later, another friend asked me to shoot his wedding, promising a meager $350 for my shooting/editing trouble. After the wedding, he too disappeared without paying. Then, a few years later, another “good” friend (arguably my best friend) threw some taxidermy work my way, and when the $450 bill came due, he too disappeared. The cumulative effect of all this dishonesty was inevitable: I no longer wanted or needed friends. I trust no one and suspect the worst in everybody.

People are Horrible

As mass animosity gradually took its toll on two previously “sweet” individuals, I began recognizing several other societal disorders rearing their ugly heads, mostly associated with too many people (TMP). I don’t mean too many people globally, but regionally, as in too many people in one place, specifically along the Wasatch Front.

People are changing. In the last decade or so I’ve observed that even the best people are constantly collecting favors on each other. If someone helps you in some way, they remember it and hold it against you as leverage. You are valued as a friend based solely on what you can do for them. Your list of friends is simultaneously a list of people you can use and abuse.

Secondly, people don’t listen to each other anymore. Rather each party sits impatiently waiting to talk or just cuts the talker off mid-sentence to interject their own random musings. Nowadays it feels like people are talking at you rather than with you. Worse yet, if you are engaged in a meaningful discussion with someone, it’s now totally acceptable to pull out your phone start poking at it while the other person is still talking.

I first observed these various disorders popping up around 2007-2008, which just happened to coincide with the popularization of various technologies such as social media and the wide-spread use of the smart phone. But perhaps the worst effects are the result of a continually evolving western business model. Let me explain.

Forty-five years ago Robert Pirsig, author of the infamous book Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, predicted the gradual elimination of quality from every aspect of our lives. The primary motivation for this was the ever-evolving western business model, in which quality is systematically eradicated from every aspect of production, usually over a long-period of time. Basically if something or someone can’t be quantified, it is eventually discarded.

Just as quality is being phased out of tangible products (think cheap, Chinese-made products), it is also being phased out of interpersonal relationships. Example: Upon initial employment at the average corporation, you are led to believe you are a valued as an asset to the company. But over time, the hierarchy attempts to pry more and more of your life’s energy from you, often at the threat of discard. Inevitably you see your role as a mere cog in a giant machine which doesn’t value you. Worse yet, this devaluing of the individual spills over into our many personal relationships with other humans beings. As a result, we begin treating each like objects.

Only a couple generations ago, interpersonal relationships were valued based on mutual respect, reciprocity, self-sacrifice, and compromise. Quality relationships were earned through continuous hard work. Family and friends gathered to celebrate important milestones, holidays, and other things out of sheer love and respect for each other. Today relationships are far more quantified, and thus cheapened. Now we gather out of dreaded expectation more than genuine care, and most relationships are maintained through short posts or text messages.

Through the same reasoning, people are beginning to recognize that friends are willing to take a lot of abuse before the relationship finally erodes away. Consequently, more and more liberties are taken. Relationships are often driven by selfishness rather than selflessness. In the end, when the relationship fails, it’s no big deal because you have hundreds more “friends” lined up on social media to pick from. Quantity wins again! Social media has turned relationships into a cheap commodity. All you need to maintain a relationship is “like” this post or that, and wonderful, you’ve fulfilled your duty as a friend. No need to call, visit, or really even care.

Quantity finally puts the dagger in quality when you try to escape a dysfunctional society by escaping into nature. Escapism is one of man’s most ancient of healthy traditions. Now, due to Too Many People, it’s becoming nearly impossible. You decide to drive off into the hills, hike up a trail, and throw a cast for some dinner fishes. But, instead you fight traffic the whole way, can’t find a parking spot at the trailhead, then step in doggy-doo on your way up a busy trail to a lake littered with trash while fishing elbow-to-elbow with a bunch of screaming clowns who brought a loud-speaker blaring nonsense while you cast into an polluted lake devoid of fish. Exasperated, you fight traffic back home, get stuck in a long line at the grocery store to buy dead food infused with toxins, and then go home where you think you’re safe while fighting off the 18th spam call of the day on your radioactive phone while the doorbell rings relentlessly with the dregs of society thrusting vacuums or religion in your face. The next morning you’re back at the rat-race, waking long before the sun comes up for another soul-crushing day, fighting traffic and smog on your way to a smile-and-nod job that you hate.

Meanwhile your health fails, old age looms, and your dreams wither on the vine of inescapable modern life. Daily, the cage bars become clearer as this pseudo-life closes in around you. Somehow life has become sheer slavery, unintended and uninvited.

Psychopaths vs. Empaths

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

There are all kinds of people, the worst being psychopaths and the best being empaths. I’ll explain.

Psychopaths are completely selfish and self-absorbed to the point that everyone around them exists solely for their own benefit. They think and act like animals and are truly evil. True psychopaths are dangerous but rare. Far more common is the next level down, known as the “narcissist” (as in narcissistic personality disorder). The only difference between the two is that the narcissist isn’t likely to chop you up and bury you in his yard. For simplicity sake, let’s lump psychopaths and narcissists together under the tag “psychos.”

The opposite of psychos are empaths. Empaths are completely selfless, giving, understanding, and always put others before themselves. The empath feels what others are feeling. Genuinely nice people are often true empaths. Jesus is a good example.

Most of us lie somewhere in between these two extremes. Think of it as the human decency spectrum. Whether you fall under the category of psycho or empath isn’t always apparent without a whole lot of introspection. To further complicate self-diagnosis, most people exhibit psychopathic and empathetic traits depending on the situation. For example, we might be down-right adorable with our family, but treat strangers like garbage. Or, you might be a downright psychopathic salesperson at work and a genuine empath everywhere else. The real danger is when you find yourselves living too close to one end of the spectrum or the other.

I’ve had the great misfortune of personally knowing a handful of psychos in my life, and in the process have noted some interesting characteristics. First off, psychos make the best salespeople and/or managers. Psychopaths are great salespeople because they don’t care how crappy their product is, or how much you don’t need it, their sole purpose is to make you buy it, and will manipulate you any way they can to get your money and/or time. As managers, psychos command a host of lesser-folk using fear tactics (e.g. threaten their jobs), or going out of their way to make everyone around them miserable and scared. People under their command must be conquered, controlled, and enslaved. Psychos really believe they own other people. As an example, when Esther finally quit her job, her boss declared in all seriousness, “You can’t quit!” The ensuing conversation made for one awkward departure.

Psychos quickly recognize empaths as easy prey. Empaths are valuable to psychos because they are easily manipulated; empaths just can’t say “no.” Psychos attempt to surround themselves with empaths, in effect collecting them in order to absorb their life’s energies. Empaths are advised to recognize and avoid psychos at all costs. Once you let a psycho into your life, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of him. Even if you are successful in shucking the guy, he won’t understand, and will instantly despise you, maybe even kill you…

Too Many People (TMP)

People are just great; the more the merrier, right? Individually, yes, but here I’m specifically talking about too many people in one place and the detrimental affect it has on nature, natural resources, and other people.

Most of this was addressed the introduction, but basically I grew up in a small country-town full of wildlife and wild places. I quickly grew deep roots in fishing, hunting, and the need for self-reliance. For the bulk of my life I enjoyed clean air, water and food. As I got older, my love for the wild life only deepened as I yearned to live off the land and enjoy wide open spaces till the day I died.

Then, in the tiniest sliver of time, it all came crashing down. Fisheries were fished out, mountains grew devoid of wildlife, and I lost every beloved wild space I grew up enjoying. When I really needed to get away from it all, I couldn’t. I tried to retreat to the hills, but the hills were full of people, livestock, litter, and ATVs. There is no more “getting away” because there’s nowhere to get away to.

This gradual stifling was only the beginning. Going anywhere during normal business hours is now a rat-race; countless hours are spent each week stuck in traffic or lines. Items needed the store are frequently sold out, roads are full of dangerous, raging drivers, and the cost of living is skyrocketing thanks to supply and demand (demand from TMP). Meanwhile, over-priced store food is grown in nutrient-depleted soils, water is infused with toxins, and the air is brown.

The effects of TMP gets worse over time. When there are too many people, the individual is valued less; a simple law of nature. For example, if you step on a bug, you might feel bad about destroying a miracle of creation. But if the ground is carpeted with the same bug, thousands of them, you feel no remorse as you gas them all with Raid.

Since people en masse are such a great obstacle to one’s free movement through life, individuals are increasingly losing patience with each another. People are generally less kind in big cities, which again perpetuates mass animosity. And since one in every-so-many-people is a natural psycho or scumbag, areas of high population invariably become areas of high crime. The size of the area remains the same, but the scumbags pile up.

Ultimately, as crime increases, so does the number of laws needed to control the people. As a result, big cities attract psycho-politicians who use criminal activity as lever to strip good people of their natural rights. Whenever the anomaly-scumbag commits a crime, let’s say a gun crime, a new law is proposed. But these new laws don’t punish the scumbag because he doesn’t follow the law. Rather it punishes the innocent, and in effect, erodes our freedoms in concert with a rising population.

In all cases big cities trample our freedoms, crime increases, taxes rise, and resources grow scarce. Finally, socialistic ideas take hold and empires fall. It’s no one person’s fault, but rather a mass distortion of values and delusions grown from depleted soils.

Space and Time

Humans are creatures of infinite social complexity. We are simultaneously social animals, seeking continual companionship and support from each other, and solitary creatures yearning for time alone to quietly contemplate our purpose and digest the overwhelming amount of data absorbed through everyday living. Any long-married couple will agree that rarely can two people tolerate each other for any extended period of time. Simple fact: we need people just as much as we don’t need people. It’s a simple balancing act.

You’ve heard the popular quote, “No man is an island.” It refers to the idea that people need a close-knit society in order to function at an optimal level. I would argue the reverse is equally valid: “Every man is an island.” We’re born naked, scared and screaming, and then die the same way. There is a definite yearning for aloneness hard-wired into the complexity of our beings. Sure, people need people from time to time, but there’s got to be a limit! We just don’t need people constantly around or in constant contact. Too much contact becomes a dangerous distraction to our personal growth.

Just like plants and animals, people need space to think and grow, breathe, exercise, meditate, and experience times of quietness. The universe whispers truths in stillness. Creative-types—writers, artists, musicians, etc.—require even more time and more space to allow our consciousness to expand freely. The universe speaks truths in volumes, but only in times of stillness. TMP and TMI dams the river of inspiration. It reminds me of a bourbon ad in a popular outdoor magazine which reads, “Take your time, or someone else will,” (author unknown). Boy is that true!

I’ve lived in the country and I’ve lived in the city, and I can tell you, the city is the most unproductive place imaginable; the constant din and distraction is mentally and spiritually unhealthy. As population increases, personal space decreases.

In the perfect world, every household would have a minimum of one acre of land, providing solitude and the opportunity for self-sufficiency. An incredible amount of food can be grown on an acre of land. My Hooper house was built in the 70s and each lot was afforded a minimum of one-half acre. Today that kind of modest acreage is viewed as a giant waste of space.

State of the Union

 Assessment time.

Despite my various jobs, I still had a truck payment, no retirement, outlandish utility and insurance bills, and a mortgage that wasn’t going anywhere fast. Each year I made the same amount of money, but life grew more expensive. Friends and family called for my various business services, but demanded a discount simply because they knew me, and acted as if they were doing me a favor. Perhaps I should have been an engineer…

In 2013, just one year after moving to the country (Hooper), UDOT proposed an expansion of the Legacy Highway right through my neighborhood, just two blocks up the road. The UDOT representative at the small-town meeting justified his proposal by saying (rather solemnly), “Growth is good…growth is good.” Alarm bells went off in my head.

Simultaneously, most of the sprawling agricultural lands surrounding my home were rapidly being developed into suburbs. The main artery leading to the freeway was becoming increasingly congested with three school zones and four traffic lights. When I had work in the Salt Lake area, innumerable hours were spent idling in freeway traffic. On Esther’s day off, running household errands was an all-day ordeal, mostly just sitting in traffic and lines. The rapidity of encroachment shook my foundation.

Despite living in the country, home life was also becoming unbearable. The noisy neighbors across the street woke us up every morning for two years with their noisy ghetto-car’s muffler roaring to life. My phone rang non-stop with spam calls while psychopaths continually interrupting my work. The doorbell frequently rang during dinner with a wide variety of salespeople peddling vacuums, cleaning supplies, religion, cookies, etc. Soon I found myself becoming ever-more reclusive, hiding from my phone and even my own front door.

The result of this recoil nearly led to the demise of my neighbor. Here’s how:

Across the street lived an elderly lady and her husband. While working on my truck one day, the old woman came wandering into my driveway holding her wrist tightly against her blood-soaked t-shirt. “Can you help me,” she pleaded with wide eyes and a pale face. Aghast, I asked what happened. Apparently she’d gouged her wrist with something sharp while pushing her garbage into the waste bin. I sat her down on my doorstep and assessed her injury. A deep laceration just below her palm was spurting blood relentlessly. I compressed the wound tightly while she called her husband for help, who arrived shortly and rushed her to the hospital. Luckily she survived despite losing a dangerous amount of blood.

Going back to work on the truck, I contemplated what might have happened if I’d been inside the house at the time. Since I refused to answer the doorbell, she probably would’ve bled to death right on my doorstep!

This isn’t how life is supposed to be. Just one year after moving to my dream home in the country, I was conspiring to get out. But to where?

Thus my five-year search began. First I perused Idaho for a house with a minimum of one acre of land. There were many inexpensive options, but all were still will beyond our budget. Clearly we’d have to sell our current house before we could buy another.

After two years of budgeting, we were finally ready to move. But to my horror, all those reasonably-priced properties with acreage had disappeared! Idaho was experiencing the same massive population boom as Utah; the economy surged and the buyer’s market took a turn for the worse. So the waiting began.

Near the end of 2017 I ran a desperate house search throughout Utah, and that’s when I found it: a six-acre property 300 miles away, in the tiny town of Panguitch. Freedom at last!

Panguitch

Whenever I mentioned “Panguitch,” I got the same reply: “Panguitch?  What’s in Panguitch?”

“Exactly!”

Panguitch is a small farming town in Southern Utah, nestled between to two portions of the Dixie National Forest, and about 50 miles east of Cedar City.  It boasts a population of 1700 and was founded in 1864 by Mormon pioneers.

The air is clean, the water is free, and the land is spacious in all directions. There isn’t a single traffic light, Wal-Mart or freeway. The closest major population center is St. George, 100 miles away. Consequently the mountains are full of wildlife and the nearby lake is full of fat trout. In fact, Panguitch is an old Indian word meaning Big Fish.

In January 2018 I bit the bullet and threw out a low-ball bid, offering $17k below listing price. This was all we could muster, to the penny, even with a second mortgage. I was surprised when the realtor called the next day to say the offer had been accepted. I was equally shocked a week later when a lady from California called the realtor and offered full price. Sorry California, too late.

The Panguitch town motto is “A Change of Pace,” and boy is that true. Filling out the residency paperwork at the county building was a breeze. I asked the lady if there was more, and she replied, “Nope, we like to keep things simple here.”

When my house was built in the 70s, each lot was assigned five or six acres. The yard is sagebrush and dirt. The land our house sits on comes furnished with deer, antelope, foxes, bunnies, and birds. As a bonus, the water is free of dangerous poisons such as chlorine and the industrial waste byproduct known as fluoride.

The next question people asked was, “What are you gonna do for a living???” The answer was, “Commercial stock photography, my friend!” Gone are the days of dealing with screeching kids and brides, or shooting sports 10 hours a day without a break in 105-degree temps while living in a stifling metropolis and trying to make ends meet.

Stock pays about as poorly as any other job, but it’s purely creative work. I figure if I’m going to get old and die working a crap-job, it might as well be one I love. Stock is also a passive income, and thus my only chance for a retirement. Stock photos sell over and over, for years, so there’s really no pressure or schedule. I can shoot pictures 15 hours a day or I can go fishing.

Since I specialize in outdoor/adventure stock, our new location is perfect. Panguitch lies within 100 miles of five National Parks, and 10 minutes away from vast mountains on all sides; the perfect backdrop for the perfect job.

Our new home is a real fixer-upper. When I bought the place it was in desperate need of a new roof, new deck, new…well almost everything. But with six acres of wide open space, I’d be just as happy sleeping in a tent. I don’t need a fancy home, or even lots of land; I just need space.

The peace and quiet of Panguitch is occasionally interrupted by the whisper of wind, barking coyotes, or the far-off moo of a cow. Best of all, I can shoot my bow anywhere in the expansive yard without the danger of hitting a neighbor. Unlike Northern Utah, fires are legal. Who would’ve thought, after tens of thousands of years man’s greatest discovery would be reduced to a misdemeanor in many places. TMP strikes again. But here, on a chilly winter’s eve, I fire up my wood-burning stove and bask in the romantic glow of natural heat.

In all ways Panguitch is old-fashioned and quintessentially quaint. Everyone you see smiles and waves. Neighbors are instant friends, kind and selfless. Panguitch is way the the West was for hundreds of years: wild, quiet, and spacious. Most importantly, Panguitch is freedom.

Simplify to Amplify

You’ve heard all the clichés: “Life is short,” or “you only live once.” We know it’s true, but seldom do we do something about it. It reminds me of a quote by naturalist Ralph Waldo Emerson: “We are always getting ready to live, but never living.”

In truth we humans only live for very sliver of time, followed by a very, very long stint as a gaping skeleton staring forever upwards. Why trade all your tiny slivers for money? It’s time for a personal revolution; it’s time to take our lives back. The secret is to simplify,and I mean everything!For too long materialism and insatiable spending has tied us to our soul-sucking jobs. The best chance we have for freedom is a mass reduction of everything: spending, technology, fancy foods, clothing, automobiles, media, unnecessary services…everything.

This is nothing new. The most enlightened pioneers of the human spirit were unkempt societal rejects, untethered to systems of control; think Einstein, Gandhi, Mozart, Columbus, Jesus…

The following is my three-prong approach to simplifying life: Stop spending, optimize health, and reduce distractions.

Spend less

First, you really need to understand that all a person needs to survive is food, water and shelter. Think of everything else as a luxury—because it is—and then figure out how to buy less of it. Everything outside of the bare essentials can be found very cheaply, or even freely, if you know where to look. Here are some examples of how I do it.

I get most of my clothing and household items (appliances, furniture, tools, etc.) at thrift stores, KSL ads, or Ebay. I use coupons and discount codes wherever possible. I don’t go out to dinner or movies, and I don’t know what Netflix or Hulu or “streaming” is. I use rabbit-ears for my television and the data plan for my crappy 5-year-old phone is $15/month. I harvest my own meat and grow my own veggies. I don’t have an ATV or RV. My truck is nine years old, and I still watch VHS tapes. I often say, “If you wait long enough, everything is free.” You see, people are always throwing out valuable items as they continually upgrade their lives. They just give the stuff away! That’s how I got my boat, my furniture, and a whole lot of other stuff. I don’t care what other people think, and I’m not compelled to keep up with the Joneses, because the Joneses are wrong.

Because I spend less, I can work less, sleep when I want, and live where I want. In other words, freedom. Perhaps the greatest lesson I’ve learned from the minimalist lifestyle is this: When you have less, you’re grateful for more.

Optimize Health

Second, you really need to optimize health in order to live freely. Eating sugary or processed foods, and most other store-bought foods which are laced with toxins, will eventually undermine your health and leave you trapped in a decrepit skin-prison. No matter how much money or time you might have in the future, inevitably you’ll be too ill or too dead to enjoy it. (This will likely coincide with your retirement).

Ten years ago I was suffering from violent blood sugar swings, mostly due to poor diet and a genetic sugar sensitivity. As far as I knew, I was eating the standard American diet. But like all illnesses, it worsened with age and finally reached tipping point, often referred to as toxic overload. Basically your body has the amazing ability to deal with environmental stressors, that is, up until it can’t! And then disease takes over. Long story short, I spent the next ten years studying nutrition and radically altering my diet. Now I feel better than ever.

My exhaustive studies helped me formulate the following guide to ultimate health. I call it the “Ten Pillars of Ultimate Health:

 Ten Pillars of Ultimate Health (Prioritized)

  1. Diet – No sugar or processes foods. Eat natural/organic, more fiber, reduce salt, red meat, acidic foods, etc.
  2. Sleep – You need 8 hours (or more!) each night. The body/brain repairs itself in sleep and slows aging.
  3. Stress – Act, don’t react. Never panic. Take on fewer responsibilities, work less, rest more, have gratitude.
  4. Caloric Restriction – Eat smaller meals and fast often. This is the #1 way to improve your health now.
  5. Exercise – Nothing too extreme, just avoid the sedentary lifestyle at all costs. Keep your body moving.
  6. Toxin Avoidance – Too many enviro-toxins: air, water, food. Detox w/saunas, epsom salt baths, sweat often.
  7. Natural Sunlight –People need a lot of natural sunlight for a myriad of crucial physiological functions.
  8. Meditation – Nothing formal, just quiet time to clear the mind, slow breathing, and reduce stress.
  9. Supplementation – Most modern food is lacking in nutrients and vitamins. Supplementation is a must.
  10. Reduce Inflammation – Underlying cause of most disease/disorders. Healthier lifestyle using above steps.

This is a prioritized list, and diet is #1 for a reason. Any disease this world can throw at you can also be remedied by natural medicine and right foods. Remember what the father of medicine, Hippocrates, said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Optimal wellness requires some basic understanding of body function, from individual organs on down to the cellular level. Thanks to the internet, in conjunction with modern nutritional research and the worldwide health revolution going on right now, there’s enough health information online to become an armchair PHD in natural healing. Some of my favorite sites are Dr. Mercola (www.mercola.com), Urban Monk (www.theurbanmonk.com), and The Truth About Cancer (thetruthaboutcancer.com).

We were given president Trump as a blessing from God, who in return repealed the socialistic individual mandate which basically forced everyone to buy health insurance. After tens of thousands of years of human existence without health insurance, one must ask, do we really need it? Think about it. If you woke up tomorrow and didn’t have any health insurance, what would happen? Probably nothing; you’d be fine…assuming you’re in reasonably good health to begin with. Healthy living is health insurance.

Health care and insurance is one of the largest expenses for most American families. Sure, catastrophic insurance is a good idea; however, most people use health insurance as a crutch which allows us to live unhealthy lifestyles while relying on drug companies to fix problems as they arise. The majority of American adults are therefore slaves to the drug companies, insurance companies, and the medical establishment. And if you’re employer provides your insurance, then you’re a slave to them as well.

Reduce Distractions

If your income relies on productivity, imagine how much more productive you could be in a zero-distraction environment. I urge you to try it. Spend an entire day working alone, without checking your phone, email, or internet, and with no snack breaks, no social media, and no unnecessary human contact. This might be impossible for most, but you get the idea. I have identified distractions as the biggest threat to my productivity and creativity, and have taken steps to reduce distractions.

The following advice may or may not be obvious: Most of us live by a daily to-do list. The best way to tackle a daunting list is to prioritize tasks from most difficult/pertinent to least important, and then work your way down from the top. This system creates momentum as each task requires less and less energy to complete as you go.

Technology is my natural enemy; I hate it. That said, my various jobs require at least some basic technology such as a phone and computer. In the last five years the phone has become the worst of all necessary evils thanks to unrelenting spam and robo-calls. The following excerpt is from a deer story I wrote two years ago, and best sums up my disdain for phones:

“That ubiquitous phone-device we poke at all day is the portal from whence the monster comes. It feels like tentacles around my neck. Being self-employed, I live project to project, not by a wage. I haven’t had a paid vacation day in fifteen years, so my time is valuable. But the phone rings and beeps all the time, interrupting my focus and wrecking my productivity. 90% of the time it’s no one I want to talk, or worse yet, scammers and crooks, seething vultures prying at my wallet and vying for my life’s energy. Even the device itself is constantly trying to sell me something, begging for updates or demanding upgrades. Like I need an upgrade; if anything, I need a downgrade!”

So I acted. Nowadays I rarely carry my phone with me. Most days I don’t even turn the ringer on. Most other people I know don’t answer their phones unless it’s someone they know. Unfortunately this can be detrimental to running a business. But what can you do?

In conclusion, constant distractions create an unnatural environment in which productivity suffers while simultaneously infusing more stress into our busy lives. Distractions scatter the mind and forces us to live life in short bites. The very technology designed to keep us connected wreaks havoc on our communication skills, and impacts the younger generation even more since they never knew any better.

Self-sufficiency

Self-sufficiency, mankind’s age-old duty, has been reduced to the Job. And that Job, not the earth, not nature, is the well from which springs life. Food comes from stores, materials come from supply chains, and freedom revolves around someone else’s schedule. This is unnatural.

Every gardener feels a deep connection to the earth, cultivating a satisfaction unimaginable by the fruits of his labor. There is an intrinsic reward in providing for oneself, whether through gardening, hunting, gathering, building, or fixing things yourself. I believe these age-old values, mostly stifled now, still exist in recesses of everyone’s heart. Occasionally they pop up and we can look with pride upon our work.

Then, just as quickly, the bulldozer of busy life flattens our efforts. We go back to being cogs or automatons as our life’s energy and our invaluable time is farmed away by controlling mechanisms—governments, corporations, technology, materialism, etc. We invite these things into our lives under the guise of convenience, and then become slaves to them. As a result, quality is squashed, relationships are cheapened, personal growth is stifled, and life is lived in desperation. Freedom is an illusion.

Conclusion

When I was a small boy, about five or six, I had a strange awakening. I was standing by the family tractor, just looking across an empty pasture, when four words slammed into my brain: What is really happening? I was suddenly panicked. For whatever reason, I suddenly knew that all this reality wasn’t real; that this strange life I found myself in was simultaneously so insignificant, yet so precious. It changed my whole perspective on life, and I never forgot.

For the past several years I’ve felt my life going down the toilet as I worked far too many crap-jobs, leaving me with little time to pursue purpose and meaning. Meanwhile my oldest friends betrayed me and within a single decade the natural spaces I grew up enjoying were disappearing. Had this process been more gradual, I might still be in Hooper.

Our backyard.

Fortunately, there are still wide-open places for us city refugees to go, and Panguitch is one of them. The country-bumpkin lifestyle isn’t for most people, and for those that would take on such a life, many can’t because their lives are so inextricably woven into the web of city-life.

The goal here in Panguitch is to live a simpler, yet more focused life; to work in a more meaningful and productive way; to reduce distractions and weed out the dregs who’ve weaseled into my life; and perhaps most importantly, to get my humanity back. To live my life freely, stretch my wings, and one day die a fulfilled life in God’s country. Wish me luck!

Incidentally, if y’all decide to move to Panguitch, then I’m moving to Alaska.

Archery, Zen, and Hunting

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