July 7, 2011
A strong point of commonality between my way of thinking and the way of the Gnoll is outlined flawlessly with "If you can't eat it, wear it, wield it or carry it, leave it behind," and was certainly an eye-catcher upon reading the teaser online. The idea strongly resonated with me and echoed the way I had lived my life and continue to live it even to this day.
From my 16th year well into my thirties, I lived out of a bag.
I toured the world incessantly. My tongue has tried to speak every language. I gazed with awe at Mt. Fuji, marveled at the summertime thunderstorms in northern Italy, held clumps of black volcanic ash sand in my young hands in New Zealand, stared into the eyes of a white rhino in South Africa, felt Moscow's snow chill my face, walked the streets of Sao Paolo during Carnivale, spent hours playing speed chess in Germany, hugged drowsy koala in Australia, got snowed in on the Swiss Alps, watched countless desert sunrises and mountain sunsets and swam in the waters of almost every ocean. The winds from every direction pressed against my body on every continent…
I found peace in freedom from material concerns, and also developed a very clear idea of what a person "needs" versus what a person wants. Nothing was a worry because I owned nothing and thus didn't fear for its loss. My focus was on finding food and shelter, making connections with others of like mind and like pack, and recording the lessons I learned along the way. I punched no clock. I answered to no man. I was lean, often hungry, sometimes miserable but always, always my own person and free to do as I would at any time. If I was tired, I slept. If I was hungry, I "hunted." I found mates where they were to be found. I thought freely, wrote consistently, collected nothing, held on to nothing and gave just about everything that my hands could hold away to others. What was worth hanging on to was already in my head anyway.
I can honestly say that I lived "in freedom" and "in beauty." How rare. Not a day goes by where I don't appreciate my good fortune to be bold enough to reject what all others around me were quick to digest and become – common life for common thinkers. I compare my life now with the life of my "peers" who elected the way of comfort and certainty and I haven't seen one person who I'd rather be than myself. What contrast!! I'm still lean, still sharp, still hungry. I stand proud with fire in my eyes, strength in my spine and springs in my legs. Most everyone else who chose the submissive life are now weak, fattened, gray, miserable, without desire, without drive and absolutely devoid of the spirit of the hunt. They've submitted.
They've laden themselves with countless items of useless trash in a "home" too big for their budget but far too small for their ego and their want of appearances. They collect keepsakes for the memories they trigger because they've forgotten how to remember things on their own – or their experiences are so shallow and insignificant that they're hardly worth remembering at all. They pack their refrigerator and cupboard with colorful, odd-colored boxes full of what can only be called food in the academic sense – material that only poisons their heavy bodies rather than nourishes them. They buy things they can't afford on a whim because they've been fooled into believing that material will make them happy, fill the void in their lives. They buy books not for the love of the printed word, but because they think they're buying the time to read them. The keepsakes crowd the dusty surfaces, the boxes of poison pack the shelves, books cramp each other in the study, yet their owners are none the richer for having collected them and remain lonely, frustrated and confused as they persistently stare at a computer screen for hours on end, oblivious to the beautiful daylight burning away outside.
They've become prey to their own materialistic stupidity – nailed down, slow, easy targets. Better them than me. Sounds calloused and harsh, but from a simplistic perspective, so is nature itself. Are we, bipedal animals, really that divorced from it? Perhaps some more so than others.
Nowadays I'm slightly more settled, outposted in one city or the next in the Northeast United States, working for myself in an instructional capacity. I still punch no clock. I make my own hours. I still travel often, and when I do it's light and fast. For me, it's the only way. Have I tried doing the standard 9 to 5 "normal" routine? Sure. I'm open to all things. Was it for me? Decidedly not.
I suppose I owe J.S. a debt of gratitude for translating into succinct text the lessons Gryka and her pack have to teach us – even the ones who live a lot like Gnolls to begin with.
Do I keep anything at all? Sure. The memory of those I love, the places I've been, the feelings I got from the lessons I've learned along the way so far… I keep them in the head and in the heart where they belong. To try to trap these moments with photography and frame them for display betrays their beauty. Some of the greatest moments of my life cannot be proven to have existed. But does it matter? Hazrah nachti. Decidedly not.
June 5, 2011
July 7, 2011
Quite welcome. Glad to be at all helpful.
June 5, 2011
February 22, 2010
That's a beautiful and inspiring essay.
I've been going the opposite direction: I started right in with a career and accumulated a bunch of possessions, which I've been slowly divesting myself of over the years. (Though I never shackled myself to anything with payments, and never overspent. Most of my possessions exist because I do things that require gear: skiing, bicycling, etc.)
One of my goals is to spend some time doing what you did: I've traveled out of a backpack, but never lived out of one. Unfortunately the world isn't quite as magical a place as it was when I was fresh out of school, and I've missed many opportunities. On the other hand, I've still managed quite a few unduplicable experiences (which, like yours, cannot be proven to have occurred), I live in beauty right now, if not total freedom -- and had I done any differently, I would not have been the same person who wrote The Gnoll Credo.
That is worth everything to me. Somehow, out of the pain and despair, out of the regret and the remorse, out of the injuries and the stupidity and the loneliness and the bad decisions and the missed opportunities, I met Gryka and brought back the Credo. And if I'm killed on my bike tomorrow by a texting teenager, hazrah nachti. It'll still be worth it, to have known her and told her story.
July 7, 2011
Ever grateful for The Credo. It's a blueprint, in a way (among many other things), by which one might build a life where each sunrise after the next burns the fog of needless excess away at first light and illuminates the all-important main ideas so often overlooked by those who, for lack of a more accurate description, are categorically distinct to our pack.
I'm glad that you governed yourself intelligently right out of the gate and I'm happy your life developed as it has. You're nothing if not a conduit. We are all the richer for that.
There's a difference between setting in roots while setting up camp and building an iron cage of "security" – the door of which will eventually rust shut with the passage of time and the advancement of age. One is steadily built with bare hands from an honest place with the eyes fixed on the horizon, and the other is welded out of fear and panic with the eyes already buried underground. Which would you rather you had built around you when the sun of your life is past its meridian height?
Somewhat conversely to your goal, one of mine now is to live out of a house – to set in roots somewhere isolated and peaceful, to taste life lived consistently in just one spot on the map (at least for a while). It will be an interesting experiment to note just how deeply into the soil of a single place my roots are willing to burrow and how that will command the rhythm of my hunt.
There's a part of me which sometimes wonders where I'd be and what I'd be doing had I developed my life in a slightly less hand-to-mouth manner, but I echo your idea that any divergence from the formula which created my life to this point may have yielded a terribly different result, and I'm not all that bummed out with the result thus far.
At any rate, enough with the pointless conjecture! Let's not spend one more second of our lives making impossible guesses about the people we might have become. Let's live in celebration of the beings we are!
All paths converge to this moment anyway, and now it's already gone.
February 22, 2010
Some combination of an instinctive aversion to doing what I was "supposed to do", and the knowledge that I didn't want to be doing what I was doing 20 years hence, kept me from committing fully to a career and mortgage -- welding the cage, as it were.
Much of it was not wanting to be stuck in commute traffic: even back then I understood "if I buy a house and change jobs, what then?" It was always important for me to be able to ride my bicycle to work...and through such seemingly minor, everyday choices our lives are shaped. Otherwise it's easy to think "I'll just put up with this for a while" -- and soon it's years later, because meanwhile we've convinced ourselves that it's not that bad, and upon trying to change, we don't know how to do anything else.
I know several people who could easily have retired on a windfall they were either good or lucky enough to grab after years of hard work, and done whatever the hell they wanted...but they went back to a regular job and a regular boss, because they didn't know how to NOT work anymore.
Anyway, yes, I do sometimes think about how my life might have turned out differently. I think about a lot of things. But for the first time, I am absolutely certain that I wouldn't choose any other path, because of the Credo.
Now is the only time. The past is a memory, the future a guess. And in celebration of all the excellent mountain biking I've been doing lately, it's time for some bicycle maintenance. Sharp weapons.
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