Sometimes we can do things in a different way. Sometimes we can reinvent the wheel. Sometimes we should.
He was in high school, a senior, when he first went deer hunting. The idea just came over him on one restless day. He had no formal training in deer hunting. He had no weapons. He didn't want any. He was strange that way. The first time he went out, he just parked his little economy car by the treeline, got out, and walked into the woods. He ran through the woods all day, trying to be silent, trying to find prints in the dirt, trying to catch the scent. By the end of the day he was exhausted and bleeding. He had worn sandals, shorts and a tank top, a mistake. The woods had thrashed and snagged him all day. He had taken no water, another mistake. He was parched. He'd seen no sign of deer.
The next time he went out, about three weeks later, he took a large bottle of water. He wore jeans, a thin, long-sleeved, flannel shirt, and sneakers. He was able to move much more quickly and comfortably. He covered more ground. He adopted a strategy of waiting silently for fifteen and twenty minutes at a time. He tried to think like a deer. "Where would I be?" he thought. He had no idea, but he knew he could figure it out. At the end of the day he was tired. Carrying the water bottle had proved to be an annoyance, but his conscience wouldn't let him discard it in the woods. Again, he had seen no deer.
The train has left the station. The ship has sailed. The cat is out of the bag. We cannot uninvent a thing.
The very next week he went out again. This time he had a new canteen with a shoulder strap, so his hands were free. He also had a small, lightweight backpack with beef jerky, trail mix and a hand towel in it. He'd only been out for about twenty minutes when he saw his first deer. It was about fifty yards away, through the trees. His heart raced. He froze. He had no idea what to do except to try approaching the deer silently. He moved slowly, placing his feet carefully. He made sure, as far as was possible, not to brush against anything or step on anything that might make a noise. He'd been practicing this on his previous trips and was getting pretty good at it, he thought. Nevertheless, before he had crossed even half the distance, the deer snapped upright in alarm and looked right at him. It didn't bolt immediately away, but it began to wander away bit by bit. Soon it was gone. He was exhilarated, and tried to memorize everything he saw. He watched it for as long as he could. He went back to where he knew it had stood and tried to see the signs of its passing, to learn how they looked. He didn't see anything obvious, but he noticed subtle things that may have been traces. He saw nothing more that day, but he left feeling better, less tired, less thirsty, less hungry than on the previous visits. He hoped he could remember everything he had noticed, and wished he had been able to take notes. When he got back to his car, he scribbled everthing he could remember on whatever paper he could find.
The next time he went out, he took paper and a pen in his bag. He saw no deer that time.
The next time, he saw two deer late in the afternoon. He didn't even get as close as he'd gotten the first time, but he made notes of everything he'd seen. It was a good trip.
This became his life, his pastime. He kept at it for years, as often as he could, through college and into his adult life. Through it all, he never researched or asked anyone about deer habits or tracking techniques. He was determined to learn it organically. He was determined to hunt the deer as an equal though unknown quantity. Slowly, he learned about wind direction and scent. He learned to recognize the trails used by deer. He learned to see their prints in loose or wet dirt. He even learned their scent. Eventually he learned how to, if everything worked out just right, get really close to them. Very close.
You can neither create nor destroy energy. You can only cause it to change forms. Some of those forms are more to be desired than others. Some of those forms are terrible. Some are the stuff of nightmares.
He never fashioned a weapon of any sort. He could have, he was certain of that. He could have practiced and practiced and fashioned a weapon. His temperament was perfect for that sort of thing. He had no use, however, for killing a deer. He'd have had no idea what to do with it, how to turn it from a dead animal into a meal, how to make use of all of it before it spoiled, even how to get it out of there.
In the end, it was enough for him to know that he could, if he had to, hunt a deer. It made him feel successful as an animal. It helped him to understand how these people he knew, these townspeople who seemed so silly, could have arrived through the long centuries at this place. It helped him to understand how humanity could have survived. He was a man of abstracts, so that even the skill of survival was abstract for him. He never killed a deer and he never fathered a child. He could have, however, and that was enough for him.
Sometimes, blessed is the destroyer.
He died alone in a hospital at a very old age, his last words whispered to a stranger, his nurse. "You have to learn it for yourself," he gasped, smiling weakly.