This is an excerpt from my Appalachian Trail writings:
April 20 The Fetish of Wanderlust
The rain had cleared and we were back to hiking hard. This was a difficult day filled with more climbing than I had thought. The day ambled along and Sam and I were struggling up hills. We crossed Fire Scald Knob and lucked out with amazing weather. It was strange to stand there with Sam after hiking this section just a year ago with my Dad and Alex. It was strange to be going North and so absolutely different from all the section and overnight hikes I had done in the past. The style in which we hike, the duration, the intensity and certainly the ability to walk alone has some serious impacts on lifestyle. I realized here that this was something different from anything I had ever done, but there I was, retracing old footsteps.
There was a saying on trail “Smiles over miles.” It was often said to people as a criticism to someone who was hiking too fast, or seemingly not having enough fun due to their daily mileage goal. I was told this countless times and I always met it with laughter and smiles. I do not think it is right to criticize another hiker for wanting to push themselves to their limit or to assume that their overwhelming desire to hike erases their fun loving nature. And I do see that the hike was more than just about walking a set distance. A lot of the time the miles made me smile, especially when I was leaving town for intimate nights in the deep woods talking with strangers around bright fires. I love the woods, and I love walking. I only stopped in towns out of necessity or starvation. Those of you who had a brief moment to laugh with me, know that I did so in the depths of the Appalachian Mountains.
People also love the old cliché: “It’s the journey not the destination.”
I understand this because of that distinct feeling that came from re-walking portions of the trail. However I would say that it is not the journey or the destination. I met so many people who were trying so hard to have their “dream journey” or seeking the party wherever it might appear next. These people seemed to be chasing rainbows. Maybe we were all chasing rainbows, but the difference that makes it enjoyable is when you realize that the act of chasing rainbows together is why we chase them, not the bragging rights of an epic party or finding the end. When the journey becomes the goal it is no different than hiking to get to get to the end. To go without expectations is how we go with dreams because dreams live outside of reality and can surpass everything when allowed the freedom to ripen in the world, within the realm of synchronicity. My previous hike on this section was rigidly controlled and now I was hiking without control, without any preconceptions of what I wanted or fear of what might happen next. I received a lot of criticism from both hikers on trail and people watching us pass. Why do I hike? I hike to become strong. Why do I hike? I hike to be strong enough to endure the beauty of a complete destruction of will. Why do I hike? I hike to laugh with meaning, to replace forced smiles with real smiles. “Why would you want to walk across the country?” Because I can. “I don’t think I could do that.” Sure you can.
Capitalism and Consumerism
April 20 2016
The pen truly is mightier than the sword. The thoughts that emerged from my writing today offered me a uniquely reflexive view of cultural belief systems. I always knew I was raised with counter culture beliefs and a lot of anti-consumerist habits, but I never realized to what extent I could take my thoughts concerning consumerism as a culture promoted by a lifestyle and political belief system. It isn’t simply a lifestyle of consumption and waste (The politics and economy of capitalism), but it is supported by objectifying philosophies and pragmatic assumptions (the religiosity of consumerism). The habit of consumption, as promoted by educational systems, popular western philosophy and of course, advertising creates a belief system that makes consumers incapable of having meaningful experiences that are not goal oriented. Even the attempt to have an experience and live in the moment is being idolized. Primarily this is done in an attempt to promote economy and exploit humans desires for full-fillment, but it is shaping the ways in which we can think, our expectations and our ability to appreciate the reality of beauty that exists in every single moment.
Beauty has lost its value. As consumerists we are left with a shell of beauty, a meaningless aesthetic that titillates our senses. In the place of compassion we fill the emptiness with sensationalism, furthering our descent into one way of thinking, into a numbness created with excessive stimulation.
Why are we depressed? Why are we self-loathing? Why is it that modern man is alienated?
It seems pretty clear and simple. We choose to be before we even realize we’ve made any decisions. The only way to break this way of thinking is to break the habits. I would largely describe consumerism as a mental illness, and the system would very much like that I should be labeled dysfunctional. My dysfunction is directly related to refusing to support a corrupt system that brainwashes people and exploits love. Why did I really go hiking? To re-train myself after being fed lies my entire life. To find out what I really wanted and if my dreams existed at all outside of this fake, constructed world I’ve come to call home.
I want to drop-out, but I feel an obligation to stay, to resist.
The arguments I made about Wanderlust can also be applied to activism. Be careful out there. Be careful with yourself.