I’m about to make an argument on a premise that not many people agree with me on. I guess that’s a pretty silly idea but hell, I’m doing it anyways. I wrote a post not long ago encouraging people to be more selfish. You can read it here. But the general gist of it is that selfishness is not synonymous with greed and that if one is truly concerned with oneself, then they will inevitably help everyone more than someone who strives for selflessness. An analogy would be to giving an employee a higher wage so they can come to work without hunger and therefore, be more productive. Sometimes, I understand that this is not the case, that to the employer, the benefit of satiety is minute in comparison to the cost of feeding. But I argue that this is a dynamic stage, not a homeostatic one. I believe from fundamental logic of thermodynamics that an economy can reach equilibrium unless restrained by external interference. Of course there will be unemployment but there will be less than if restricted by regulation.
So here I go. Grant me that initial premise and you may realize this one. Or maybe the combination of two seemingly faulty premises will help with acknowledging that I may not be a quack after all.
Walmart is actually an awesome corporation. There I go; I said it. I know I’m not the first one and I imagine (I hope) I won’t be the last. Why is Walmart awesome despite the overwhelming hatred for it and its customer base to be, shall we say, less than classy and occasionally inbred? Walmart is great exactly because it is as selfish as it can possibly be.
Today I voted for civil rights. I voted for religious freedom and against a single religion deciding MY morals. I voted for people to be able to make up their own minds. I voted against the same kind of fanatical tyranny that predominates in the middle east. If you know what I voted for (or what I voted against) then maybe you should think about what the next four years could look like if you don’t do the same.
I don’t like this world. I don’t like being surrounded by walls and breathing trapped air. I wonder if I’ll ever feel comfortable in this again.
Out on the trail I don’t get lonely or bored, but here I am a jittery mess. I want to run but I hate the race.
How can I possibly not find something to watch on t.v. with 500 channels? We have freaking on demand for god’s sake. Free movies section? There’s a reason they are free. Sitcoms? Infomercials? News-Tiger Woods, balloon boy?
I have said it before. My next adventure will be a trip to an uninhabited island in Fiji. I am going to Fiji just like Truman but I do not feel like I am living in The Truman Show. Are all of you actors? Did I have a camera crew following me my entire trip thus far? No. Paranoia.
I wonder though, why was I programmed this way? I wish I could just settle, and be content. I wish I could be satisfied with being unsatisfied, like most of you, content with being discontent, happy with being miserable. Maybe the taste of freedom, the taste of sheer joy, of peace, and my viewing of a world not at war has tainted me. I have seen bears that don’t want to eat me and met people who buy me meals. I have stood on top of mountains, towering over the plains singing “I’m on top of the world looking down on creation and the only explanation I can find.” I had gone for ten days without touching another human being, without seeing a building or even artificial light, carrying my world on my back. I had gone twenty days without showering, without sleeping in a bed. And you know what? I loved it.
But I am done with wishing I were different. Growing up I would think one day, I want to be the class clown, one day the peace-giver, the intellectual, the Thoreau, the Buddha, the Malcolm-X, the pacifist, the rebel. Maybe the Southern prep, maybe the professional triathlete, maybe the business man, the “comfortable” man.
But I know who I am. I am the guy that cannot live one life, discontent with a 100 year limit. And I am the guy that asks endless questions and will never fully understand.
I think about girls a lot, yeah? I met a wise man, an elementary school teacher, out for a couple days of backpacking with his son. He said to me “If you keep doing what you love to do and don’t change for anyone else, you’ll meet the perfect girl.” I wonder if there is a girl who wants to ride in the cockpit of a double kayak as we explore the Gulf coastline? Or maybe a girl who would like to explore an uninhabited island in Fiji.
I want to be free again. I don’t want to be caught in all the drama of artificial life. Thats what it is you know. We make up things to be upset about because thats how we are programmed. Rather in the woods, we don’t need to make things up. There are already hundreds of reasons to be upset- so many that we choose to give up being upset, and just be happy. I guess there was a time when people knew everyone was so friendly and nice. But at some point we became bored and decided the dialogue “Did you see that look he gave me?”, “Could you believe she said that?” was more exciting. We made up racist names. We decided to categorize people and stereotype them. We turned on our own human race, our allies, our best friends. I guess t.v. got boring. But in the woods, there is no spilt milk because there’s no damn milk. Now doesn’t that simplify things? People are nice. People are sweet (not the surfer terminoligy, moreso the way my mom uses the word). So find a hobby and I don’t want to hear about how rude she was to you ever again.
“It’s 11:11 on 11/11, make a wish,” Olive oil says.
While I maybe would have wished for a shelter with more space than my home bathroom, I know I have no need to make any wishes.
I was told to take control of my life by one man, and by another to take responsibility.
I knew what both of them meant and I knew that when 11:11 rolled around each night I should not have been making wishes. Yeah sure I could put the responsibility all my trouble on some higher power.
” I wish I get a higher GPA this semester” or ” I wish I don’t screw up” or “I wish everything works out”
I needed to be saying that I am going to take care of things. I am going to work to fix my life rather than letting it flow down the drain like an unplugged wishing well.
So I stepped back. I left the rush of reality that was overwhelming me. I needed to respond to no one at home. I turned my life completely stress free so that I could start from the beginning. Now I have no obligations, no worries, and most importantly, no fear. Some things at home are not as I would like them to be but rather than wishing them to change, I’ll take care of them or leave.
My environment drowned me last year. I was unhappy with my brother in Richmond and unhappy with the party lifestyle of college. I was trapped running between the two at 97 miles an hour, having no idea of a sanctuary. Neither place I could go and feel comfortable and safe and neither place I could change.
So now I am out here surrounded by bears, poisonous snakes, many hunters with a high B.A.C. and ticks carrying lyme disease. But I am more comfortable away from the rush and the confusion and the forced decisions. I am not mature enough to tango with drugs and doubt I’ll ever be. And I’m not strong enough to watch others confusion take hold of them. And I’m not strong enough to ward off violent acts upon me in Richmond.
So thanksgiving will be uneventful but stress free. I feel Christmas may be the same. I like it out here and while I wish I could go home and feel content and safe, I know the truth is only being masked by my mom’s comfort words preached to me. The woods are calm and peaceful and out here I am free.
From here on 11:11 will be the time I remind myself “no thanks, I’ve got everything under control.”
In the car ride to the trailhead, Dick drove me and Jeramiah while Butch drove Koi, Olive Oil, and Torch. I asked Jeramiah which shelter he wanted to go to, the one three miles away or sixteen miles away.
Having picked up the Giardia bug, he responded, “To be honest, that three is sounding really nice.”
“Man I feel completely the same. Olive oil was talking about a twenty eight though. She won’t do it but I can’t imagine her changing her mind from thirty to three.”
When we got out of the cars, I said to the other three “So, what are you guys thinking about as far as mileage today?”
They all looked at each other before Koi said “We were thinking about three miles.”
It was not even ten a.m. by the time we arrived at the shelter. What better way to enjoy the morning than napping?
So we all pulled out our sleeping bags and pads and slept into the afternoon. I was the first to rise and went to gather more wood for a potential fire despite the clear “NO FIRES” sign.
Soon after rousing and cooking dinner, Torch had a fire blazing. As the boredom kicked in batteries began to be thrown into the fire. After a disappointing blue flame and no explosions, Olive Oil pulled out a canister of Butane. I ran to behind the shelter when Torch put it in. I sat on a stump back there, looking up at Torch standing next to me, utter enthusiasm displayed on his face. Before long I hear the bang, accompanied by a bright flash, lighting up the trees and Torch’s grinning face. I stood up to see a plume of flame and embers rocketing into the sky above the shelter.
I step out from behind the wall and see the devastation. The fire was completely out, coals scattered in a thirty foot circle all around where the fire once was.
The girl she says “I hear its different when they’re your own kids.”
He is quiet. I say “How many kids do you have?” But I have forgotten his name and he is ignoring me, blowing the question off as if it were directed to someone else. Possibly, maybe he thinks I am asking someone else. “How many kids do you have?” He has one of those names that just never seems to stick.
After silence he looks to me and says “Who me?”
I cannot imagine not being proud of my family, especially one I raise and watch grow. He has three kids, two boys and a girl sandwiched in between.
He is still married yet he sounds unhappy. I ask him how long he is out for.
“If I hike for three weeks I get less crap over it than if I go three times for one week,” he says.
It is obvious he is not looking for sympathy. I just hit a sore spot. He is unhappy and I can tell that hiking is his way of escaping all the troubles he has in the world and I wonder, am I doing the same?
This girl, at thirty seven she still seems just that. Just last year she completed a thru hike of the Appalachian trail. She looks at me and envy’s every bit of my life. She wants freedom and more importantly, she wants to have answers.
On the trail, we hike and we eat and we sleep. Of course we have to treat our water, resupply, and general necessities are fairly inconvenient and luxuries almost always come at high expense. But life is truly simple and stress free.
She lives in New York City and her first year anniversary was less than a month ago and she is discontent.
I want to tell her, “Do not have kids. You will not be happy and they will not like you. You will not be a good mother and they will be unhappy children” But I hope she figures that out on her own. That way she will be sure of it.
She lay in the shelter discussing how she does not want to become a mother before she is ready, before she has lived her life of adventure, before she has experienced all that she wants to. “Kids would just take away my life and my time,” she says.
And I realize, I am not running from my problems. I am running, true from unhappiness and depression and troubles, but not from personal problems. In reality, I am facing the issues which cluttered my life. This life of simplicity is opening me up to the mess I have have been in and helping me escape the life I was not supposed to be living.
She is not a mom. She is a little girl that took too long to grow up. He is not a dad. He is a young boy who tried to grow up too fast.
I hope that I never have to return to the trail for sanctuary. The stones to rock hop across creeks and streams do not slide and turn underneath my feet anymore. I think my footing is secure and when I get to Georgia I hope to return with full excitement to my life I left behind. Next time I’m going to do it right.
Chris McCandless showed the world a way of embracing life that most of us did not understand. On his journeys he helped people love and feel and live the way humans were meant to. So many things blind us from those three fundamental elements but Chris taught the world to open our eyes. But Chris taught without preaching. He enlightened us by doing it himself. And although he made some mistakes, his goal was righteous and the following is true.
Chris lived for 24 years. That is more than most people can say at their deaths even after eighty years of so-called living. We fall into a pattern and although that routine and schedule might lead us from our dream, we keep following it because its easy.
My senior year of high school I declared that I was going to take a year away from a classroom. I was going to break that routine and follow my overwhelming deep desire. But all my friends were going to college. Everyone was following that path and while watching the ease of their way, I was reeled into the routine again. Birth, day care, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, job, retirement, death. That routine was so easy and so enticing for me.
Many of my teachers thought that I had cracked my senior year. I had become utterly sick of school and I was ready to do something different. People who thought they knew me said that it was just senioritis. People who knew me knew it was much different. My idea of life was adventure and unexpected, exciting challenges and struggle, not routine. People who thought they knew me said I should go to college for a year and then decide. Maybe I would like college.
So I thought, maybe I would like college. Turns out I don’t and didn’t, but understand the necessity of such an evil. I thought, what’s another year? But that extra year in school pushed me over the edge.
I will set out on my great adventure to on August 22. Instead of Alaska, I will struggle alongside nature in Maine. Chris died because of a technical mistake, not because his ideals were whack. I hope to not make any technical mistakes, but life has a way of making even the most detailed plans and preparation near worthless.
Only a handful of people have hiked the entire 2,178 trail from the North to the South. Much, much less have hiked the trail in the winter. I prepare myself with reading, experimenting, and conversing with more knowledgeable hikers, but nothing can prepare me physically, mentally, and emotionally for the struggle I am about to endure.
On August 22nd, 2009 I will began my attempt at a southbound winter thru-hike of the Appalachian trail.
I once read the essay “On Dreams” by Sigmund Freud. In the concise version of his more lengthy essay he interprets dreams and establishes his belief that dreams are not disordered or accidental. He claims that some dreams are essentially the subconscious reaching out to the conscious.
Last night I had a dream that feels very meaningful to me.
As far as my memory of the dream reaches I felt fearful and nervous. Very quickly the root to my fear became apparent. I was driving on a four lane interstate with a tail. Several huge vehicles were coming up fast and I knew they were after me. I looked back in my rear view mirror as the lights from the oncoming truck came close enough to blind me.
I swerved onto an exit ramp to avoid being run over by the villain of my dream.I was not aware of the reason I was being chased but I definitely knew to run.
The exit ramp was my escape to an access road that ran parallel to the highway. I drove along at ninety miles an hour alongside the villain chasing me. Now I had a vantage of the massive group coming after me. All the vehicles were bulky, threatening, huge trucks. Some looked like army vehicles, others were dump trucks, and the lead was a tractor trailer.
I watched as the caravan swerved through traffic trying to keep up with me, ramming unsuspecting cars in the process. Soon I took a turn off the access road onto a gravel road. From there I saw the start of a trail. I ditched my car, set out on the trail, and my anxiety dissipated. Helicopters flew above looking for me, but I was concealed on the forest floor. I had a pristine view for miles, with the sun rising in the distance. The evergreen trees covered my head and I had no fear of being caught. I was free.
Whether this dream is silly or truly metaphorical, I don’t know. I do suspect that it’s a sign that right now I am discontent.
I went to Manhattan last year for the first time in my life. I had never seen such an urban setting with so much asphalt and concrete and so little trees and grass. However, in addition to central park, there were many more smaller parks scattered over the city. Each time I passed a park on my walking tour of the city I noticed the congestion of people in the park. People fueled off whatever green they could surround themselves with and the main hang outs and gathering spots were parks. With this observation, in addition to realizing my dislike for the brown, gray, and off white beneath my feet, I was so amazed and excited to see how so many people were attracted to whatever green they could find. It was almost like I expected to find people huddling around bits af grass growing in sidewalk cracks. And the bitter sweet observation helped enlighten me to every one’s desire for some natural element of the world in their life.
Some people hate camping or are grossed out by dirt and mud. Some are scared of snakes and spiders. Some use umbrellas in rain and pump the heat up to 80 degrees in the winter. I run inside to the protection of my house’s walls when I get swarmed by mosquitoes. And the movie “Birds” definitely did not help my fear of hawks, eagles, and owls. But I do believe that deprived of the softness of dirt beneath our feet, the freedom of fields, and the warmth of the color green, we all get a little thirsty no matter how urban and new age we think we are.
I see dirt and grass and trees that chose their own location every day. But still the hardness of concrete that surrounds me drives me to an even great desire for the kingdom plantae. I want freedom and soon I will have it. My subconcious doesn’t need to tell me that in a dream. I already knew it.