Wednesday, October 18, 2006

On Being a Nomad...

I was highly influenced by Jack Kerouac and others of that mindset in my late teen years. "Responsibility" as defined in this culture sounded smothering. It was heavily-laden with all sorts of things that reeked of Calvinist oppression. If it meant sitting at some unfulfilling job for 50 years, building my own personal financial empire and, like Babbit, never doing a single thing I wanted to do, I wanted no part of it.

When the 60s came along, we were encouraged to "freak freely" and live in a state of eternal adolescence. Like most things, there were some very good aspects and some darker aspects. We went to the extreme. We threw out the good with the bad and failed to realize there would be a price for that.

The truth reveals itself somewhere in the middle. At my age, I realize the danger in either extreme. Living the culturally-sanctioned life of burden to the economy is something I would not have been able to do. Living in complete freedom ~ which I did ~ is something that only reaffirmed Janis Joplin's words, mentioned before, that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."

Somehow I had to come to terms with these extremes and find a balance ~ one I could live with. By the time I stopped running, it was too late to build the former and was too old to continue the latter.

I had to come up with a working definition of our purpose here within the context of my spiritual beliefs and my practical beliefs, that would ultimately turn out to be most meaningful.

By the time I got to Tucson, the running was pretty much over. I didn't have another run of that nature in me. On the upside, a run like that is invigorating. There is nothing like the open highway, living for the moment, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Everything is new and we never know where the magic will appear. On the downside, it can be lonely and kind of scary. There are no safety nets on the open road. Finally, there had to be something more to life than just drifting from one place to another, never taking root, never building community and never having connection. I knew it was important to get over my fear of that. My fear was that if I gave even an inch, the world would take a thousand miles.

I couldn't exist within the confines of the socially-sanctioned "American dream". It meant nothing to me. On a soul level, it was hollow. Admittedly, I am terrible at financial stuff and money has never meant much to me. It comes in and goes out. I am able to keep my monthly budget and so on. It's not that I'm without any skills but money has never driven me. It's just a tool. It's nice to have some extra but when I don't, it doesn't bother me. I don't need a queendom. I don't need power over others. Those aspirations never took root. Having a small space to call my own is sufficient. Somehow, I manage to stay fed and clothed and basic needs are met. As much as this might be distasteful to some, I am a legitimately content person. Goals and achievements in this cultural context are basically a score card on life, validating that we are an okay person in the eyes of others. It just doesn't make much sense. I've never been good at keeping score.

So.. that brings us back to that gnarly "responsibility" issue. Am I irresponsible? Are others like me irresponsible? Is that a character flaw?

My conclusion is that it largely depends on definition. My definition of responsibility is more human-centered than market-centered. I believe "responsibility" is being kind to other people, to contribute to the well-being of others within one's abilities, social responsibility and treating all beings with respect. It means to be a good friend, family member, community member, a good advocate for those who can not advocate for themselves and a gentle influence to those who have chosen to share their lives with me. The most important thing is to know our own limitations and offer those things to the world within that framework.

My nomad days are over. I won't be loading up the back of my Geo Metro and disappearing into the ethers again. I'm too old to rebuild the community I've established. There will be one final move. That will be to Thailand. There may be an interim period in Northern Arizona where I will go to help friends. The cost of living is lower and it will be my launch pad.

I don't regret any of the choices I've made. I regret some of the consequences. Some of them weren't the best in the long term. Just the same, the learning and having had the freedom to make those choices was invaluable. None of us would be the same person without having lived the lives we have. The good things and the bad would be an entirely different configuration.

I did achieve one goal I established as a young person though. I will never look back on my life and, like Babbit, say to young people coming up that "I never did a single thing I wanted to do."

May all find contentment ~

Thailand Gal



Lucia said...

Enjoyed your post. Ain't that the truth!

CJ said...

Tai, you're soundin good! Backchannel me when you see this.


Patricia said...

Thailand Gal, I LOVE this entry! Your honesty, self-analysis, wisdom and the light touch you bring to life shine through. You are a model to us all of the benefits of following your own passion and no one else's. Yes, we make mistakes but we also take risks. And, to me, life is meant to be a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.

Emmanuel said...

Just want to say thank you your words of wisdom have helped me consider what im going to do with myself because i share alot of your views about responsibility and achievements within the context that you put it although i have spiritual goals.

I just wish you could go in more detail about your nomad days im thinking about doing that for 2 years when i get out of the military in a year and a half.