Pak Murau - lowland rainforests of Sumatra

Warning: This piece is not satire. Proceed at your own risk. 

When I was much younger I spent a month with Pak Murau and his tribe in Sumatra. To me he was a mixture of an enlightened guru and a three-year-old brat. He was kind and impetuous and wise and brash. I admired and feared him at the same time because it was impossible to predict him. I would follow him around the jungle as he hunted and was astonished at his skills. While I was slipping in the mud and pulling thorns out of my skin, his feet never slipped and his mind was always taking in everything around him at once. These were skills I’d never seen anyone possess. Where I’m from the paths are all cleared and the environment is so safe I can tune out what is actually happening and enjoy the magic of a good book. I asked Pak Murau why his tribe’s hunting and gathering culture persisted while so many others cultures were being destroyed. I was expecting, or at least hoping for, a message of environmental stewardship. Something like it’s because of our deep love of the earth that our culture is strong. That’s what the guys in The Emerald Forest would have said. Instead I got, “It’s because we don’t send our kids to school”. I was shocked. It seemed so ignorant. However over the years I have reflected on his thoughts many times and have come to realize he was correct. School teaches us how to think and ultimately shapes our values and shared understandings. It is at the heart of this monolithic western culture that has consumed the planet. It’s with that in mind that I send my son off to his first day of school. Excited about everything he will learn but also realizing that it will make him part of the Borg. School has destroyed many cultures. Until I met Pak Murau I had never really considered a downside to formal education. I send Max off knowing full well that Pak Murau would disapprove. A small part of me feels remorseful about that. 


Max on his first day of school