Extensional (Wo)Man


"Man learns to use his extensions but pays little attention to what lies behind them."1


"If people are to live wisely on this Earth, they must be more aware of how different kinds of extensions work and the influence they exert upon all of us."2


"Extesions fragment life and dissociate man from his acts."3


I am an extension- an extension agent tasked with creating sustainable food sources for people living in rural villages.  It is my job to link groups or individuals to knowledge, physical or monetary inputs, which increse the capacity of people to live better, be better in circumstances that would otherwise prohibit such attainment because diminished leverage in a lacking system. 


I am an extension- an extension of the American people tasked with sharing its culture, its ideals, its ideas, its perceived mental aptitude and source of all. 


I am an extension- an extension of the Zambian people tasked with learning its language, its rural way of life, its culinary practices, its ceremonial traditions.  As a member of a community, I am an extension of myself trying to bridge my story with a new unfolding story.  The story of how people source food, the way people collect water, the practices of belief and mental attitudes, how people work and play, and the way community members grow, amongst an intimate way of life, into individuals, is what I am observing.  Slowing draining my culture, my language, the balance of refilling my self with this new community's identity is finicky.  Leaks from either movement disturb buoyancy, and misunderstandings exacerbate this paramount challenge.


The extensions used to improve daily life have been replaced with monotonous chores.  Unrelenting, the tasks tear the fabric of segmented time.  I now manually bathe.  Ten liters of water in a bucket, a shower head with the built-in convenience of being positioned at any height, an angle; it is attached to my hand, a cup.  Conserving every last drop, water is poured precisely.  Pre-soaked, the flow stops and soap is applied.  I remember doing this activity at home: Water would sprinkle from above as soad began to work.  How many liters used?  Now it is exactly zero.  Completely lathered, it is time to open the flow of water.  Dip the cup into a bucket, now filled and pressurized, dust from the day's activities wash away from within my portes.  A rejuvenating relief.  


The moment of this shower is earmarked for an optimal time.  The sun is setting, body cooled, activities winding down.  To bathe then continue to work would be foolish.  At this precise moment the day ends.  A towel dries the last drops of water and it is time to tip toe ten meters, the final challenge.  With wet sandals taunting to disturb this moment of cleanliness, I carefully walk across loose Earth trying to minimize how much dust is catapulted from the flopping action of this footwear.  Sometimes victorious, the time has come for peacefulness, I fall asleep. 


Goats consider it a comfortable hideaway.  Four walls made of bricks constructed from the very ground it stands.  And a roof of grass, tied together with strands of moistened tree bark, this three foot by five foot structure is my toilet, an open pit latrine you might consider primitive, but protects us from spreading disease. 


An open flame heats food.  Trees often illegally cut down to create the fuel of charcoal, which ultimately feeds our bodies.  An extension created is a void only partially filled.  We are all sinners until a solution is scalable.  We laugh at simple happenings, play games of soccer, balls made from plastic bags sourced from  entangled in grass or shrubs, or games where we jump over shreds of cloth tied many times over to resemble rope, we cry over relentless mishaps, and spend every moment in a spaceless environment.  Its complexity exists in its simplicity- unfathomable until experienced. 


I am an extension- an extension of myself trying to source myself.  I rarely identify with others externally, but imagine the complete similarity we share within.  We face diametric environmental, social, physical, and mental challenges, though, internally strive for the same goal, each day bringing us to a shared end. 


The more I rely on extensions the less I rely on myself.  Conveniences fill voids in capabilities.  They close the portal to self worth.  "Humans have advanced at the expense of that part of themselves that has been extended."4  Relying increasingly more on thse inventions drives me further away from where I hope to be: enlightened by truth.  The obscuring veil of extensions drags me beyond recognition.  Would I be closer to the goal, less reliant, more importantly, satisfied with my capabilities instead of the ceaseless pursuit of enhancing them? 


"We can all benefit from a deeper knowledge of what an incredible organism we really are."5


In the village, my presence signifies opportunity.  It is the missing piece, the plight's panacea.  It is true, it is proven.  My village name is Bupe, Gift.  But I think it is a clogging misconception.  People view me as the solution.  I look back thinking, "The answer is lies within yourself." 


"Perhaps the most devastating and damaging thing that can happen to someone is the failure to fulfill his potential."6  I will not and cannot do anything for people.  When we have confidence, not a narcissistic outlook, when we see the potential that exists and let it flow out, we do great things.  We begin to live.  We are happy.  Extentions blind us from this reality.  Step away from them, become your full self. 


"There are no technical solutions to most of the problems confronting human beings.  Even those technical solutions cannot be applied rationally until mankind transcends the intellectual limitations imposed by our institutions, our philosophies, our cultures,"7 and foremost, oursleves. 


The more extensions are relied upon for problem solving, opportunities to learn about ourselves and others are blocked.  In creating a solution, a problem evolves.  There is an infinite amount of times this will happen.  How can we ever solve the ultimate goal with this equation?







1 Beyond Culture- Edward T. Hall p. 40

2 Ibid p. 29

3 Ibid p. 28

4 Ibid p, 4

5 Ibid p. 7

6 Ibid p. 5

7 Ibid p. 1