Return to Monké
Updated: Sep 24
Return to monke. This phrase, roughly "translated", references a return to a simpler life. Recently it’s been circling the internet with a nostalgic nod from users who idealize a stripped-down, natural lifestyle. Personally, I can’t deny I am drawn to the phrase. Return to monke. Could it really be that easy?
A wild ape demonstrates what it used to be like back in the old days (Source: Mongabay)
Well, obviously, no. A return to “monke” would essentially mean reversing life as we know it. We’d have to say goodbye to our beloved gadgets and hello to sticks and stones. We’d have to go hunting and shelter ourselves in caves. We’d have to
forget about the importance of clean teeth and hygiene. Everything would be simpler, yes, but that wouldn’t erase the society we left behind. So maybe the phrase is a little dramatic. Because the truth is, while many of us aren’t ready to ditch our luxurious modern day lifestyles, we can’t help but turn to nature in times of distress or confusion. When life gets hectic, there is a huge demand to slip out of reality and into the natural world we came from. I for one am very keen on doing this, as I find myself seeking nature constantly. Whether it’s a national park, forest preserve, or a field of grass, I thrive in nature because when I’m there, I feel like I have returned to something greater than myself.
And that’s not easy to find in contemporary society. Constantly wracked with ideas about individualism — what we should look like and who we should be — most of us all but scoff at the idea of “returning to monke”. The real world is offered to many on a shiny platter, fit with nice clothes, fancy meals and collegiate education, so there is no need to look elsewhere for happiness. Actually, I disagree. For some of us, the one’s whose minds and well being are threatened by the modern pace of life, the happiness (or better yet, peace) lies away from it all.
I didn’t realize just how much until recently. At 18, I moved to a city for college because my anxiety told me I would need the stimulation and distraction that a city provides. Halfway through my first year, when my anxiety got its fill of distraction, my depression began to hunger for escape. I didn’t feel happy where I was, surrounded by people and tall buildings that ripped through the sky. I wanted to see life again. I wanted to see green grass, beautiful trees, and grandiose mountains. I ping-ponged like a maniac between the two lifestyles in my mind, trying to understand where I would feel most content. Most myself.
This was right around the time I read a novel by Stanford art professor Jenny Odell, who in her book, On How to Do Nothing, wrote that no matter how glorious our escape feels, we can never fully leave behind the constructs of our modern world. While Odell agrees spending time in nature is often a transcendent experience, it doesn’t change the fact that for most of us, a “return to monke” isn’t realistic. Eventually, our monkey butts will come crawling out of the jungle to learn, grow, participate, and create. It’s just a part of human nature. So, no, we can’t reverse the clock permanently, but that doesn’t mean we can’t step outside and embrace the natural world before it’s too late.
Here’s my recommendation: go on a walk. Take a hike. Plan a day trip to the local gardens, or a weekend trip camping. See that one place you’re always talking about. Sit on your porch. If nothing else, look out the window. It doesn’t have to be grand, but it can be something. I say this because I truly believe that with nature implemented in our lives, we become more human than monkey. At least, that’s why I go outside. I hope you do too. :)