Wilderness living : life as a free spirit
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
I had fallen in love with the earth with such intensity that men and their ways came to take on ever darker and darker shades to me. My eyes came to need the gnarled and inexplicable trunks of ancient cedars, my feet the soft and unpredictable step of futon-thick moss underneath, my ears the play of the wind and the songs of the birds, and my lungs the crisp moist tickle of the west coast air. How soothing the true wilderness was to my soul compared to the riot of mankind's ubiquitous pandemonium and all the noise which came with it.
And so I stepped onto a city bus that day, headed out of town, and got off at the last stop on the line- as far as the public transit would take me. Off I went with sledge and saw, rope and tarp, ardor and victory, and thundered up the nearest trail a short way, then turned off of it, through the bush, up a ridge, over a rise, and onto a small level area where, instantly, I knew I had found my home- a place to be near and not near the city, in and not in the wilderness, alone and not alone, a part of the world and yet apart from the world. It was quiet, beautiful, soothing and ...free.
And so I hacked out a little area near a bluff overlooking Howe Sound and the Georgia Strait, built a small pole-frame, hung a tarp over it, built a bed out of some twine and six-foot cut branches, created a stone and mud fireplace, hauled up a sleeping bag, some candles, and a water jug, and within half a day I had a hidden hut with a million dollar view, no rent, and, more importantly ...no noise.
This little hermitage would come to serve me well over the next few years as I came and went from the city. It became my Thoreau's cabin, nicely tucked away from society, convention, money, and all the ills these are kin to.
When people eventually heard about this and about my regular pilgrimages out into the bush alone, occasionally a friend or acquaintance would offer their admiration that I had developed the skills necessary to be so self-sufficient, and then they would go on to generally bemoan their own incompetence which kept them from such liberties. This type of comment I would quickly rebut, declaring that the only skill necessary to survive in the wilderness alone was the ability to endure oneself, everything else one could learn in a minute, for wilderness living required nothing more than a tent or tarp, sleeping bag, lighter, compass, and a bag of granola and raisins. Because to be in the wilderness meant to be in the wilderness. There was no need to go on an extended hike or paddling trip; the shortest distance required to get away from the hubbub was all that was necessary, it was far too simple.
I reckon this observation of mine- that the only talent one needs to be in the wilderness is the ability to be alone- and that means lonely- is why a certain well known wilderness school ends each of its courses with a three-day solo session, in which each person must not only apply the practical skills they have acquired during the course, but must also be wholly alone, which is a different type of aloneness altogether, out in the bush, instead of in the city where, devoid of company, one still has books, radio, television, newspapers and all the rest of the cosmopolitan clutter which never allows one to fall back into the abyss within themselves.
It was that abyss I would enter, up in my hut, sitting alone, watching the glorious sunsets over the strait, sipping port or whiskey, occasionally lighting up the pot-pipe, and wondering, as I always wondered, where everyone else was; wondering why the million and a half other souls down there in the city were content to sweat their lives away only so as to own or rent a crumbling piece of the tormented ant's nest? Where were the others- and there must have been others- who also had been driven like spiritual lepers from the herd? Was I the last man alive from a lost tribe destined to wander unbelonging amongst the children of men? Forever banished, forever outside, forever longing for a world in which our spirits mingled in a singular dance? Where was my tribe, my people, my peerage? Where were the ones who, like myself, belonged to another life altogether?
I was determined never to be harnessed, nor blend-in, nor lose myself in the traps of mankind's errors. I would only dissolve, and live, and become whole in the remaining untouched wilds of our sick and agonizing earth.
I had no home, no responsibility, no bills, no future. I lived in the cold and rainy forest, ate beans and bread, drank cheap wine, made love to wise and beautiful women, learned my own lessons from my own heart, and spoke with God occasionally. I would not trade that period of my life for the whole world.
Despite the love and spirit at the Co-op, I had no real desire to work at all. I was chronically well below the poverty line, and yet I always lived well, traveled many places, drank my share of hooch, and ate plenty of good food. Which makes me wonder if the poverty-line should actually be called the distraction-line, for when you fall below it you have not the disposable income necessary to disguise your true lostness and confusion, and therefore when you fall below it you truly are poor, because you are faced with nothing but yourself, and when you face yourself long enough you begin to see that you are impoverished inwardly as well, and then you're done for.
I say that back then I was effervescent, insouciant, and unknown as the hard and calculating establishment set in to divert and impede me. I say that I was mad and driven to the center as the sides wound to bind me further. I say I was wild and wounded but strong and indefatigable as the whole collapsed inexorably in upon me, and yet I leapt up, dissolved into myself before I was doomed, and the All fell right through itself. Then the winds shifted, the spirits rose, and I flew off without a thought, a regret, or a failure.
I had realized what it means to be a master- to be the master of one's self rather than a slave to the manifest. And that means to live on one's own terms, and to never bend nor be tricked by fear, guilt, or false ambition. It means holding your own chosen course in the sea of mankind's effluvium and disordered consciousness. It means not so much of finding out who you are, but in choosing who you are, and then in being that completely, without a doubt, a worry, or a shudder.
To live purposelessly on this earth for a while is a true stunt and a valuable asset to the rounding off of one's character. To step out on the limb where meaning can't follow, where the world sheds it's linear veneer, and the self sheds all definition, is to walk on thin ice over a bottomless ocean. But at times there is nothing like it. Once you get a taste and a liking for it there is little in life to compare.
The world's grey and banal ways become hideous intrusions into the electrifying and vertiginous heights one can soar up to when the mind is finally addled and the new eyes opened.
To exist in that simple state of disorientation, to desire it, and to need it, is to detest the world of action, purpose, and reason, for these add nothing to the glorious endowment but only obstruct the joy of the glide.
I wanted only to continue not belonging, not understanding, not trying, nor seeking; I wanted to learn to hover in the full-blown magic of life and to fall away without caring. I wanted to desist without conviction, to melt into the mystery laughing and aghast and to be done with mankind's useless games forever.
Oh indeed, the gentle rhythm of the spirit is all but wholly extinguished in these days of unnatural lives and vain actions, and I cared for none of it. Think of what it is to be natural, and you will understand how far astray mankind has gone. Nothing but clothing, clocks, fences, signs, pavement, television, telephones, engines, school, weapons, banks, business, bureaucracy, politics, borders, rules, passports, paper, condoms, surgery, pills, walls, wire, forks, knives, cans, haircuts, makeup, shoes, sports, shovels, stores, diplomas, titles, careers, money, rent, hospitals, hotels, holidays, furniture, wheels, churches, names, dams, factories, fools, failures, fanatics, and so on. The whole mess of it one great, terrible lie. A pandemonium of pernicious delusion. All of it. Everything we have created we have done at our own peril. We have walked away from the beauty, and joy, and the miracle of living. We have made heaven into hell. And there is no way most people will change until God lines them up and puts a bullet through the back of their heads. And who can wait for that? The only option left is to steal as much of heaven back as possible; to work little, need little, spend little, to live and dance and hold your brothers and sisters in your arms with one eye pointed to heaven and one eye keeping a watch on mankind, and never to deny your heart its inmost yearning.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)