394. Dr. Chris Ryan: Author of “Sex at Dawn” & “Civilized to Death” Explores Human Domestication

Chris Ryan

DISCLAIMER: This podcast is presented for educational and exploratory purposes only. Published content is not intended to be used for diagnosing or treating any illness. Those responsible for this show disclaim responsibility for any possible adverse effects from the use of information presented by Luke or his guests. Please consult with your healthcare provider before using any products referenced. This podcast may contain paid endorsements for products or services.

Brilliant author and podcast host, Dr. Chris Ryan, examines the modern human condition, interpersonal relationships, and our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

Chris Ryan’s work has been translated into over twenty languages, and appeared just about everywhere, including Netflix, HBO, MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, NPR, The New York Times, The Times of London, Playboy, The Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, and The Atlantic. Chris has been a featured speaker at TED, SXSW, The Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House, the Portland Comedy Festival, the Einstein Forum in Pottsdam, Germany, and is a frequent guest on The Joe Rogan Experience, the Duncan Trussell Family Hour and many other podcasts. He’s provided expert testimony in a Canadian constitutional hearing, won a coveted AVN award (best non-sex performance, Marriage 2.0) and popped-up in dozens of documentary films and television shows.

 Even before co-authoring the New York Times best-seller, Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships with Cacilda Jethá, MD in 2010, Chris was on a wild ride. After receiving a BA in English and American literature in 1984 he spent the next two decades traveling around the world, pausing in unexpected places to work at very odd jobs (e.g., gutting salmon in Alaska, teaching English to prostitutes in Bangkok and self-defense to land-reform activists in Mexico, managing commercial real-estate in New York’s Diamond District, helping Spanish physicians translate and publish their research).

In his mid-30s, Chris decided to get a little serious and pursue doctoral studies in Psychology at Saybrook Graduate School, in San Francisco, CA, using his dissertation to examine Darwin’s rather naive understanding of human sexual evolution — providing the core arguments later advanced in Sex at Dawn.

Chris’s latest book, Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress (Simon & Schuster/Avid Reader Press, 2019), asks whether civilization has been a net benefit to our species. He hosts a weekly podcast, Tangentially Speaking, often recorded from the road while traveling in his van, Scarlett Jovansson. The podcast features conversations with comics, bank robbers, drug smugglers, porn stars, authors, and an occasional rattlesnake expert.

DISCLAIMER: This podcast is presented for educational and exploratory purposes only. Published content is not intended to be used for diagnosing or treating any illness. Those responsible for this show disclaim responsibility for any possible adverse effects from the use of information presented by Luke or his guests. Please consult with your healthcare provider before using any products referenced. This podcast may contain paid endorsements for products or services.

When I first conceived this podcast many moons ago, I noted Dr. Chris Ryan as one of my dream guests. I lived by (my version) of the “Sex at Dawn” lifestyle for many years, and although my wayward ways have most definitely changed, I strongly align to the core of Dr. Ryan’s thought-provoking literature. 

Humanity has mutated into a strange and disconnected species of which intimacy to each other and the natural world has been well and truly severed. Chris’s most recent book, “Civilized to Death” is a startling anthology of how bad we’ve torched God’s natural plan. 

In this episode, we unpack the threads of our existence, the expansiveness of travel, and how we can reclaim a little bit of what we’ve lost. 

08:50 — Lessons From a Life on the Road

  • A life fully traveled with “Scarlett Jo-Van-son”
  • The concept of “detribalism”
  • Getting comfortable with being an outsider
  • How progress separates us from life
  • Corporations as living, breathing entities 

25:06 — Breaking Down “Sex At Dawn” 

  • How I used “Sex at Dawn” to justify my fear of intimacy  
  • The aftermath of the book’s publication and reactions 
  • Intimacy networks in hunter-gatherer tribes 
  • Looking at hunter-gatherers to understand ourselves 

41:41 — “Civilized to Death” 

01:03:58 — How Can We Gain From What We Have Lost?

  • Community and health 
  • Why treadmills are the enemy 
  • Building modern communes 
  • Can we integrate psychedelics into the Western world?

More about this episode.

Watch on YouTube.

[00:00:00] Luke Storey: I'm Luke Storey. For the past 22 years, I've been relentlessly committed to my deepest passion, designing the ultimate lifestyle based on the most powerful principles of spirituality, health, psychology, and personal development. The Life Stylist podcast is a show dedicated to sharing my discoveries and the experts behind them with you.

[00:00:26] It's great to be finally sitting with you, man.

[00:00:27] Chris Ryan: Yeah, thanks for having me.

[00:00:28] Luke Storey: I've made a list, it was six-and-a-half, almost seven years ago of all the people I wanted to interview, and you were on that list.

[00:00:35] Chris Ryan: It's a long list.

[00:00:36] Luke Storey: Yeah, I know, right? It took me a while.

[00:00:39] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[00:00:39] Luke Storey: Well, you have degrees of separation from people, I don't know, it's a bit vulnerable to just cold call someone on their website. And I know you know Neil Strauss, who's a good friend of mine, he's been on the show a couple of times.

[00:00:51] Chris Ryan: Neil was, I think, my first guest on my podcast.

[00:00:53] Luke Storey: Oh, really?

[00:00:54] Chris Ryan: 500 episodes ago.

[00:00:55] Luke Storey: I probably heard that one, Tangentially Speaking.

[00:00:57] Chris Ryan: Tangentially Speaking.

[00:00:59] Luke Storey: Tangentially Speaking, yeah.

[00:01:01] Chris Ryan: A lot of people say tangenitally speaking, which it's alright with me as long as they can find it on Google.

[00:01:07] Luke Storey: Yeah. So, I thought, oh, one of these days, I'll text Neil and do an intro or something, but then life happens and there's other people, but you're on that freaking list. I probably have it in my Evernote. So, super stoked to sit down and chat with you. Huge fan of both your books.

[00:01:21] Chris Ryan: Thank you.

[00:01:22] Luke Storey: I mean, I've been talking about this concept of domestication for a long time. And I think your book, Civilized to Death, just like sums up the whole thing so beautifully. So, I definitely want to touch on that. But before we do, what's the most exciting thing going on in your life right now? I understand you're kind of nomadic. What are you up to?

[00:01:44] Chris Ryan: Just cruising around the world trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life, what am I going to do when I grow up? Yeah, I think I mentioned before we went on here that from this weekend, we're heading off. I've got a van. I don't know if you know, I've got a big sprinter van.

[00:02:04] Luke Storey: Yeah. I like on your site, how you have all your favorite things from road tripping. That was pretty cool, very handy for people.

[00:02:11] Chris Ryan: Oh, for the what makes this thing great?

[00:02:13] Luke Storey: Yeah.

[00:02:14] Chris Ryan: Yeah, that's a take off of Rick Beato, has a series on YouTube called, What Makes This Song Great.

[00:02:22] Luke Storey: I love that guy.

[00:02:22] Chris Ryan: Do you know him?

[00:02:23] Luke Storey: Oh, yeah, I binge his videos like a maniac.

[00:02:27] Chris Ryan: It's just you never listen to a song the same way again. And anyway, he's been on the podcast. He's sort of a buddy. Although we've never met in person, but he's been on twice. And yeah, so I asked him if it was cool if we did a thing, because people are always writing, saying, "So what do you use? What's in your van? What do you use for camping? What's your favorite tent? What's your favorite thing? So, we just put up a thing on the website. But anyway, yeah, we were cruising around, Scarlett Jovansson is parked outside a hotel.

[00:03:00] Luke Storey: You have it here?

[00:03:00] Chris Ryan: Yeah, we have her here. We picked her up in LA and drove her out. And so, after this is over, we're heading into the desert in Utah. We're going to be out there for, I don't know, a few weeks, just sort of see how it goes. And then, the plan is go to Thailand. We were in Thailand a couple of years ago when COVID hit and sort of got interrupted. And so, we're going to go back to Thailand. I've got a buddy, an old friend of mine who lives on an island down there.

[00:03:28] So, we're going to go chill with him for a while, and then maybe Nepal. I've been wanting to go back to Nepal since I was a youngster. I went there, Go, '87, maybe, something like that, and I cut my foot. It was a weird thing. I was in Kathmandu, one of the first nights, I went up on the roof of this guest house to watch the sunset, and I stepped on some something sharp and really cut deep into my foot, so deep that I was told to go trekking would be really stupid, because you get a week back into the mountains and your foot's infected, because you're walking all day and there's nothing, no medical care.

[00:04:12] So, I didn't go trekking. I just hung out in Pokhara, and mostly Pokhara for six weeks or so. And so, at the time, the way I dealt with the tragedy was, this means I have to come back. And now, here it is, whatever, 30 years later. And so, maybe we'll go do some trekking in Nepal, and then we're thinking maybe Turkey and Spain. I lived in Spain for 20 years. It's time to get back there. So, we're sort of doing around the world thing. 

[00:04:41] Luke Storey: So cool

[00:04:43] Chris Ryan: With the caveat that shit happens and everything could fall through.

[00:04:49] Luke Storey: I mean, traveling in the way that you described has it spontaneity, but especially now in the world, I mean, I'm reticent to travel anywhere. I feel like I might leave the United States and not be able to get back in, or who knows what could happen? My little brother, he likes to go live in Columbia six months at a time, and he's like, he'll text me, what's in the news? Can I get back? You know what I mean? 

[00:05:13] Like I think you're still American, you should be good, but yeah. What do you think it is within you that gives you this wanderlust? There are many people, as I'm sure you've discovered as you travel, that are born in a town, and they lived there their whole life, and rarely leave, and then there are people like you that just have this need or desire to go experience different cultures and different ways of life. What do you think is at the core of that curiosity?

[00:05:36] Chris Ryan: Well, I think it's two things. I think there's an attraction that I'm moving toward, which is the change of perspective that gives you new insights into things, even familiar things like oneself and one's culture. Joseph Campbell wrote about detribalization, the realization that you're part of a tribe, and that tribe has certain almost arbitrary belief systems, and you detribalize by recognizing that there are other tribes with other belief systems, and you go out and experience some of them, and then you become separate from all tribal belief systems, right?

[00:06:20] To bring it on home to where we are right now at Meet Delic, I think there's a reason we call this tripping, people using psychedelics, because it does take you out of your familiar way of thinking, and viewing things, and makes things new again. So, my whole life, I've been really invigorated by newness and surprise. And you mentioned spontaneity and the feeling of—not just the feeling, the realization that when my life was open, all sorts of interesting things came into it.

[00:06:55] But when I was back in the US, doing the 9:00 to 5:00, working, trying to save money to go on the next trip, not that much happened. And actually, I remember when I was in India the first time, I would sort of plan out my trip by the full moon. So, it's like, okay, I'm in Srinagar now on this houseboat and it's really awesome, and the moon is full, and next full moon, I want to be at the Taj Mahal, right?

[00:07:25] And then, the full moon after that, Varanasi. And then, the full moon after that, I want to get up into Kathmandu. And so, sort of it was a calendar month, but by the time I got to the Taj Mahal from Kashmir, it was like a lifetime ago. So much had happened. So many people had come in and out of my life. I've seen so many things, so much new content had gone into my brain that it felt like time stretches out, and life becomes longer, and more interesting, and fuller, at least for me, my way of thinking.

[00:08:06] So, that's the attraction. The push—or that's the pole, right? The push is that I've never felt comfortable in the United States. I feel comfortable in nature, in the desert and the mountains, whatever, but American culture has never made sense to me. Even when I was like a five-year-old-kid. I was looking around and saying, why are they doing this? This makes no sense.

[00:08:32] Luke Storey: Yeah, I relate to that.

[00:08:34] Chris Ryan: You people are crazy. So, I've just always felt like an outsider here. I feel much more at home in Spain than I do here, despite the fact that my Spanish is far from perfect. I don't look Spanish. No one ever thinks I'm from there. But at this point in my life, I'm more comfortable as an outsider, honestly. 

[00:08:58] Luke Storey: Yeah, I think I felt like an outsider just about everywhere I've ever been. But like as you wrote in your amazing—dude, by the way, I just want to tell you, I'm in the process of writing a book. I've been working on it forever. And I think that many people don't understand how hard it is to write a great book and to be a great writer. It really is a rare skill. When you sit down to do it, it's difficult, and I just want to tell you, like from aspiring writer to writer, your writing is just pristine. It's epic.

[00:09:27] Chris Ryan: Oh, thank you.

[00:09:27] Luke Storey: Yeah, but-

[00:09:29] Chris Ryan: That's kind.

[00:09:29] Luke Storey: Yeah. I mean, it's true. But in your book, you're going back into ancient civilizations, hunter-gatherer people, and you're kind of tracing the steps along the map of time and where we've kind of gone awry. And it does seem that in certain places on Earth, we've gone further awry, right? This being one of them. And it's interesting that from one perspective in Western culture in the United States specifically, we've made so much "progress", right?

[00:09:59] Yet, in some ways, one of the most devolved cultures on Earth when you begin to travel, and you go to South America and places like India, I remember you mentioned India, it sparked a huge kind of punctuation point in my own growth when I went to India for about five weeks, maybe 2004. And I'm in these remote villages just in the middle of nowhere in Southern India, where it's generally much more remote anyway.

[00:10:26] And we'd get a tuk-tuk ride out into some village to go look at a temple, or something, or ashram. And I remember being out there, and what really struck me was the children and how ecstatic these kids were living in what we would, as Westerners, determine to be squalor and suffering. And they're just stoked. And not just the kids, but I mean, the kids are just so much more alive and exuberant than older people, generally speaking.

[00:10:55] And we'd get off the tuk-tuk and be taking pictures, and these kids, I mean, I think never even seen a camera in person before, and I'm looking at this, no indoor plumbing, and I go, God, when I was eight, I was like suicidal already, you know what I mean? I mean, I was having those kind of thoughts. And I'm going, I'm sure there are sad Indian kids, but it was just such a big awakening for me to see that it really is about the inner experience, more so than it is about your level of comfort. It just had a huge impact on me.

[00:11:29] Chris Ryan: Yeah. Comfort is another word for numbness, right? Comfort is the absence of discomfort, which is sensation. I remember I was staying with some friends in Topanga, and they're really nice people. I love these people. And I was staying in their guest house and they're wealthy, so they had this new mattress, and the woman said to me, "Hey, I'm interested. Let me know tomorrow what you think of this mattress." It was $8,000. It's some special natural latex, sustainably harvested, the whole thing, right?

[00:12:10] Luke Storey: Yeah.

[00:12:11] Chris Ryan: And Egyptian cotton sheets and the everything. And so, I was up there working, and I went to bed, and I woke up the next day, and went down, and we were having breakfast, she says, "What do you think of that mattress and the whole setup?" I said, "I guess it's great because I didn't notice anything". And it occurred to me like, that's the whole point, that you don't notice anything, right? And people get more money, I wrote about this in Civilized to Death, as people get more money, what do they do with it?

[00:12:42] They start cutting themselves off from other people, because they're afraid they're going to get scammed, everyone's got an angle, you've got to have security, you buy a bigger house, you put a wall around it, or you stay at the expensive hotel, where the windows don't open, rather than the guesthouse, where the dogs are barking outside, and the call to prayer is going off at dawn or whatever. It's a weird concept of progress that it separates us from life and from each other, which are the things that make life enjoyable and meaningful? And so, that's what you saw with those kids and I saw with kids in India and elsewhere, is like, yeah, they don't have a lot of this stuff we have, but the stuff we have is really heavy.

[00:13:29] Luke Storey: Yeah, totally.

[00:13:31] Chris Ryan: And now with the fucking phones, and we see kids are separated from each other by these screens, and then the suicide rates are up, depression is up, the self-harm is up, addiction is up. And now, we've been with them long enough to really have some data. I'm sure you know about Tristan Harris's work and other people.

[00:13:54] Luke Storey: No, I don't.

[00:13:55] Chris Ryan: He was an ethicist at Google. I think he's got a double PhD from Stanford in computer science and philosophy. And so, he was the in-house ethicist at Google, which is a funny thing. But anyway, he quit because he realized like the technology, these apps, they're not neutral.

[00:14:18] Luke Storey: Oh, yes, I know the guy.

[00:14:19] Chris Ryan: Yeah, he's done a few, I think he has a Netflix documentary.

[00:14:23] Luke Storey: Yeah, terrifying.

[00:14:25] Chris Ryan: Yeah. Anyway, so the whole point is you've got a kid looking at the phone, and on the other side of that phone are 100 engineers and psychologists working to drain the life out of that kid, to drain the attention, to drain the time. That's the world we live in. So, those kids in India, they're not dealing with that shit, at least they weren't when I first went there.

[00:14:48] Luke Storey: Yeah, that's funny. It's that thing where with technology, where you think you're buying into a product, unbeknownst to you, you are the product, right? 

[00:14:57] Chris Ryan: Exactly. 

[00:14:58] Your mind and its stickiness and attachments for excitement, comfort, dopamine connection, whatever it is, is actually creating a product out of you. It's so bizarre now, right? You're sitting in a room, you talk about, really, in your case, maybe I want to get this new sleeping bag, the ABC sleeping bag, it looks really cool for my road trips, and the next day you start being fed those ads, right? I mean, it's spooky.

[00:15:21] Yeah, they're getting in your head. I mean, I think that we're in this bizarre moment, where, I mean, I don't know, this might sound a little conspiracy theorist, but I think that machines are learning to be human. I think that's what's going on. That's what all this data mining is about. It's not just to sell us shit, it's to become us.

[00:15:45] Luke Storey: The transhumanism agenda.

[00:15:47] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[00:15:47] Luke Storey: Absolutely. There's a difference-

[00:15:50] Chris Ryan: And weakening us in the process, right? They're getting stronger. We're getting weaker. Obviously, that's where we're going.

[00:15:55] Luke Storey: I like to use the term conspiracy analysis or analyst versus theorist, right? Because you can have a theory or something, but that means that you're saying there might be a conspiracy here. An analyst is someone who says, we've already seen there is a conspiracy, and I'm just analyzing it, and exploring it, and looking into it.

[00:16:17] Chris Ryan: The weird thing is, I mean, strictly speaking, I don't really think it's a conspiracy, because a conspiracy is a group of people get together and decide they're going to do something, right? I don't think anyone's decided to do this. I think that institutions are a life form and we just haven't recognized it yet, because we're embedded within them. I think corporations are living things.

[00:16:44] They're very alien to us and hard to recognize, but they've convinced us to give them religious rights, give them political power, give them movement, and they can disappear and reappear elsewhere. They're psychopaths, but we've like invented them somehow, but in a way that bees invented a hive, but there was no Albert Einstein bee that was like, what we need to do is create a hive, I got an idea. 

[00:17:12] Luke Storey: That's a good point.

[00:17:13] Chris Ryan: There's no termite architect, the mound just happens somehow, there's an emergent intelligence. We call it emergent intelligence, it could also be emergent ignorance. And I think we're in this point now where some people are starting to look around and say like we're working against our own interests. This makes no sense. It makes no sense for a biological entity on Planet Earth to be shitting all over it, destroying the systems that support human life and all other life, and yet we're doing it. We're doing it at an increasing pace. Even though we see the destruction in our face, we're still doing it. And to me, that's like a school of salmon swimming right into the net, like you see the net, but the school's going that way, so here we go.

[00:18:02] Luke Storey: Well, this idea of a corporation being a living thing, I mean, it's right in the word, right? 

[00:18:09] Chris Ryan: To incorporate, yeah.

[00:18:10] Luke Storey: Incorporate to be alive, to have a body, right?

[00:18:13] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[00:18:13] Luke Storey: So, there's kind of a hive mind body of corporations. And I think that's where it gets interesting with this idea of a conspiracy theorist thinking that evil Google is out to get us, right? And then, you think, well, surely not everyone in the corporation has nefarious intentions. My uncle works in the CIA, he's a great guy, right?

[00:18:34] Chris Ryan: Right.

[00:18:34] Luke Storey: But due to this kind of pyramidal structure of these entities, these organizations, it's just inherent that not everyone within it is going to know what's going on from the directive. And as you indicate, sometimes, the directive isn't even known, you're just kind of like hurtling forward, and the hive is built, and everyone's going, how did we get here? Like the guy that defected from Google, I'm sure when he went in there, he wasn't one of the baddies, one of the reptilians or whatever. He's good at what he does, he gets a good gig, and then later on realizes, "Oh, look what we're building, I'm out".

[00:19:05] Chris Ryan: Yeah, and he's one of the few who was able to get out. He doesn't have kids, a mortgage, and the whole thing. I thought it was an interesting moment, I don't know if you remember, but in the early days of Google, their logo said, "Don't be evil". And at some point, they had a meeting of the board of directors, and they said, we got to take that down. Don't be evil can't be our slogan anymore. Why? I mean, I would have loved to have been there for that meeting, we kind of need to be a little evil.

[00:19:42] Luke Storey: At least replace it with the inverse reality of be altruistic or something. 

[00:19:47] Chris Ryan: Exactly.

[00:19:47] Luke Storey: It's like, no, we're just going to take the whole thing away and just see what happens.

[00:19:51] Chris Ryan: Pretend it never happens. Yeah.

[00:19:53] Luke Storey: I would be remiss if I didn't, I'm sure you're, to some degree, tired of talking about it, but I want to talk a bit about your Sex at Dawn book.

[00:20:01] Chris Ryan: Oh, God, I thought you were saying my sex life.

[00:20:03] Luke Storey: No, we don't have to talk about that unless you so choose. If it weaves into the conversation, I'm open to it. But I think I've probably got this some time after it came out, and there were two books, yours and The Ethical Slut. And I was someone who was just terrified of true, authentic intimacy, and the idea of being monogamous and committing my life to a partner. And through a lot of work, and specifically in medicine and psychedelics, which hopefully we'll get to, found that it was childhood experiences for me that really prevented me from the capacity for vulnerability, right?

[00:20:40] So, there was always kind of this wall and barrier. And when I found those two books, I was like, yes, now I have a good excuse to never really be all in. It's because, hey, we're not designed this way, da, da, da, like all the historical sort of rhetoric and maybe facts around that humans aren't innately this way. That led me, and I'm assuming probably tens of thousands of other people to explore different configurations of relationship. And I know for me, for the most part, those explorations ended up in pain for me and the other party.

[00:21:15] And through my own just kind of maturity and growth, I'm very happily in a committed relationship, couldn't imagine it being any other way. I have zero desire to try anything out, because I kind of tried everything and none of it worked. So, I'm wondering what the impact that book had from your perspective, it's one, subjective, not like I blame you and your book for my meanderings, but it was the key that fit the lock that I was looking for, to go, look, look, it says it right there, and I think a lot of people share that experience. So, since you wrote the book and put it out, what has been the kind of aftermath or effect of that in terms of what you see in people's relationships and how they choose to be in them?

[00:21:57] Chris Ryan: Yeah, that's an interesting question. And of course, there's a lot of sort of filtration that happens before I see anything, right? So, I either hear from people who reach out to me because they're grateful, because the book helped them move to a better place, or I hear from people who are angry, because the book gave their partner an apparent excuse to act irresponsibly. And then, those are just the people who take the time to write to me and tell me their story. So, I don't know how representative any of that is, but I've been very, I would say, 90% of the feedback I've received has been really positive. It's been people saying, just keep rolling?

[00:22:54] Luke Storey: Yeah, you can keep rolling.

[00:22:58] Chris Ryan: That the book helped them have a conversation that they needed to have, right? So, I mean, I guess the most comprehensive answer to your question is that, as far as what I've learned from having written that book, is that people have their own reaction and relationship to a book that doesn't really involve me. It's like I sometimes think about Michael Jordan's father, and people would come up to Michael Jordan and say, "Man, you must be so proud of your son", and he's like, "I don't know, I gave birth to the kid, and then he did this thing, and now, you have a relationship with him, it kind of has nothing to do with me", right? That's how I feel about Sex at Dawn in some ways. Like I wrote the book with Cacilda, and we put it out there, but it was like 12 years ago, so I hardly remember the experience of writing it, and people have their very personal responses to it, because people read in it what they want to read in it.

[00:24:02] Luke Storey: Exactly.

[00:24:03] Chris Ryan: There's no place-

[00:24:04] Luke Storey: I think that was my experience.

[00:24:06] Chris Ryan: Right. And there's no place in the book that says, it's human nature to be shallow, and disrespectful, and just run around fucking lots of people without giving a shit about anyone. Like that line is not in the book, I'm sure of it, but some people read that. Other people read, it's natural to have desire for someone other than your partner, but that doesn't mean there's any reason to act on it, necessarily.

[00:24:38] And that's closer to, I think, what we meant to say. The thing about prehistory is it's very hard for people to make the imaginative leap to really get a sense of what life was like there, because it's so diametrically opposed to what we know in the modern world. So, I remember we made a point of the word promiscuous, like we're saying yes, the data, as we read it, is quite overwhelming that our ancestors were sexually promiscuous, but that doesn't mean to them what it means to us.

[00:25:15] To us, promiscuous means you have sex with strangers, you have sex with people you'll never see again. Well, those people didn't exist in prehistory, right? In a prehistoric band of up to 100 people, those are people you grew up with, those are people you're going to grow old and die with, those are people you go hunting with, or gathering, or you breast feed each other's children. There's anything but anonymity in a hunter-gatherer society. 

[00:25:44] There's deep intimacy. Whether it's sexual or not, there's deep intimacy among that group. And what we were proposing in the book is that sexuality was a way of establishing and maintaining these networks of intimacy, in addition to sharing food and taking care of each other as children, and living together in one structure, and traveling together, and watching each other grow up and dying.

[00:26:09] So, sexuality was embedded all in this complex, nuanced system of intimacy, not anonymous, meet someone in a bar, have sex, and call them an Uber, right? So, I think that's one of the problems with the book is that people look at it and say, "Oh, if I apply this to my life, it looks like this". And it's like, yeah, but that's a whole different world.

[00:26:34] Luke Storey: Different context, yeah. 

[00:26:36] Chris Ryan: Yeah. So, I often find myself saying, no, this doesn't give you an excuse to cheat, no, this doesn't mean everyone's a slut, and should run around, and fuck everybody, and not worry about it. No, this is not an argument that everyone should be a swinger. That's all modern interpretations of this. All we're saying in the book is this is clearly the type of primate we are, here's the evidence.

[00:27:03] And as far as what we want people to conclude from it, really, the only lesson we were trying to impart in the book was to be more compassionate to yourself and to the people you love. Be compassionate and understand that your desire to have sex with someone else doesn't mean your relationship is bad. It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you or your partner. It just means you're a Homo sapiens. That's normal. What you do with it, a whole different question.

[00:27:35] Luke Storey: That's a really key distinction. I mean, I grew up with, predominantly, a very liberal parent and sex—I wasn't Christian or any kind of fundamental religious influence. It was just, I think, kind of do what you want and don't hurt people. And I think I probably failed at the latter in many cases. But I can imagine for someone who has this sense of shame, and guilt, and sin around their sexuality that you're having these impulses, and you're in your marriage and you think, oh, my God, I'm a rotten person, it's, I'm sure quite often, that the repression of that and the misunderstanding of that would lead someone to go out and actually do something harmful to themselves or another person, right?

[00:28:16] It's like the molesting priest kind of dichotomy, right? And you go, God, how could that happen? When you repress and have a lack of awareness with who you are and what makes you tick, pathology kind of squishes out the edges. So, I'm glad to hear that that perspective, it makes a lot of sense to me. I think it's also, in my experience, I did kind of use it as a green light to try and explore different types of relationships and level of monogamy or not, and ultimately accepting that it is normal and natural to have these drives, but we have a lot of drives that we don't necessarily act on, right?

[00:28:56] We have the capacity for higher states of consciousness, this isn't to say that people who are not monogamous don't have high consciousness, but I drive around sometimes, and have the thought, God, I want to fucking kill that guy. I don't do it, it's a thought, and I go, okay, calm down, ego, slow down, and then everything's fine. And it might be the same way for someone who's attracted to someone, and they have that impulse, and they go, yeah, but let's play it through, like what does this look like on the other side? Are people going to get hurt? Am I going to undermine relationships in my work or my family? And okay, cool, I absolve myself of being a Homo sapiens and having those drives, but it doesn't necessarily mean that I'm just beholden to act on them indiscriminately.

[00:29:38] Chris Ryan: And I think it's easier to control drives when you understand their origin and when you cleanse them of all that shame and guilt that you were talking about, because I think that tends to turbocharge them in a way, right? It pushes them into a dark space where they grow and get energized. And when you understand the evolutionary and biological reality of your own body and whatever evolutionary trajectory is embedded in our minds, then you can control things better.

[00:30:17] I often say it's like if your dog is tearing up your sofa or something, and you want to understand dog behavior and how can I deal with this dog, you study wolves, right? Because your dog is more or less a wolf, modified wolf. We are modified hunter-gatherers. So, if you want to understand the human impulses, and nature, and how we interact, and why, and what the motivations are and all that, study hunter-gatherers, that's where we came from.

[00:30:50] And a lot of people still are, well, not a lot, but some people still are hunter-gatherers. So, I think that there's a lot of good reason to look at hunter-gatherers to understand ourselves, and as you say, that doesn't mean we should be hunter-gatherers. It just means that's where we came from, that's what we are, and that's how we're going to be able to control ourselves, and live together more harmoniously, and find the things that make us happy, because getting back to the earlier bit of the conversation, these corporations are trying to convince us that this stuff will make us happy, but it doesn't work, right?

[00:31:35] What makes a dog happy? Running, outside, smelling things, returning to where it came from, right? Playing with other dogs, pack, right? Pack psychology. That's what makes the dog happy. That's what makes us happy. The things that have always made us happy, nature, clean air, intimacy, friendships, community, music, sleep, being with children. These are the things that make us happy, not screens and money we'll never spend.

[00:32:06] Luke Storey: That's a perfect segue way into your latest book, which I wanted to talk about, because as I said in the beginning, I'm fascinated by this idea of domestication and how we can sort of win back some of our natural life practices, even though we're we find ourselves in this industrialized world. But I wanted to touch on something in terms of stuff. In addition to that one thing that happened in India where I saw these happy kids with nothing, I remember years ago my dad, who wasn't as financially successful by most metrics, he started selling off all his four-wheelers, and horses, and all his toys that he had acquired.

[00:32:42] And when he was doing that, I was like, dad, this stuff's awesome. He goes, "Luke, when you make money, don't ever buy stuff, it just becomes a burden". I was like, oh, but it's fun. "Yeah", but he goes, "then you got to take care of it", right? You got the horse, now, you need a horse trailer. Oh, then you got to get shoes on the horse, then you need the saddles. 

[00:33:01] It's just like anything that you kind of add. And I just bought my first home, and I'm going, oh, I get it. We're remodeling the house, and I'm like, well, then I want to do the hot tub, and the this, and the that in the backyard, and I'm like, oh, fuck, like I kind of miss just renting my place in Laurel Canyon, now, I have to worry about any of this shit. It really is interesting how-

[00:33:20] Chris Ryan: That's why I live in a van, dude.

[00:33:21] Luke Storey: Yeah, just how things just start to weigh on you. And it's a quality problem, of course. And I'm happy to be working my way through this, but it's interesting that so many of us are brainwashed into the possession of things being the key to fulfillment. And then, it's like we bury ourselves in stuff, and they go, "Oh, how can I get out? Now, I have to pay for it, take care of it, get rid of it, the ex took it", et cetera. It really can be a trap.

[00:33:47] Chris Ryan: Again, we live in their world. It makes them happy that we buy all this stuff, whatever that lifeform is that we're dealing with here, right? It doesn't make us happy, but they convince us it does. It's like convincing a horse that it's happy pulling a wagon. I don't think so. I think that horse would be a lot happier running around free in a herd.

[00:34:10] Luke Storey: Yeah, as would we. Alright. So, there's a couple of things I want to touch on in Civilized to Death here. I have my official laptop, because I didn't have a printer. There were just so many great points, and I like the way, the way you approach the book is like you thought it was this way, you're wrong, here's why, here's the history to prove it. I mean, not that it's antagonistic, but I like the crumbling of ideas based on falsehood and breaking assumptions, right? It allows a guy like me to think, oh, yeah, this makes sense, you're talking about just fundamental truths. And so, some of my favorites are actually in your cheat sheet and we'll put that in the notes. 

[00:35:05] Chris Ryan: Oh, the cocktail party cheat sheet, yeah.

[00:35:07] Luke Storey: Yeah, the cocktail party sheet.

[00:35:07] Chris Ryan: I think every author should do that.

[00:35:07] Luke Storey: Totally. 

[00:35:07] Chris Ryan: Just throw it up on the website. You don't have to read the book, folks, just read the cocktail party cheat sheet.

[00:35:07] Luke Storey: Yeah. I mean, a lot of the main points are presented there, and guys listening, we'll put it in the show notes at lukestorey.com/chrisryan. That's lukestorey.com/chrisryan. So, the first one, and I think this is one of the most common misconceptions about ancient peoples and hunter-gatherers, is that prehistoric life was a constant struggle to survive. We think, oh, man, need to wake up every day, and find water and food, and you're freezing all the time, and that's how I picture it, and that we do nothing but work, there's no leisurely time, so why is that a false view?

[00:35:43] Chris Ryan: Well, it's a false view, I mean, the most basic answer is because it's simply inaccurate. But the motivation for promoting that false view is interesting to me, because we could say it started with Hobbes. Before the advent of the state, Hobbes wrote in 1651 in Leviathan, human life was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Incredibly famous sentence, right? Like everyone who speaks English has heard that sentence, and yet it's totally wrong on every count.

[00:36:23] Hunter-gatherer life was not solitary, much more intimacy than we have, as I explained earlier in the context of sexuality, far more interaction, and interdependence, and cooperation in hunter-gatherer life than in the modern world. Poor is a measure of having less than someone else. If everyone shares and has the same, then no one's poor. No one's rich, no one's poor. We all just are surviving together, right? So, there's no poverty in hunter-gatherer groups. In fact, Marshall Sahlins, an anthropologist, wrote a very famous paper in the '70s that sort of started challenging this standard narrative of perpetual progress and the Hobbesian, the neo-Hobbesian view. It's called the First Affluent Society. 

[00:37:22] And he made that point that affluence is when you have enough. And hunter-gatherers generally have enough. It's farmers who don't have enough. It's farmers who start to have poverty and inequality of access to resources, and hierarchical political structures, and all that kind of stuff. So, hunter-gatherers can be seen as affluent, because not only do they have enough, but they see the world around them as being a place of great abundance, right?

[00:37:56] Luke Storey: Right.

[00:37:56] Chris Ryan: Because it's like—I mean, there was this, I forget which book I quoted in, but there is a case of a Jesuit missionary in present day Canada in the 1600s, and he was reporting about his time with Indians there. And he talked about how there was this feast going on, and there had been a feast the night before, too, and they invite the neighboring groups in, because they've got all these beavers that they're roasting.

[00:38:27] And the missionary says to one of the men like, "Why are you eating all the food? Right? You could save some for tomorrow and you're sharing it with all these people, you hardly see them." And he's like, "Well, we have lots of food, let's eat it." And he said, "Well, what are you going to do tomorrow?" He said, "We'll find more food". And he said, "Well, what if you don't find more food?" He said, "We will be hungry for a day or two, it's no big deal, man".

[00:38:50] And at the same party, the women are going off and having sex in the shadows with different men, and the Jesuit is obviously noticing this, and he's all upset about it, and he says to the same guy like, "Why do you let your women do this? Like I know that woman, you're with her, but she's having sex with that guy from the other group who came in", and he's like, "Yeah, whatever, it doesn't matter". And he says, "Well, like how are you going to know, like if she gets a child, how are you going to know whose child it is?" And the missionary wrote in his notes, the man looked at me with great sadness and compassion, and he said, "You French are very strange. You only love your own children?"

[00:39:39] Luke Storey: Wow.

[00:39:41] Chris Ryan: I mean, that just sums it up, right? It's like, what's wrong? What's wrong? There's sp much to go around.

[00:39:49] Luke Storey: And the idea within that that you possess, that's your child, your wife, your food.

[00:39:54] Chris Ryan: And you only care about your child. These are people who share their food, right? These are people who don't have refrigeration. They don't have preservation. They don't have accumulated resources. If you shoot a moose, what are you going to do? Like cut off a steak for you and your wife, and tell everyone else to piss off, that's not the way it works. Anyway, so it wasn't solitary, it wasn't poor, it wasn't nasty, it wasn't brutish, and it wasn't short. The human lifespan has always been into the '70s and '80s, the idea that everyone died when they were 30 or 35 is total nonsense.

[00:40:29] Luke Storey: Where does that fallacy come from? Is that because of infant mortality and skewing the numbers?

[00:40:34] Chris Ryan: Right. It's a mathematical thing. And it's true that a lot of hunter-gatherer babies die in the first 10 years of life, 15 to 25% in some cases. So, if you have 25% of kids die when they're five years old, let's say, and you mathematically average them in, then the average lifespan at birth drops a lot, right?

[00:41:02] Luke Storey: Right.

[00:41:03] Chris Ryan: But that's been misunderstood to mean that people were old when they were 30 20,000 years ago. That's just not true. If you survive childhood and you made it into your teens and 20s, you survived the communicable diseases, and some babies are born not equipped to survive in that kind of environment, which, by the way, is another reason that the kids in India that you saw looked so happy and energized, because the kids who aren't energized and aren't really healthy died. That's what it's like in many places of the world still today.

[00:41:42] My ex-wife is from Mozambique and she's a doctor, and she talked about this a lot when she was working in Europe. She said, "I'm dealing with a lot of people with chronic diseases that just don't make it past childhood in Africa". So, in Africa, when an adult comes into your office as a doctor, you're dealing with someone who's strong, who's got a strong immune system, who's got a strong body, they've been through the filters, whereas in Europe and the United States, we're very good at keeping people alive who wouldn't be otherwise?

[00:42:17] Luke Storey: We kind of evade natural selection.

[00:42:19] Chris Ryan: Exactly.

[00:42:20] Luke Storey: That's so interesting.

[00:42:21] Chris Ryan: Exactly. And I'm not saying what's better or what's worse. I'm not making any ethical judgment. I'm just noting that it changes things.

[00:42:29] Luke Storey: There's another piece to the domestication and kind of how our society's formed that's really interesting with the advent of agriculture, moving out of hunter-gatherers, now, you have surplus of food, right? And now, you need property, and there has to be property lines and someone that owns that property. And then, when you have these resources and you want to hoard them, then you need armies, and then you need systems of law. And it's just like when you zero in on what happened, it seems like agriculture was possibly the worst thing that ever happened to the human race. Do you see it that way?

[00:43:05] Chris Ryan: Yeah. There's a famous essay by Jared Diamond, who wrote Guns, Germs, and Steel, a huge book, called The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race, and it's about the advent of agriculture, and that's the argument he makes and others have made. Yeah, I think it's nuanced because there is archaeological evidence of agricultural societies that lasted for some centuries without becoming warlike expansionist groups, but eventually they all did.

[00:43:46] So, it may be a little over simplistic, and I'm guilty of this, of saying agriculture causes this, right? It's not like one step absolutely leads immediately to the next. But everywhere that agriculture has arisen, and it's arisen at least six times independently in different parts of the world, within a thousand years, you have very hierarchical military, expansionist empires that grow around that agriculture. So, it does eventually. 

[00:44:22] There's a new book out, The Dawn of Everything, I think it's called, it just came out a week or two ago, that makes a big point that, okay, there is evidence that there are these societies that were around for a while, they seem to be growing things, but they didn't have slaves and they weren't attacking neighboring areas, but eventually they do, because the inescapable logic of agriculture is you start to grow food, you end up with a surplus, as you said, birth rates go up, because not only do you have that surplus of food, but now, you also have domesticated animals, including cattle, in most cases.

[00:45:04] And so, babies can be weaned earlier, because you've got cow milk rather than mother's milk, which makes the women fertile sooner, because while a woman's breast feeding, she tends not to ovulate, especially if she has low body fat. So, hunter-gatherers who breastfed for four years typically were not fertile during those four years, plus the nine months that they were pregnant.

[00:45:30] Luke Storey: So, kind of titrates the birth rate naturally.

[00:45:32] Chris Ryan: Exactly. Right. So, that's why hunter-gatherer population levels remain static, very steady, very, very minor growth globally for tens of thousands of years. And then, as soon as agriculture appeared, you see it just rocket on global population.

[00:45:53] Luke Storey: There was another myth that you explored, in that hunter-gatherer people were constantly at war and got deemed as savages by the folks who came in on boats and whatnot. Where does that story kind of get holes in it?

[00:46:09] Chris Ryan: Yeah. Well, that gets back to the point I was making earlier. I think, talking about Hobbes and the motivation for this depiction of hunter-gatherers, part of it is misunderstanding. Hobbes had never seen a hunter-gatherer, right? Rousseau never met a hunter-gatherer. These images that were developed by European philosophers were based upon accounts that were brought back from missionaries, or travelers, traders, so it's very much not science, right?

[00:46:45] It's fantasy. In fact, there's a very interesting thing, I don't know if you remember, in Civilized to Death, there's an aside where I talk about the origin of the term, noble savage, which most people think it comes from Rousseau. Rousseau never used the word. It seems to have come from a French lawyer, I believe, who noted, he wrote an essay and he said that these accounts of the native people in the Americas that are coming back from the Jesuits primarily, they hunt wherever they want, they are not subjected to anyone's whim, they don't have kings telling them what to do, and where they can go, and where they can't go, they act as if they're nobility, right?

[00:47:43] Because in Europe, the only people who could go where they wanted, do what they wanted were nobility. So, noble, he meant these savages live like kings, right? The noble savage. Anyway, but getting back to your earlier point, I think there's a great motivation to demonize hunter-gatherers, because every society promotes itself, every society advertises for the greatness of itself, right? That's one way to keep people obedient and on the team, is you tell them how fucking great they have it. And so, if you're telling people that, actually, the hunter-gatherers have it better than us, the whole thing's going to collapse, right?

[00:48:28] And in fact, there were laws in colonial America that you cannot go and live with the Indians, because so many people, so many Europeans were saying, fuck this, running into the woods, living with the Indians, that they pass laws in the colonies, in the 13 colonies, saying, it is illegal for you to leave this wonderful world that we're building to go live with the Indians. And there are many cases, Benjamin Franklin wrote about the hundreds of cases, even of people who were captured by the Indians, their parents murdered, or the husband murdered, and the woman dragged into the woods, and two years later, she's recaptured by the Whites, rescued, and she's like, "Oh, thanks, but I'm going back".

[00:49:13] Luke Storey: Oh, man, it's so good.

[00:49:16] Chris Ryan: So, I think there's a propaganda element to this that we need to be honest about. And we do it with other societies, right? We are USA, we're number one, and France is like, "No, actually, we know how to live". And the Italians are like, "No, no, we've got this figured out". Everybody thinks, Navajo, Apache, Cheyenne, Lakota, all these words mean the people, right? Everyone thinks we are the people. You, I don't know what the hell you are, but we're the people. It's a natural human impulse to sort of say, I don't have an accent, everyone who talks different has an accent, not me.

[00:49:58] So, we sort of have that cognitive bias that everyone else is different, they're alien, they're weird, and that's multiplied or shaped by the desire to feel that we are lucky. We live in the best time and place, and that feeds into this myth of perpetual progress that if things are always getting better, then we're the luckiest ones, right? We live at the pinnacle of the best possible time. And so, 20 years from now, it's going to be even better, jetpacks, just imagine how great it's going to be. Our phones will be embedded into our foreheads. We'll be so lucky. I mean, it's just nonsense when you think about it, but it's ubiquitous.

[00:50:45] Luke Storey: It's interesting, too, with the tribalism, a human's propensity for the self-identification and micro-identification of our group. It's like we haven't yet, many of us at least haven't evolved to be celebrating who and what we are as a culture without being against the other one, right?

[00:51:07] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[00:51:07] Luke Storey: It's like David Hawkins, one of my favorite teachers, he said, you know you can like chocolate without being against vanilla, and I always talk about how I love them. I mean, I love America, I love this country, and I think when some people hear that, they think, "Oh, that USA, number one, we're better than", I'm like, no, it's not even contextualized anywhere in my being that I or we, as a collective, are superior to anyone else, I'm just going, yeah, this is cool, there are some cool things here. And I could go to Brazil and be like, "Yeah, Brazil is awesome. I love Brazil." It doesn't mean that I hate Chile, you know what I mean? I think it's just part of the human psyche to compartmentalize things like that and create an us for that sense of, I don't know, egoic surety or security. It's a strange way that we operate in that.

[00:51:50] Chris Ryan: Yeah, it is. It's weird. There's that aggression built into it. It's totally unnecessary.

[00:51:57] Luke Storey: There's a couple more things I wanted to touch on here. I think it's kind of like, okay, so here we are, we are able to identify in your book and just kind of in this conversation that, oh, man, we've made some missteps here along the way, but I also love my iPhone, and my laptop, and the ability to communicate with people across the world, live streaming here on Instagram, and I think this is where people bump up against it, it's like, well, what do we do? What aspects of kind of the natural human life way can we reintegrate so that we can be where we are on the planet, doing what we're doing, and not be so out of touch with our nature?

[00:52:43] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[00:52:44] Luke Storey: Because it's not practical. This sounds like we're glorifying this hunter-gatherer lifestyle, well, try going to live in the woods, the government will come get you and tell them you're on their land. Like even if you really wanted to take it that far, you're prohibited because you've got a birth certificate or Social Security number, you are a mini-corporation owned by this giant corporation called the US in D.C. And so, it's like even if you wanted to opt out of the system, you kind of can't.

[00:53:13] Well, I guess you can if you really know your law, you can find a way out, but still, where do you go then? Right? There's not like autonomous zones in nature where all the free humans that want to be hunter-gatherers can go, et cetera. What are some ways that we can gain back some of what we've lost, human connection, intimacy, our relationship with nature? What do you do to kind of re-ground yourself?

[00:53:39] Chris Ryan: Yeah, those are important questions. I think it's similar to what we were saying earlier about Sex at Dawn, right? I think the first step is to get an accurate assessment of what a meaningful life looks like. And I think the motivation for me to write books, and as you said, it's hard to write books, especially a book like Civilized to Death, that was really hard, because it was a downer. It's a bummer. Like I'm writing a book about the biggest mistake any species has ever made, which will probably lead to the destruction of us and most other living things, Keith Richards, yeah.

[00:54:22] Luke Storey: Kill, all dead, no big deal.

[00:54:24] Chris Ryan: Exactly. Can't wait to get up and go write that tomorrow. So, it was a slog and I tried to make it as light and entertaining as possible, but it's hard. It's heavy. I mean, there's stuff in there about some of the most horrible things that we've done as a species, but what motivates me is that I think a lot of people are suffering unnecessarily. A lot of people, like with Sex at Dawn, a lot of people are like, "There's something wrong with me. Why do I have these desires? Why do I have these thoughts? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with my wife? What's wrong with my marriage? What's wrong?"

[00:55:04] And it's the same motivation for Civilized to Death. I think a lot of people are looking at their lives and saying, "I feel empty, I feel unhappy, I feel like time is slipping by and I'm not getting anywhere. I'm not learning anything. It's not getting better. I feel like I'm just getting old and there's no compensation, there's no wisdom, there's no excitement, there's no juice." And what I wanted to show people is like that's not your fault. That's not your fault. You're in a zoo. You are domesticated. You're enslaved in many ways. And there's no mystery to the fact that you're unhappy. You're unhappy, you should be unhappy, right?

[00:55:50] Luke Storey: If you're happy, you're the exception, right?

[00:55:53] Chris Ryan: And what's that line, if you're thriving in a sick society, you're sick, right? And I strongly believe that many aspects of American culture in particular are deeply pathological. And so, if you're not suffering, if you're not feeling like this isn't right, well, good for you, I guess, I guess, but a lot of people are. And so, those are the people I was writing for, right? And so, your question, how do we integrate these things, I think the first step is to recognize that, look, the reasons for your unhappiness have to do with misalignments.

[00:56:39] It's like we could talk about in physical terms, right? Like Mark Sisson and people in that world talk about the misalignment between our hunter-gatherer bodies, and the kinds of food, and activity levels, and sleep levels, and stress levels that the modern world is imposing on that body, and the body is not designed for that. The body is designed to move a lot, but not run, walk, right? We're used to hunting and gathering, walking, stopping, moving, the things that we like to do for leisure.

[00:57:19] I have a lot of friends who are hunting right now, right? Go on a picnic, that's essentially gathering, take some food out, and eat, and let the kids run around and play in nature. These things resonate with us because of where we came from. So, I think the first step is recognize where we came from, recognize what kind of animal we are, and then find ways to integrate these things. I think the most important thing is a sense of community.

[00:57:49] And there's research showing that if you feel that you're embedded in a community of people who love you, respect you, and care for you, people who have your back, which is a hunter-gatherer group, basically, the health benefits of that are equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, right? Not having that is like smoking a pack a day. Having that, it's a wash. If you smoke a pack a day and you've got a great crew, it's a wash, statistically.

[00:58:24] I'm not encouraging people to smoke. But it's a major effect on health. Walking, you don't need to go to the gym, you don't need a fucking treadmill, do you know how treadmills were invented as a torture device for prisoners in the 19th century? That was the invention. And now, people have them in their office, oh, I'm going to torture myself and I'll feel better. No, you won't, man, you're not going to feel better. So, stress levels, try to bring them down as low as you can, pleasure up. There's nothing shameful about pleasure.

[00:59:01] That's why I lived in Spain 20 years. It was the first country, I got to Spain, I was like, wow, these people, there's no shame around pleasure. Like yeah, life is to be enjoyed, fuck yeah, I get that, right? Those are my peeps over there. "Hey, don't worry about work. Enjoy your lunch." "Coffee to go, why would you want"—I remember I was sitting in a cafe one day, and a guy came in, and he was like, "Can I get that to go?" And it was like, "I don't know, do we have any paper cups around here?" Finally, they gave it and he left, and the guy who worked there was like, "Why would you want a coffee to go? Like just sit down and enjoy your coffee. Like why?" It's just a philosophy of life.

[00:59:42] So, I think the best way to integrate these things is to try to find your people, find who do you love, and how can you bring your life into enmeshment with them in a healthy way? So, that could be physically, like we've bought land in Colorado. In fact, we're here at this event with friends of ours who also bought some land there. We've got, I don't know, six or seven friends. We've all bought land in this little town in the middle of nowhere. The land is super cheap, and interestingly, there's no building code, so we can all just get together and build houses, build each other's house, like an old Amish barn raising.

[01:00:30] And my buddy, Oliver, here, he's an auto mechanic, and I've got some book money I can throw in, and help people in whatever. We each have our skills, and our abilities, and our resources, and together, we take care of each other, right? So, you can do that in a physical sense. It could just be, buy a big old house with some friends, and help each other, your friends want to go on a vacation, take care of their kids, because you know those kids, and they trust you, and they love you, and you don't need to hire a stranger for stuff like that.

[01:01:06] Luke Storey: I think this is a really important point and something that I think it's naturally emerging amongst a certain set of people. I mean, a lot of friends of mine in Texas are buying huge plots of land, and everyone has kids, and is married, and family-oriented, and they're just kind of want to be left alone. And it sounds like a commune or a cult kind of thing, but the people that I know that are interested in doing that are actually very functional, emotionally healthy people, you know what I mean? Some brilliant, creative, successful people that are like, eh, why go buy a house with a track home with a bunch of people you're never going to talk to and you actually actively avoid them, right? Instead of just going, hey, here's 20 people that all kind of-

[01:01:45] Chris Ryan: Choose your neighbors, why not?

[01:01:46] Luke Storey: Yeah, they kind of see the world in a similar way, and jive, and I love that idea of just-

[01:01:51] Chris Ryan: Yeah, and it doesn't need to be a commune, right? It doesn't need to be, oh, we're all going to pool our money, and then you got to deal with all that bullshit. Everybody can have their own property, but we're doing this in an intentional way to take care of each other. I always think of that State Farm commercial, like your good neighbor, State Farm, is there. It's like, can we just have a good neighbor? Can we go back to the good neighbor?

[01:02:18] Luke Storey: Totally.

[01:02:19] Chris Ryan: So, yeah, I think there are ways. Buy food from your local farmer, right? Get to know your local farmer. Buy your food there. Have a garden. Like have some chickens. I mean, there are lots of ways, and so often, as often happens, crisis creates opportunity, right? So, young people now are the first generation of Americans who are looking at life and saying, "it's not going to be better than my parents", right?

[01:02:50] Luke Storey: Especially kids into crypto, they're like, "I already make more than my parents, I'm 10".

[01:02:56] Chris Ryan: On paper, sell it, and then get back to me. But as far as getting a job down at the factory and raising a family, like people were doing in the '50s. One income per household and you could pay a mortgage and send your kids to college, that's gone. And so, I think there are opportunities to cut back on the material stuff, because we can't afford it, but the benefit is you find you never really needed it in the first place. What you really need is love, and friends, and pleasure, and time.

[01:03:36] Luke Storey: I know we've been going for a while here and we could probably open up another two-hour podcast on this, but I have to ask, how do you see the intentional use of psychedelics fitting in this kind of new way forward for us? We go back to many hunter-gatherer people, they're using entheogens, right? In Africa, in South America, in North America, different places, part of that communal galu seem to be around ceremony, and oftentimes, included the shaman, the medicine man or woman, and going in oneself, and getting a wider perspective on life, in ourselves, in the cosmos, in God.

[01:04:16] And every time I journey during it and after, I think this is the way, like this is what we need. And of course, you get enthusiastic, and then you come out of it, and integrate, and you're like, alright, I'm not going to go proselytize, and maybe it's not for everyone, but I really feel that, and we're here at Meet Delic, that there are some master keys to the lock of our displacement, that there is some way moving forward of cohesion between people who are awakening to their true selves and their connection to spirit.

[01:04:50] And I know that I've become a much better person, and much more capable of intimacy, and altruism, and all of the things that make you a fulfilled good person, for all intents and purposes, from just being able to kind of discard the shackles that keep us stuck in the intellect, and the ego, and all these things that ultimately limit us. And it seems there are a lot of people waking up.

[01:05:15] I mean, I kind of love the trend of psychedelics. I'm sure we're going to be sloppy about it as it comes to the forefront and becomes more accessible. It's a double-edged sword in some ways, but to me, this is kind of the great hope that people are going to become increasingly curious and legality around this stuff is going to loosen up. And it seems like this juggernaut of consciousness that might be the way forward. What are your thoughts on that?

[01:05:42] Chris Ryan: Oh, that's a hard one. I went through that period when I was very young and my first few years using psychedelics feeling like, yeah, this is the way to solve the world's problems and everyone should try them, but I came to a different kind of relationship with them over time, and this is something I'll be talking about tomorrow here at this event. And I feel like what I'm afraid of is that the subversive potential of psychedelics will be drained away, and they'll be corporatized, and monetized, and turned into just another fucking commodity.

[01:06:42] And that's what we Americans do best. Cut down the forest and turn it into wood products, and I worry about that. So, the jury's out, we'll see what happens, but I don't think that there is anything inherent in psychedelics that will make a bad person good. I think that they're very powerful in amplifying what's already there, but I don't think Hitler would have taken some ayahuasca and said, "My God, what have I done?"

[01:07:33] Luke Storey: Well, see, this is my fantasy of taking like 5-MeO-DMT smoke and just carpet bombing DC, and this utopia is going to emerge, you know what I mean? It's a gross exaggeration, but-

[01:07:44] Chris Ryan: I thought about that, too, like LSD in the reservoir. Totally. 

[01:07:49] Luke Storey: But you raise a good point, because I have known a few facilitators in Shaman, for example, that upon first meeting them, and in some cases, even experiencing ceremony with them, I think, oh, they've got it, they get it, they're good, they're solid. And then, later on, seeing some pretty big holes in their character, kind of a lack of moral fortitude, I guess you could say, or integrity.

[01:08:14] And that's kind of brought me to understand, well, psychedelics aren't necessarily going to fundamentally change one's character if you don't already have some kind of blueprint, or system, or some laws, or principles that you've developed into your own integrity as a person, so that you kind of have a moral compass, and you have solid values and however imperfectly you're following those, and add some psychedelics to that, and you get more of that, as you said, right? But it's not necessarily going to turn someone with a dark side, or multiple personalities, or God knows what else into an altruistic kind being.

[01:08:53] Chris Ryan: Right. Especially without, as you said, ritual around it. The societies you mentioned, the hunter-gatherer societies all over the world, in Africa, in the Amazon, in Mexico, they do use these substances, but with great respect, with ritual, with cleansing. I'm sure you've experienced the dietary restrictions for a while and ways that are designed to bring a focus to your intention, what are you going to do? What do you want to learn? 

[01:09:28] I mean, there's a lot around this. The psychedelic is almost not even if you did all the ritual and didn't end up taking the drug, you'd probably still have an amazing experience, right? Just because you've taken this time and you've gone on like the things the Zapotec in Mexico, who trekked to the desert, where the peyote is, and on the trek, the five or six nights, they all camp together, and while they're sitting around the fire, they take turns opening their hearts and saying what mistakes they've made in the last year, what offences they've committed against other people, and they ask for forgiveness. 

[01:10:08] So, by the time they get to the desert, their hearts are clean, they've confessed, they've accepted, they've forgiven each other. That's a beautiful ritual, right? If you just did that, you don't even need the peyote, right? But that's built up over centuries around this experience. And I worry with us, the way we are in the Western world, it's like, I met this dude, I was at a friend's birthday party in a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica a few years ago, and I was sitting at the table next to this guy, and my buddy is like, "Hey, you should talk to Chris, he knows about psychedelics", and they're like, "Oh, yeah, what's up?"

[01:10:50] And he said, "Yeah, since I got back from Afghanistan, I've been having a lot of PTSD, so my girlfriend said I should take some ayahuasca". I was like, okay, where are you going? What are you going to do? He's like, "Oh, tomorrow in Venice Beach". And they wanted me to stay for the weekend, but I only have one night, because I got to go to Miami, I got some stuff going on down there, and the guy's got a margarita in his hand, and he's having a burrito or something, and he's going to go do ayahuasca the next day in Venice.

[01:11:25] And he's like, "What, you think it's a bad idea?" And I was like, well, it's not a magic pill, right? Like there's a process around it. Like you don't drink alcohol or eat meat for a while. You prepare. Anyway, so that turns out, it didn't go well. Somebody freaked out in the session and called the cops, and they raided it. And so, everyone's tripping while the cops are-

[01:11:54] Luke Storey: Oh, my God, dude.

[01:11:56] Chris Ryan: So, that's what I worry about. It's not a magic pill.

[01:11:59] Luke Storey: Oh, my God, that gave me chills, man. I mean, when I was a teenager in my 20s, I used to go to a lot of Dead shows, and we'd take tons of acid, here in Vegas, actually went to one, funny enough, Las Vegas would be the last place I'd ever recommend somebody do any psychedelics. But there were, I don't think—well, actually, no. Once I did get busted by the cops, they threw us in the car, we're frying on acid at a Dead show in Orange County. I mean, if you're in that vulnerable state and shit goes wrong, it can go really wrong. I mean, luckily, I lived to tell the tale, but when you said that, I'm like, oh, God, on ayahuasca? It's like, that is just absolutely horrific. So, I like the point that you raise and I'm glad there are people like you. You're the voice of reason.

[01:12:51] Chris Ryan: The grumpy old man.

[01:12:51] Luke Storey: And I think I am, too. I mean, my wife is a shaman and she's much more conservative even than I am, and very infrequently journeys, and it's not even how she really serves people, but it is kind of, I think we have to have temperance between enthusiasm, and seeing what's possible, and the excitement of this awakening that is potentially there, but also be very mindful of tradition, and set and setting, and all those things. You kind of get sick of hearing people say, yeah, set and setting, yeah, I get it, but no, really, like for real, set and setting an intention, and the preparation, and the aftercare aspect.

[01:13:31] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[01:13:31] Luke Storey: Yeah. So, thank you for bringing that to the conversation. And most people that I've interviewed that we've touched on this stuff, I mean, I think all of them have had a reverence for these experiences in medicines, because especially something like 5-MeO-DMT, I mean, you're rearranging your entire psyche in 10 minutes, potentially. That's how it's been for me, and that's not something that I would just wander into willy-nilly and be like, oh, I heard it's fun. I mean, things will never be the same in most cases after some of these deep experiences, hopefully for the better.

[01:14:05] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[01:14:06] Luke Storey: Well, dude, thank you so much.

[01:14:08] Chris Ryan: Yeah, thanks for having me on.

[01:14:09] Luke Storey: I'm so glad this finally happened.

[01:14:12] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[01:14:12] Luke Storey: I prefer to do my interviews in person, and so, sometimes, it's like, oh, I got to wait till I'm going to be where they are, I saw you on the bill here and I was like, yes.

[01:14:21] Chris Ryan: Well, I'm glad you reached out. I'm the same. I just passed 500 episodes as I mentioned earlier.

[01:14:27] Luke Storey: Incredible.

[01:14:27] Chris Ryan: I've been doing it for nine years or something, and until COVID, I did only in person. And that puts a cramp in it, but it's a much better conversation, I think.

[01:14:37] Luke Storey: I mean, it, I think, produces a better end, I don't want to call it a product, but say end experience for the listener or viewer, but for me, it's just way more fun. Like if we were on the Zoom-

[01:14:47] Chris Ryan: Plus, you get to meet someone. That's the whole point of having a podcast for me is you get to meet people.

[01:14:50] Luke Storey: And there's those subtle cues, nonverbal communication. There's nuances that are delayed by the internet connection, and it's just kind of weird. So, glad we got to do it.

[01:14:58] Chris Ryan: Yeah, me, too.

[01:14:58] Luke Storey: I do have one last question.

[01:14:59] Chris Ryan: Thank you. Yeah.

[01:15:00] Luke Storey: Who have been three teachers or teachings that have influenced your life and your work that you might share with us?

[01:15:06] Chris Ryan: Oh, three teachers or teachins. Well, Henry David Thoreau, who wrote Walden famously and Civil Disobedience, less well-known, but equally important work. I read that a long time ago, probably 17, something like that, and that really struck me. There's a line in Walden where he says, a man's wealth is best measured by the things he can do without. I've never forgotten that.

[01:15:39] And over the years, decades that I traveled around the world with a backpack, and now, in a van, I'm very conscious of the wealth to be found in minimal needs. That's been important. My father was a great teacher for me, both my parents, really, in that they were married, my dad died three years ago, my mom's still around, she handles the merch for my podcast.

[01:16:12] Luke Storey: Are you serious?

[01:16:13] Chris Ryan: Oh, yeah.

[01:16:13] Luke Storey: Oh, that's cool.

[01:16:14] Chris Ryan: Yeah. At the end, there's the thing where I talk to her and she's like, "Well, we've got T-shirts and we've got stickers."

[01:16:21] Luke Storey: Oh, that's awesome.

[01:16:23] Chris Ryan: It's funny, yeah. But anyway, they were married. They were monogamous. They were in love. They met in high school. It was like '50s, late '50s. And they were totally unthreatened by me having a very different kind of life. My dad had a job, and he was successful, and mortgages, and all that suburban life, but they never felt that my divergence from their reality was in any way, it gets back to what you were saying earlier, like you can love chocolate and not hate vanilla. They always got that instinctively, and they're like, "Okay, you're a weirdo, you want to go hitchhike to Alaska with a backpack and work on a fishing boat, well, good for you, have fun, be careful", but they never were like, "You're wrong, you're wasting your education, you're going to get killed".

[01:17:17] Luke Storey: You have to be like us to be right.

[01:17:19] Chris Ryan: Yeah. They always were like, "It's your life, do what you need to do, we got your back as much as we can, and we love you no matter what", and that was awesome. So, yeah, I would say they were two very important teachers. And honestly, I mean, I see psychedelics, you mentioned the Zapotec earlier, they refer to peyote as El Maestro, the teacher, and I feel that psychedelics have been, for me, a mentor in a way. And I've learned a lot from access to them and the states of consciousness that they helped me identify. So, if that's possible, it's topical here at Meet Delic.

[01:18:11] Luke Storey: I would agree 100%. 100%. Yeah. It's almost I view the medicine as kind of, I've never looked at it like, oh, it's the teacher, but it's like they offer a portal into the Teaching, you know what I mean? It's like they're an access point that kind of lift the veil and give us access to a greater scope of wisdom and understanding. They're kind of like a distraction, almost like, "Hey, look over there", they're just going, "It's over there, it's over there", but give you the eyes to see, right?

[01:18:48] Chris Ryan: Yeah, I remember reading a line somewhere that a great teacher is not concerned with conveying information, they're concerned with creating a space in which learning is possible.

[01:19:01] Luke Storey: Bingo. Beautiful.

[01:19:03] Chris Ryan: Yeah.

[01:19:04] Luke Storey: Very cool. Where can people find your books, websites, all that stuff, we'll put it in the show notes.

[01:19:11] Chris Ryan: Thatchrisryan.com, it's all there.

[01:19:13] Luke Storey: Cool. Awesome, man. Thank you again.

[01:19:15] Chris Ryan: Yeah.



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