Why the Piraha People Live in the Moment and Are Considered the Happiest in the World

3 years ago

The Piraha people, who live in the depths of the Brazilian jungles, don’t know what the past and the future is, they consider a long sleep dangerous and have no idea what stress is all about. All these nuances make it quite difficult for a modern person to understand them. A missionary who came to the Piraha to teach them about life came to the conclusion that these people are the happiest people on Earth. And years later, he understood that it was actually he who needed to learn from them, not vice versa.

With the permission of photographer and traveler Alexander Fedorov, the Bright Side editorial is publishing the rare shots of these mysterious folks. Also, we are going to share the most shocking facts about the Piraha people, who see the world differently than most people on this planet.

  • The essence of the Piraha’s culture can be explained in a very simple way, “Live in the here and now.” There is only present tense in their language because, according to these people, the only important things that can be conveyed to others are the things are happening at the current moment.
  • Piraha people believe that sleeping is harmful. They were shocked when they learned that some people sleep for 8 hours. They are sure that if you fall asleep for a long period, you might wake up a totally different person. However, there is also an opinion that this regimen was formed due to the fact that the area where these people live is teeming with snakes. Therefore, they sleep for 30 minutes and no more than 2 hours per night.
  • They distinguish only light and dark colors. The Piraha mix up red and yellow colors as well as green and blue colors.
  • The population of the Piraha is only 800 people.
  • Usually, the representatives of primitive tribes would rather lose their life than lose their honor and respect. But Piraha people are different. They basically don’t understand what anger or resentment is. “If Haaiohaaa dropped the fish in the water, it is bad — no fish, no dinner. But surely it is not Haaiohaaa’s fault. Haaiohaaa simply dropped the fish into the water,” they might think.
  • Words like “century,” “time,” and “history” are meaningless for the Piraha. Almost none of them remember their grandparents. When they are asked what was happening to their tribe before, they give a very laconic answer, “Everything is the same, things always are.
  • Mothers don’t tell their kids fairytales. Moreover, no one tells any kinds of stories here: the collective memory shapes up only based on the personal experience of the oldest current living member of the tribe.
  • Also, Piraha people don’t know what guilt and shame are all about. A husband can easily dump his wife because she stopped being young and attractive. While the woman, in her turn, won’t be angry at him, but instead will say something like, “It happened because it happened, that’s it. It means it’s time to look for another man.”
  • There are no words for indicating the left and right sides in their language. Moreover, the Piraha people don’t understand why this is necessary.
  • Piraha mothers don’t know how many children they have. But they can distinguish their offspring by their faces. This happens because these people can’t count. The Piraha don’t even understand the word “one.” Nevertheless, they have terms like “several” and “many.” It means they can say they have several kids but they can’t say the exact number.
  • The Piraha don’t show any interest in the achievements of modern civilization. Moreover, they completely don’t understand the lifestyle of modern people. “How can one sleep so long?” — that’s what the Piraha think about the rest of the world. Nonetheless, they’ve started to wear clothes and use aluminum kitchenware, thread, matches, and fishing gear.

  • This culture doesn’t have any religion or any understanding of God. Though the belief in superior things is there, in most cultures, Piraha people don’t have and don’t need it.

  • Every few years, the Piraha people take a new name for themselves, which corresponds to the next period of their life.
  • Due to their peculiar perception of time, these unusual people don’t see the need to store food for future use. What’s more, they don’t treat food as something significant at all. If they failed to get something for lunch, it means they can skip lunch for the day and have it the next day.
  • Everyone is equal in Piraha tribes, there is no such thing as social hierarchy. Perhaps, that’s the reason why researchers outline an incredible love of life in these people. There is no envy, anger, theft, conspiracy, or intrigue among them.
  • They don’t say, “Thank you,” “Sorry,” or “You are welcome!” In other words, they don’t have any courtesies. The Piraha don’t understand why they might need such formalities — these people all treat each other warmly without unnecessary acts of politeness.
  • Missionary and linguist Daniel Everett wanted to teach the Piraha all the benefits of civilization and he lived many years among these people who were never in a hurry, always laughing, and who don’t understand sin. Within this time, he suddenly became an atheist and changed his whole perception of life. All because the Piraha simply don’t understand why they should believe in someone who no one has ever seen and why this someone can affect the happiness and life of an individual.
  • Piraha people don’t suffer from mental disorders or depression. According to Everett, this nation has a phenomenal degree of life satisfaction, without taking banned substances or antidepressants.
  • The Piraha are sometimes called the happiest people in the world. According to some experts, while some people spend time remembering the past or studying the peculiarities of other cultures, these people simply live their own lives, smile, laugh, and don’t experience any troubles.

Do you think people from the civilized world can understand the residents of jungles or not? Is there anything that you found appealing among the Piraha’s life principles?


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