Black tarmac slips into view — tires impact — with jolt and bounce we arrive. I’ve left New York behind, and with it, family, friends, routines, familiar places – in a word, I’ve left behind my home. Traded it for a city with a herd of larger-than-life bronze bulls and a brassy sun. By the way, I like it here fine. For a two-week stay, anyway. The issue is, splitting my time between two places – not to mention other travel too – leaves me feeling spread a little thin. Like Bilbo Baggins, who told Gandalf, “‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.” Then he briefed Gandalf on his plan: to leave his home in the Shire, to see the mountains one last time, to find a place to rest, and maybe finish writing his book. Continue reading “Homeless in Dallas”
More Nature, Less Technology
“You’ll be the troublemaker.” Arif gave me a sly look as he guided me to a far corner of the restaurant, and I nodded, because surely life is too short for small talk.
There were six of us seated at the table. Four middle-aged women — each one attractive, intelligent, engaging, successful. A quiet-spoken serious young man with a shock of brown hair. And me, wearing camouflage-colored Yankees cap and a few days’ worth of stubble.
This was an “intergenerational dinner,” hosted by the Hoot Owl, a cozy restaurant in upstate New York with a loyal local following. The event was organized around a series of questions designed to elicit discussion.
Anne had been tasked as the table’s guide, and now she opened with the first question – what makes you feel most alive? Continue reading “More Nature, Less Technology”
In The Practice of The Wild, Beat poet, Zen student, and environmentalist Gary Snyder writes of stepping off the beaten path. This metaphor brings to mind the 19th century Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who advocated for “absolute freedom and wildness,” and who strongly preferred sauntering through the woods to walking the public road. These authors have attracted a large following among nature-lovers, environmentalists, and even anarchists, many of whom crave independence from the constraints of modern society, and some of whom advocate for “rewilding” or a return to ancestral lifestyles. But a close reading of Snyder and Thoreau finds little support for “human wildness,” i.e., a state of being free of social constraint. Rather, they portray wildness as a fleeting experience and use the word more as a metaphor for creativity and originality. Once we understand this point, we find that the key to absolute freedom is not to be found in nature, but rather in the spirit of self-reliance and self-discipline – or put differently, the wild must indeed be “practiced.”