I read and hear a lot about people who “live” life. By that I mean they go on adventures and have good times and bad and through all those terrible spots, the pits of peril that pock the road of life, they have an extraordinary amount of luck or divine guidance, or just the strong will to be a vagabond, that always allows them to keep adventuring and resist the ever present atmosphere of corporation and wages. I want to be that kind of person, and yet I find myself becoming the exact opposite. I find myself either being sold by my masters as a wage-slave or even selling myself or being sold by tribal enemies with an eye for trinkets. I am not really sure how to break free of it without sacrificing my present life. I am sure that one day, when I no longer care about good credit or a fancy abode or a fully capable motorized vehicle, I will escape. I will shatter through my prison walls like the mother-fucking Juggernaut. And then I will go and live life just like those modern myths; those gargantuan man-beasts of legend. At least that’s what I tell myself somewhere in my head in a place that hasn’t been completely broken by the modern spirit.
I find it ironic that everyone knows what it means to live life like these counter-culture rebels. Yet no one really ever does it, nor do they think too much of those that will or have and don’t become rich and famous from writing books about it. It honestly seems that this simple formula of life, giving up what you don’t need in search of something beautiful, is the hardest thing in the world to do. And I think it is because all of us are looking for a little validation among our peers that comes from having so much stuff. Or the right stuff; the cool stuff. We get those green-eyed looks from those people that don’t really matter to us to tell us that we matter. But of course we really know that it isn’t us, but our German cars and Japanese gadgets that get those covetous stares.
It is safe to have stuff. That is why we like it so much. It gives us the comfort of knowing that if a hurricane comes along, we have less chance of dying because we have surrounded ourselves with a bulk mass of otherwise useless stuff to protect us from the forceful winds of change. It is like protection. It comes with relatively low risk of life and limb. But those people that seem to break from the stuff; from the validation exercises and neighborly rivalries, always seem to be looked down on. But they don’t care. Because what they are looking for doesn’t come as an e-mail attachment receipt from IKEA. It comes from somewhere else. They are looking for the next beautiful thing, the next dangerous thing; the next thing to replace all of the security of a packrat’s den with the insecurity of a newly hatched sea turtle. It is truly a beautiful thing, this life. If it wasn’t, and no one really thought it was, then no one would have ever heard of Thoreau. No one would really care about the drugged ramblings of Kerouac. No one would really care for the emotional and philosophical expositions of Parsig or Miller. Christopher McCandless would have starved in the Alaskan tundra without the tragic idealism imposed on his lack of preparation for such a life. No one would ever muse on the romantic life of Louis and Clark newly discovering American terrain. Even if they did do so in complete ignorance of the civilizations already flourishing.
Despite all of this, these hobos are looked down upon. Vagabonds are suspect and wandering tramps are passing nuisances. I think it isn’t so much mistrust, or honest disagreement with their life-style. I think it is partly a jealousy; a lurking green tinge behind the eyes of every onlooker that settles their gaze on these people that dare defy the unnatural order of things. It is slightly reminiscent of those neighbors that want our stuff. Instead of desire for stuff, however, it is a jealousy of the ability to reestablish something of value and natural to the human soul and condition.
Some people disagree with me. They make the counter-claim that there is no reason for them to be jealous of those foolish enough to forsake luxury and modern convenience in the pursuit of something so insubstantial as happiness or another equally inconcrete and romantic idea that savages the rational mind. Why should anyone want to go out to look for happiness when it can be brought in the back of a Fed-Ex truck, safely tucked in a cardboard box and wrapped in bubble wrap so that its fragile existence won’t be damaged by the hard knocks? That is happiness. No need to go find it. It’s only a click away.
This kind of mindset is what made modernity. It is what made “civilized” peoples, and separated them from the noble savage. Fashion, secularism, philosophy, corporation, recorded music, art, and those works of exposition themselves are all products of that same idea of the modern convenience. They couldn’t exist in the form they do if it hadn’t been for that society that those pioneers of life attempted to forgo. In short, the fact that certain people ever feel the need to make that pilgrimage back to the natural order, back to the way things were, back to the nomadic lifestyle that a majority of the human race left over 20 centuries ago, is an effect of modern life. This wanderlust wouldn’t exist without the dissatisfaction that arrives with those Fed-Ex packages. And it is those Fed-Ex packages that we use to build walls around ourselves. But walls have more than one function. They don’t just keep things out. They are not just the building blocks of houses and schools, but prisons as well. We build our chicken coops out of those boxes and that bubble wrap. We clip our own wings with clippers designed for maximized aesthetics and sold to us at a premium price. Some chickens though; they fly the coop. They go out and find the world. In the process they lose a little of their chicken-ness. They get a little braver and a little wiser. Then they come back, and share their expository happiness with the rest of us.