I went to University in a small town whose population reduced by a third when school was out of session. Past the edge of town was a state park filled with amazing waterfalls, but if you turned off a few roads early, you’d come to a dead end. Beside the road was a trail that led back between houses and down to a secluded creek, a series of cliffs and a maze of paths used by dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles. We spent weekends exploring this crazy area which so few people knew about.
Today it’s now officially part of the larger state park network. The old entrance has been closed off and an official parking lot has been built three kilometers away. Many of the most amazing trails have been closed off to the world, either sighting safety concerns or with no trespassing signs indicating the borders of private property. What was once a place of imagination and exploration became tamed. Other hikers I met from that era are glad the area is preserved, but I could hear the sense of loss and nostalgia in their voices; that feeling of saudade from that time when we felt like we were on the frontier, trekking through an undiscovered country in our own backyards. On those weekends, between the deadlines of projects, assignments, fraternity parties and final exams, we spent time exploring, both our world and ourselves.
In 2015, due to a series of events, I began a journey across the globe where I lived out of two bags for eleven months. In May of 2017, I left my full time job and started another journey, this time driving across the US. It’s been several months since I started this new minimalist adventure, and it’s not been entirely what I expected. I’ve seen a lot of amazing friends and family. I’ve had a couple of setbacks. I’ve struggled with people, relationships and burnout. My journey is not quite over, but I’ve already learned a considerable amount about myself, people and America.
“I only dance when I’ve been drinking,” is one of those phrases every social dancer had heard when attempting to encourage a friend to come learn how to dance. It’s not the same as saying, “I don’t dance,” which is a mere acknowledgment that dancing is something one does not enjoy (or thinks they will not enjoy). To qualify the necessity for alcohol often implies that one may like to express oneself through movement, but has difficulty dealing with the self-perceived embarrassment. Such people may fear allowing themselves to feel silly, unless they are under the influence of a substance that can reduce that anxiety. But learning to be silly, together and fully aware, and to move our bodies to music in ways that evoke powerful emotions of love and life, can grant people a freedom to create and enjoy the art form known as dancing.
At a dinner table, a chap complains about 9am meetings with team members on the other side of the country, and how these early morning meetings, every workday for a year, feel draining and endless. A women is indignant at the chap’s hardship, and mentions her hour long commute in the mornings, followed by an hour commute in the evenings, often working ten hour days. Yet another lad, not to be outdone in complaints about work, challenges them all with how he must be at the station yard, every morning at 5am, prepared to drive bus routes for the remainder of his day with its constant flow of thankless commuters. We often exemplify our hardships in regards to our careers, sometimes to the extent of suggesting that our friends don’t have it as bad as we do.
When people die, we tend to say they are at rest. Headstones on burial mounds sometimes etch the words, “Rest in peace.” This euphemism isn’t limited to English. It exists word for word as the German phrase, “Ruhe in Frieden,” or the Spanish saying, “que descanse en paz.” In the conscious, living mind of an individual, rest is an action we take to relieve ourselves of stress and weariness. It is an effort we take to recover from our efforts, either mentally or physically.
Rest doesn’t necessarily involve inaction, such as laying on a beach or falling asleep in one’s bed. It can involve an action, such as watching a movie, playing a game or swimming in a lake. So is it odd that we apply this term to those who no longer have the ability to think? Those who are lost from this world, with no way to ever again participate in the existence we share, are at rest only in our memories. Death, as far as we know, removes one’s ability to rest.
It has been ten months, since I fully unpacked. Since April of 2015, I have been living out of two bags. After some life changing events, I left the amazing city of Wellington, New Zealand. It was truly the most beautiful city I have ever lived in. After spending two and a half years there with some very amazing people, my journey led me westward through Australia, Asia and Europe. I met up with old friends, found new loves, and learned the hard and true virtues of minimalism.
Human beings tend attach themselves to relationships. We become loyal to our work places, schools, families, sports teams, religious institutions, political parties, favorite product brands and nations. More often than not, loyalty is one directional. Once loyalty is given, there is an implication of staying true to that person or idea, even in cases where rational decision making would say otherwise. Gaining loyalty based on some arbitrary societal vector can often lead to a means of control and even subjugation.
The interpretation of media we use to exchange information depends heavily on surrounding context. Writing and photos can turn from rational to offensive, possibly even illegal, all dependent on the way and means by which they are presented. Human communication, art, performance and entertainment all depend heavily on the surroundings in which they are created. Much of how we interpret something to be either funny or offensive is dependent heavily upon both the context the work is presented, and the culture in which an audience was born into and raised from.
Recently I was the victim of a robbery. Prior to this, I was debating if I wanted to leave my city. I’ve grown increasingly tired of office work, and thanks to some recently accepted publications, I’ve wanted to look into funding to pursue independent research and apply for PhD programs. I had originally thought to continue working for a year while applying for funding and graduate programs. I have no insurance for my stolen items, making the loss somewhat more absolute and has pushed me to the point of my previous option of leaving to work on my own research, regardless of monetary concerns. Although there is a solid methodology behind my decisions, the interpretation of my options in regards to certain probabilistic outcomes can easily be interpreted as a type of fate or destiny.