Human language

Dan McCaslin: “Being human” while walking through the Hans Christian Andersen park in Solvang | Outside

In mid-September I was looking for an easy hike while my wife’s elderly mom celebrated her 97th birthday in Atterdag village at Solvang. While my partner was visiting her mother that day, I found myself wandering around Solvang in search of a healthy walk. Wandering around a bit, I found the Solvang attractive Hans Christian Andersen Park, which includes over 50 acres of picnic areas with tables, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a popular skateboard park.

I had no idea of ​​the expanse and bucolic nature of this glorious space, at 633 Chalk Hill Road, just on the edge of Holiday Town and False Danish tourist hub. In fact, as a Santa Barbaran snob and self-proclaimed backcountry hiker, I had despised Solvang for years in my backcountry pride. However, mid-September revealed that Los Padres National Forest and the local Santa Barbara frontcountry trails had been closed, and after five weeks in Germany I had become desperate to work on “being human” so I wandered into the park entrance.

A little put off by the grandiose arch, I am nonetheless determined to explore this park and try an hour-long hike. What a great place, and over 50 acres meant there was a lot of ground to cover. I did the 1.3 mile circuit twice which helped my human consciousness to emerge and stay healthy, bathed in the roaming of the Stone Age.

that of Charles Foster The fascinating book “Being Human” tackles big issues such as human consciousness, modern boredom and the origins of art and music – while hiking in Derbyshire, UK. Granted, the UK author grapples with the same issues I write about in my own backcountry / hiking books (see 4.1.1. Books), although I do not have never dabbled in collecting dead animals on the road and in their kitchen or in barefoot hiking. We agree that the type of human consciousness today – the “modern behaving” homo sapiens – arose somewhere during the Upper Paleolithic (about 40,000 years ago). In a fluid style mixing hikes, nature explorations and meditations, the Briton tackles the same themes that I have been pursuing for many decades.

Foster and I believe that studying the very Stone Age period when anatomically modern / behavioral humans first appeared (Upper Paleolithic in Europe) helps us understand postmodern humans today. Events have occurred and adaptations have occurred as we recognize today as characteristics of our species.

Foster maintains that “in our instinct [chronological] racism, we tend to think of hunter-gatherers as simple people. Not even a little. Life as a hunter-gatherer requires a much wider range of skills than ours… easy to be a specialist, but to be a generalist is difficult and interesting. He would agree with Yuval Harari that the Stone Age lifestyle of the Upper Paleolithic was far superior to the agrarian slavery that came with the agricultural revolution of the Neolithic Age, beginning ca. 12,000 BC (4.1.1.).

Hans Christian Andersen Park in Solvang.
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Solvang’s Hans Christian Andersen Park has over 50 acres of picnic areas with tables, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a skateboard park. (Photo by Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk)

I agree with Foster that those anatomically modern humans who collected and hunted during the Upper Paleolithic lived better than most of us today, locked in and cramped with almost 8 billion humans! All of my accents on hiking and walking in my nearly 200 columns are aimed at knocking the reader down and starting to wander those lovely Santa Barbara hills, backcountry trails, and even along the trails of the Solvang rustic park.

If I fail to do at least a few hikes in Rattlesnake Canyon each week, and a much longer hike, I think my aging brain will shrink faster, my knees and hips will give way sooner, and boredom and laziness. The ensuing lethargy then will resemble a living form of death by American urbanization.

Foster sums up what most anthropologists know about the human bands flourishing in Europe 40,000 to 70,000 years ago, and the conditions necessary for them to literally adapt to “human being” like us today (this which is necessary to be truly human).

»Being human – relate; and not just living humans but dead ancestors and non-human life forms

»To be human – to endure; believing that you will endure and survive, and this usually involves a sense of the afterlife

»To be human – to wander; continuous roaming through changing landscapes stimulates brain development and brings amazing vigor

While homo sapiens had remained relatively the same for 150,000 years, around 50,000 BCE, during what was called the Upper Paleolithic [creative] Explosion, the species suddenly changed their diet, developed better tools, improved oral language through musical speech Hmmmm, danced, made rock art and increased the numbers by focusing on the individual ‘me’ and the family and the small nomadic social group (30 to 150 humans).

A hiking trail sign in the Hans Christian Andersen park in Solvang.
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A hiking trail sign in the Hans Christian Andersen park in Solvang. (Photo by Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk)

One angle we realize, at the end of the book, is that a reader agrees with Foster that there is NO true “autobiography” possible in this Anthropocene era since what matters is how our entire species behaves and controls itself (no “Autobiography in the Anthropocene”!). In nihilistic times, fervent individual choices boiled down to things like the color of nail polish, gun rights, and irritated refusals to vaccinate or see anything worthwhile “on the other side.” “.

A healthier holistic approach comes when we ask: How can we act in unison to heal the planet and save our children?

The incredibly deep interconnections between homo sapiens are both the threat and the cure. Advanced science, incredible inventions and amazing artistic creations come from the same minds determined to extract all the resources from the sick planetary body of the Mother. Foster wonders if we have suppressed these natural human fears about death, disease and aging to the point of simply defying organic reality. He quotes one of my favorites, Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, that “the main thing is not to be afraid”. All of our science, our fake Internet friends, our comfort layers cannot dissolve these spiritual questions and fears.

A hiking trail in the Hans Christian Andersen park in Solvang.
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A hiking trail in the Hans Christian Andersen park in Solvang. (Photo by Dan McCaslin / Noozhawk)

There are a lot of weird humans roaming the hinterlands and hinterlands of the planet – men lounging in skateboard parks challenging each other in more difficult flips, teenagers playing tennis. fierce doubles while screaming with laughter and young children playing on the playground. Additionally, a woman emails me about the mule trips she leads with six to eight other riders. They go to crazy places, and “Pat”, that I have never met. sinks into even wilder areas. Perhaps the adversaries of postmodern life are houses, debilitating routines, and lack of joy.

So I could even feel like a “human being” as I deliberately walked along the dusty 1.3 mile path through Hans Christian Andersen Park, on the edge of the tourist town of Solvang. There are hidden pockets of green adventure all around us. We just have to walk around and put that to-do list off until tomorrow while seizing the moment today.


Charles Foster, “Being Human: Adventures in Forty Thousand Years of Consciousness” (New York, 2021); Dan McCaslin, “Eternal Backcountry Return” (2018), “Autobiography in the Anthropocene” (2019) and “Trails Into Tomorrow (2021). Yuval Harari,” Sapiens: A brief History of Humankind “(2014). On the 18th century of Breslov Rabbi Nachman (a grandson of Baal Shem Tov); Click here.

– Dan McCaslin is the author of Stone anchors in Antiquity and has written extensively on the local backcountry. His latest book, Autobiography in the Anthropocene, is available on He serves as steward of the archaeological site for the US Forest Service in the Los Padres National Forest. He welcomes readers’ ideas for future Noozhawk Columns and can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read the previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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