“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
― Hunter S. Thompson
I might not be the most enthusiastic fan of the modern world but I do love this accidental, nonsensical life I’ve been given.
I do, and I love trains and railroads and Redwing boots and cigars and old books and dead poets and Bob Dylan. I do, and I love midnight bonfires and mountain air and wildflower meadows and moonlit deserts and strong whiskey and aimless road trips and little black coffee diners on forgotten highways.
That’s where it’s at for me.
There’s too much wild beauty out there beyond the barbed wire theater of civilization to resign yourself fully to all its demands. And I want to inhale it, all of it, even the unfathomable mysteries that lie beyond the narrow limits of human consciousness.
Give it to me.
I must’ve been one of those rail-riding hoboes in my last life, I swear, or a vagabond, or hell, maybe that’s where I’m heading next, I don’t know.
A restless wanderer, some guy with a name like Pistil Pete or T-Bone Slim — a scuffed up boot-wearing conscientious grumbler of the modern malaise who chose to ignore, in the words of Kerouac, “the general demand [to] consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap… imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume.”
What most are amused by, bores me. I find no solace in this arid land of flashing billboards and middle-class sensibilities.
I’d rather read the old books of Hermann Hesse and write mediocre poems under the trees than waste away in front of screens in air-conditioned tombs. To “abandon oneself to the cruel stream of life… to play with the joys of the senses and pay for them with suffering,” as Hesse writes. To get away from the endless bickering and insurance plans of a stringent civilization.
In the words of Huxley, “I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”
The hoboes had it figured out early on — those soulful renegades living on the edge of nowhere who chose a more dangerous yet deliberate type of existence, a life of adventure and wandering, taking odd jobs here and there so as to never be tied down to any one place.
George Santayana reminds us that “the world is too much with us, and we are too much with ourselves. We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure haphazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.”
With little, the spirit is more. Less security, more wonder. Less asphalt, more soil. Life exists outside the womb of comfort. As Dylan sings, he not busy being born is busy dying.
Ah, yes. I don’t want to live with my future in the past. A renunciation is needed. Yes, there it is, explosions of light, fire fire fire, my veins burst from the throbbing gush of LIFE.
Roaring dreams of escaping the racket and slicing through that old countryside forever chasing the infinite sky, escaping into an unregimented existence, napping under the pines like our ancestors of old, never knowing the day of the week or the time or even the year, just a nameless solitary figure singing the poems of Whitman out there somewhere and chugging jugs of red wine with barefoot gypsy girls in the snoozy shade of sycamores on sunny afternoons.
Hell yes. Tell us something Walt Whitman:
“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road.
Healthy, free, the world before me.
The long brown path before me leading me wherever I choose.
Henceforth, I ask not good fortune, I myself am good fortune.
Henceforth, I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing.”
Ah yes, just imagine it.
To say the hell with it all and toss the remaining ashes of your life into the ancient winds of fate, saddling up and ridin’ those ole rusty abstract rails across the country in a beat-up boxcar, a disciple of the unknown, just a driftin’ and dreamin’ as that lonesome whistle wails into the moonlit night.
“Grow up, I got bills to pay, you know,” groans the people from their cubicles and their heavily mortgaged homes.
I know you do. And you have people to impress and soul-crushing obligations to meet and prisonlike relationships you’re trapped in — I know. You don’t have the time to live. Or the extra money or the freedom to etch out your own little unique existence on this unforgiving earth. I know. The lawn needs mowing. The kids need chauffeuring. The boss has a deadline. The game is on TV.
I know. I know. I know.
But as the great Henry Miller reminded us: “How illustrative, this attitude, of the woeful resignation men and women succumb to! Surely everyone realizes, at some point along the way, that he is capable of living a far better life than the one he has chosen. What stays him, usually, is the fear of the sacrifices involved. (Even to relinquish his chains seems like a sacrifice.)”
Pick a weekend and live dangerously. The heart needs it. The heart wants it. The heart yearns for the gamble.
Get away from the noisy costume party of society and hurl yourself into the blood and guts of life. Break some rules that have been imposed on you from the outside.
Say “fuck it” for once. Just one weekend — move into the unknown. Be alive with all the senses heightened. Try it. Go alone. Camp, hike, skydive, read mind-altering books that challenge your cozy beliefs, take a bunch of shrooms next to a waterfall and write a poem or create a painting.
Do it. Rage Rage Rage against the sterile trap of the modern world. Unplug from the machine and get out there and revitalize that inner wolf that’s been snuffed out by too many dreary days of corporate policy and dull obligations.
Become an aimless wanderer in some part of the country you’ve been dying to see. Set out on foot. Sleep on the earth or in hostiles. Talk to strangers. Forget safety and security and luxury — luxury in the words of a poet, is a way of being ignorant, comfortably.
Forget formalities, too. Formalities are nothing but we adults stroking each other’s egos; an exaggeration of purity as a way to deny our own anuses, our own creatureliness. They are lies… as most things tend to be in our progress-centered, egocentric society.
It’s time to shatter the facade of status and BECOME. Uncivilize a bit. Get dirty. Open yourself up to the “whimsicalities of chance.”
Go and see and taste every flavor of this fleeting life, do it. Gulp down the inevitable hardships and fatigue with a grin and try to exist solely on luck and wits for a while. Put a hole in your television and escape into the wild winds of the unfamiliar.
Be not afraid to wake in the primal mist of dawn in some distant unknown region of the land, completely free from the sterile demands of a soul-dead culture.
Once again, in the words of Kerouac:
While looking for the light,
you may suddenly be devoured
by the darkness
and find the true light.
Do it. Try it out. Get out there beyond the ordinary life of respectability and acceptance and go headlong. It just might stir that longtime suppressed divine spark buried in your unconscious. You might finally doff the little mask that you’ve become religiously attached to and change the entire course of your desperately starving life.
“Live simply and wisely. Forget, forgive, renounce, abdicate…To make living itself an art, that is the goal,” as Henry Miller writes.
I want to end this post with a brief passage from a Portuguese poet who so happens to be one of the greatest goddamn writers the world has ever known — Fernando Pessoa:
Ah, to depart! By whatever means and to whatever place!
To set out across the waves, across unknown perils, across the sea!
To go Far, to go Wide, toward Abstract Distance,
Indefinitely, through deep and mysterious nights,
Carried like dust by the winds, by the gales!
To go, go, go once and for all!
All of my blood lusts for wings!
I rush through my imagination in torrents!
I trample myself underfoot, I growl, I hurtle!
My yearnings burst into foam
And my flesh is a wave crashing into cliffs!