Vitae vagus est, or, the way of the trickster

hare i flykt
A leaping hare drawn by dead branches. Motion can be in the apparent still also

Life is, indeed, unpredictable. But another meaning of ‘vagus’ is to wander, or be in motion, without a particular goal in mind. Moving of the sake of movement.

Over the past months, a vast number of people have been moving differently than expected. It may be because of travel restrictions, or quarantine, or due to illness. People have been bed ridden and house bound and during this time, how we move has been brought to attention either explicit or implicit.

When you are in motion, you create a pattern. This is obvious in dance, but it’s also true for the motions of daily life.

When you move in the same manner, around the same objects, the pattern is deepened, fixated. Eventually it will become part of your mind and of your body, in the form of muscles and nerves.

Monty Python's Flying Circus
Sometimes silly walks are not silly at all

To fixate and carve out a pattern can be a good thing, a strengthening thing, or it can dig you down in a hole. Repeating a pattern of something you want to enforce, a habit, a spell, a wood carving, can create something beautiful. But at some point, you have to stop repeating the pattern, or it will become a trap, and destroy what you set out to create.

For all our activity, most in western society live very monotonous lives. Motions are carried out in the same manner, in the same patterns, in the same frame of mind, even when you attempt to be ‘mindful’. For it is not the mind that moves the body, but the body that moves the mind.

To move is to change. We have been brought up to consider only the power of the mind, and that changes are made by making your mind up. But I will argue that without a change in how we move, no change is really made.

Moving in a new environment, even a new apartment, creates a from of change. This can be exhausting, and it is wonder most people feel a relief when they come home to their familiar surroundings, where they can make their coffee and bathe without giving a second thought to the physical part of preforming these tasks, because everything you need is placed where you know it will be and your body will remember how to move in these rooms. This is comfortable, for many even needed in order to rest and recharge.

But to stay in such an environment, where everything is familiar and nothing challenges your sense of motion, will also make you deteriorate over time.

While the way of the Trickster is often associated with humor, or practical jokes, at the heart of is is motion and the unpredictable. While the unpredictable certainly can make people laugh, in surprise or relief, it might as well disturb, shock, or make people feel strange.

The way of the Trickster is to be in the constant between- state, to look in all directions and choose none yet always keep moving. It is the living paradox.

And it is in the unpredictable that we find the deepest truths. And by doing something unpredictable, you might find out a lot more about yourself than any amount of pondering or meditation will show you.

It doesn’t take much

It’s just a jump to the left…

Let the river run

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Ok, perhaps more of a brook, but you get the point.

A river without a riverbank is not a river

but neither is a river a river if it doesn’t run.

 

Today I had a small insect bite under my left eye and I spent an hour or so being certain it would be the death of me.

Not because this was very likely, but because I was indoors. Outside, I would hardly notice

I don’t mean outside like out in the yard, but on the road, in the real.

The world inside walls is not real, because it is not connected. It’s not connected because nothing will recycle your body when you die. Well, eventually, but it will take an unnatural amount of time. There is no way to trust your instincts when you’re cut off from the cycle of life and death, it’s like having your whiskers cut off, I have no sense of proportions, indoors.

These days, a lot of people are spending a lot more time indoors than usually, because of restrictions put on very large populations in order to try to control an outbreak of an infectious disease.

I had already planned a time of seclusion to work on my book of hours, and I’m honestly not sure what I would do if I was on the road when the restrictions came into place.

I do know that the lockdown we’re experiencing globally now shows a great flaw in the system of borders and countries. A world that consists only of owned land and borders, with no or few vast spaces between, is suffocating. And it shows when there is no place to run. There are, for now, and for a few, places to hide. But only for the privileged, and you can’t hide for ever. 

What is happening now show the need for human dwellings to be the exception, not the norm, of the face of the earth. There needs to be places to go, and to avoid human contact without locking yourself indoors or facing an outside with no food, no water and no functioning life.

For a very long time, human life has not been allowed to breathe, for it has been denied to know death.

Life and death are never enemies, it merely seems so because humans have been trading the life of everything around them in order to prolong their own form. Not merely to sustain it, but to keep clinging to it far beyond any reason. But life is not the temporary form of the individual.

Life does not happen after death, but in death, as death happens in life, at every moment, and at once.

Life is a song.

A song starts and ends. It has a form, but you cannot take one note and say that this is the truth of the song. A song must change, but it changes after a pattern. It is a temporary harmonious meeting of a myriad of notes, of cells and microbes, and tiny organisms in and around you, the heartbeat and the lyrics.

There is a lot of high talk about ‘winning’ over diseases of all kinds, and of beating it at all costs. But it’s presented as if there is a government who pay the price and it isn’t, it’s nature.

Whenever the question of the cost of a life arises, it’s only ever talked about monetary costs, never about actual costs. Nowhere do you see an account of how many rivers are dried up, swamps drained, moors burned or forests chopped down to build hospitals, pharmaceutical factories or windmills for electricity for life-prolonging machines.  

This is not a question of attacking the weak and the ill, not a question of survival of the more adapted, but of humans accepting their mortality.

Everything living already have a life, it’s never a question of fighting for a life, it’s a question of prolonging what is already there.

Death is not the enemy of life, but the beginning and the end of it. it is a very long stretch from maintaining a life to destroying everything in your wake to expand it. To survive at any cost at some point stops being brave and becomes greedy. 

I certainly don’t want to die, and I’ll gladly feed on other life. But I hardly think it’s worth destroying entire ecosystems simply to prolong my existence a bit.

Otherwise, after all, you’ll have nowhere to go after you die. Nothing for your biomass or soul to be reabsorbed in.

So when I get panic attacks and anxiety from minor things indoors, it’s being disconnected I fear, death in the form of stagnation. The true death.

And that is something to be afraid of.

 

The land and the landscape

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I know, it looks great from up here.

It has been a quiet autumn, and a fairly quiet start of the year. Mostly because I have been parked in one spot, and spent my time on alterations and repairs, but also on trying to get to know the landscape I’m in. For me, this rolling farmland in the southern parts of France is quite different from where I grew up and also from most places that I lived for any longer periods of time. To get acquainted with a new type of land, the weather, soil, animals and plants has been an interesting time.

One thing that differs greatly from both colder climates and urban life, is how much faster the cycle of life and death is in the warmer and more humid climate. It’s good to see that so little goes to waste, that what dies gets picked up again in the cycle. It has had an impact on my understanding of ‘waste’ also. While I for some time had the notion that ‘waste’ is what the flora and fauna of a place can’t make use of to grow, I see it more clearly and on a day to day basis here.

On the downside, the maintenance of the house also requires more attention. Nothing can be left for very long before something else moves in, or before the mold starts to appear. It might seem like a placid sort of place, but in a way it’s even more hectic than any city I’ve lived in in terms of constant movement and the need to pay attention.

The difference between land and landscape is also increasingly clear. The landscape is farmland, the land, is a forest. I use, of course, the term land here to describe the formation of the rocks and earth and the general climate, and the term landscape to describe how humans use it. The formation of the land is soft, gently sloping acidic soil. It rains a great deal here, and there is a river running down in the valley that defines the area. Trees wants to grow here, particularly chestnut and oak. And it only takes a few weeks for the first saplings to start covering the ground if left alone.

It may seem obvious, the impact humans have had in forming their habitat for the last millenniums. But it’s always different to literary see things happening before your eyes than to read of them. And so many places have been altered to such a degree that you can’t even see what they were meant to be. It’s a pretty well known how humans alter their surroundings to suit them. Fortunately, the belief that this is both necessary and good is dwindling.

There is little doubt that the land would be healthier if left alone. Most of the farms have cows as their main operation. And while it should seem obvious that large amounts of huge, hoofed animals is not what you want on soft, wet land, it’s easy to think so if you only look at the surface, the open meadows, the apparently friendly surrounding. But the sheer amount of mud, the insects, the increasingly either scorched or drenched earth practically screams for more trees with deep roots, and less plondering flatfeet.

It was much more obvious, when I stayed in betonbois where the ground was all covered in giant hogweed, that the land pretty much said ‘sod off, I’m healing’. Here, it takes more time to discover that the kind looking land really isn’t very fond of visitors at all. The more ground I cover, the more I travel and the slower I move, the more explicit it becomes that humans really need to take several steps back and look at where they really are instead of striving so hard to push a fantasy onto their surroundings. And tomorrow, I’ll be on the road again.

 

Symphony of destruction

To create, one must destroy. This also is true for furniture.

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Throwback to me in a former dwelling in 2014, not sure why it suddenly came to mind. Anyway, on with the post…

I have, after a year of living in my house, found that I’m quite fond of having my afternoon nap on the sofa. While it’s a lovely sofa, it’s also just not quite long enough to sleep on comfortably. Originally, the length was determined by the proximity to the fireplace and a fear that a longer sofa would be a fire hazard. However, the heat from the fireplace is distributed differently than I expected, and I can safely move a step closer to the flames.

As I said, it’s a lovely sofa and I want to keep it, I only want to change it a bit. But I’ll need to take it apart first, and this is frightening. The good thing is that since I made the sofa myself, I know how it’s put together and I know that the different pieces are not merged so closely that they can’t be made into something new.

Taking something apart is just as much, if not more work than putting it together. At least if you want to be able to use the pieces again. It would have been much simpler just to tear the armrest off. Much, much simpler. Let me demonstrate with a series of pictures:

The rebuilding of one of my favorite parts of my house is only possible because the pieces are intact. I could, of course, have destroyed the former ones, gone out and bought new material and remade the whole thing but that would be just plain stupid. The point here is that destruction is not evil, it’s a needed part of life. Nothing static is alive.

From this perspective, it could be presumed that the current mass ecocide is not a great crisis in the greater picture, that perhaps this is just another turn of the wheel.

But there is a great difference between de-assembling and re-assembling building blocks and just trampling down everything like some great big hulking thing. Or worse, constructing things that are so melted down they cannot be taken apart and turned into something different.

And this is why the human destruction of the planet is a crisis. It’s not mere destruction, but a meltdown of the very building blocks. This is evidently clear in nuclear reactors or the invention of plastic, which I have ranted about before and which I elaborate on and link to ideas of immortality in modern interpretations of Norse religion in a closer look at Loke’s contribution to the death of Balder.

It can also be seen in the way they keep removing matter from the cycle of life, primarily their own bodies. When dead, humans destroy their bodies by pumping them full of poison or burning them and enclosing them in stone and in lead, or in more plastic. And then they poison everything that tries to make use of this much needed matter, the fungi and earthworm and scavenger. It may not seem as much, but is says a lot about how humans think of themselves, as the point and end of all things, as something on top of a pyramid, as the apex of creation. With this mindset, there will soon not be any more creation.

Humans aren’t just destroying, they’re depleting. And they’re doing it in the name of the good and just as well as greed. It is time to step into the circle once more and see the world around you not as something to conquer or consume, not even to protect, but as your next self.

Right, now I will go have a nap on my sofa. And then I will start to take apart my roof.

 

How to be vulnerable, part 2. Loneliness

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this is the strangest life I remember

I’m often asked if I don’t get lonely on my travels. And then I answer ‘no’, and the person asking the question usually hears ‘yes’, because they think they would be and cannot imagine any other possibility. A lot of people dreaming of taking a step to the side of society fears loneliness, as in being outside the herd. I’m not lonely on my travels, but I do get lonely on those occasions when I visit society. 

Loneliness is not something that happens when you’re alone. It’s contagious. It’s an open wound, a gaping, roaring chasm that, ironically connects all modern humans. Nothing brings us together more than our loneliness.

We think ourselves so alone that we look to other planets, even go as far as to communicating with or attempting to revive the dead for company.

We scrape together small groups of families and friends, and they might put a lid on the loneliness, but they can’t heal it. They might, if you’re very lucky, put such a lid on your loneliness that you can ignore it for as long as you live, apart from in those silent hours of dawn. And you will always be afraid that they will leave you or die. Which they will.

The usual way of dealing with this, when taking a step to the side, is to make yourself not want company. This is taught in several religious practices, such as Buddhism, and most western self-help pseudo religion. You learn a sort of smarmy detachment where you love and respect all as long as they don’t get too close. You either build a shield around you or you cut yourself off to such a degree that you think yourself beyond all emotional damage, eternal in your enlightened loneliness.

Western philosophy is infected with solipsism, the idea that we are all alone in our heads and that we can not know what other beings think or feel or if they even exist. This is shared by most of the people who have influenced our way of thinking and it’s utterly absurd. In some ways, they’re right of course. It’s difficult to put yourself into the mind of another, hence the confusion when people ask about my presumed loneliness. The flaw is to believe we exist in our minds and that it matters what or if anything else thinks.

In modern (by modern, I mean what has grown and gained traction for the past 5000 years or so) society there is loneliness embedded in the system. Civilization works by cutting people off from the world and from each other, teaching us to look to gods or leaders or rules for meaning and that if you simply exist, there’s something wrong with you, or you’re not living fully. 

For a lot of people, the markers of loneliness are formed by opportunities. Not what they have, but what they are told they can have, conversation, sex etc. Often it surprises people that none of these things make the loneliness go away when achieved.

The loneliness we have is from being severed from life and death. From ‘nature’ if you will. The word ‘nature’ itself shows how far this has gone. That we even have a word to separate us, make us lonely. Our language, while usually seen as a mean of forming connections, is full of more or less subtle ways and words for cutting us off. It doesn’t need to be though, as this article on the Irish language explores.

Nature is not the trees, it’s not a bird or a beetle. It’s everything that lives with and feeds on everything else. And to be civilized is to have your whiskers plucked out, tendrils severed so we can’t feel, we can’t notice the life that surround us. Even outside the hermetic houses we only get the vaguest sense of what’s there. We are existential cripples.

Or in other words, we’re lonely.

Rewilding means healing this as far as possible. In this context, with this in mind, it’s not dangerous to love. Or, to attach yourself to what seems fleeting and unsure. And you’re never alone. I do love. I do miss people that live where I grew up. I miss people I meet on my travels. I grieve when someone dies, and I have losses I will never get over. I can start to care about someone really quick and think about them often. But not being with them doesn’t mean that I’m lonely. Not as long as I get to be outside civilized society. Not as long as I can hear birds. I’m not afraid to love. But it does scare me how fast my new found senses deteriorates as soon as I step back into a city, or even an agricultured landscape. So why do I go back? Oh, for the company of those I care about of course. I’m nothing if not the embodiment of ambiguity.

Exploring the great indoors

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they’re mistletoe

I’m following a few groups online dedicated to various ways of forming a life beyond the ready-made one. It’s hardly a single thread that doesn’t in some way post the question ‘yes, but is it authentic?’

For everyone taking a step to the side of society, you’ll come across the question of authenticity. An expectation that your goal is and should be to be completely self-reliant and exist in a sort of feral snow globe.

For me, reducing the presence of modern housing facilities, like washing machines, coffee machines and basically most types of machines, is a choice of comfort and beauty, not driven primarily by a desire for a life seen as authentic or free.

The western idea of ‘free’ has come to mean detached and closed off, yet few people really feel at great liberty when they’re all alone and isolated. Quite the contrary.

It’s easy when lifting your gaze from the treadmill to get the idea that you should go off into the wild, that is, go outside our house, and aim to become one with whatever ecosystem you find yourself in. But the wild can be further away than you’d think. Not everything green is living, functioning nature.

As I drive and live and form different patterns of everyday life, sometimes completely outside modern facilities, sometimes on the outskirts of them, the borders of human habitation come into view. And the idea of the authentic emerges as something a part of, not apart from, modern society.

In groups of people longing away from cities, away from an oppressive society, there is a story, one of many, but a prominent one, about the free individual as someone who sleeps under the stars and own nothing, no possessions, no obligations, no attachments. But this form of living requires a large habitat where you have the means to find what you need, and this kind of nature is inaccessible to most as it’s regulated or built on, overpopulated,  poisoned or eradicated by industry. Most people who are homeless are far from free, and have no access to alternative ecosystems beyond the urban one, that relies greatly on houses to shelter humans from the ugliness, dangers and diseases caused by urbanization.

While I do wish for a greater insight into what I actually need and how to find it, it’s interaction I seek, not the idea of independence. Dependence is to me a reduced means of interaction, and freedom an expanded interaction with your surroundings. But to urbanized humans, they link interaction to communication with what they see as sentient, not co-existing with physical, living creatures.

I think for a lot of people it’s this interaction with a world beyond the one defined and fenced off that is meant by ‘real’. There is very little language to explain why, very few stories. But it’s the amount of possibilities, the greater network of creatures interacting, that increases freedom and approximates the idea of ‘real’.

Also, most animals will have some form of nest, den, sett, or form of living quarters. They don’t just sleep where they stand. If healthy, they will spend great parts of the day keeping themselves and their dwelling clean, beautiful and comfortable. If ill, they will ignore their grooming or in some cases, overdo it, washing away all their fur if stressed.

A house need not be any more unnatural than an ant hill, but the lengths humans have gone to in order to simultaneously expand and remove themselves from their habitat is absurd. And disruptive to anything living, including humans themselves.

In western society the house has become something like a religious matter. It is seen as a micro cosmos in itself. In many cases, as a reflection or expression of the dweller, their innermost self, their soul.

I like having beautiful and meaningful things to look at. I want my house to be a wunderkammer, a place for magic and dreams.  It’s also a physical place to sleep warm and soft, to read without having the wind carry my books away, to cook without being invaded by over eager insects. I don’t however, want to be trapped, or have other things trapped in it.

The house, the dwelling, is only one small part of the whole habitat. The whole habitat of any creature will include the space to find food, find company, having an array of plants, predators, bacteria, the ecosystem, if you will. All the things the body interacts with.

I will explore the vast, strange world of the habitat in my next post.

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a slightly more permanent glimpse of the strange

ps. I made it beyond the London vortex, with help from my counter part, which is the only way to cross a maelstrom.

The place of dead roads

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It seemed more fun when Burroughs wrote about it.

I said that I would return to matters of life and death, and now I am. I have reached the place of dead roads. The map, inner or outer, no longer works.  I’m still hovering on the outskirts of the London cancer, wondering how to cross.

Not only are the roads physically broken by potholes and cracked concrete, blocked by constant accidents and aimless digging, but the very network of roads in this place is broken, or never worked. It is increasingly clear that the roads here were all forced upon the land and the land and rivers and lines themselves tampered with to fit human needs.

Also, the inner map and navigation system is out of function. The goals and destinations I had in mind either don’t exist or has ceased to carry meaning. The reason for this is to be found in stories.

The more I travel, and the more I move to the outskirts of mind, body and civilization, there are two narratives, two mental threads, or roads, that emerge.

One is the story of the individual immortality. Unlike Burroughs, I can’t accept the way gods and the soul is presented to us. In all the stories we know, the individual has a body that perishes and a soul that is, or has the capacity to move on to, something everlasting. Often there are gods involved. Either to hinder the process, to further it, or as something to merge with at the end of the journey.

In some narratives, the body, or a representation of it, follows the soul, recreating an image of the person. In some, the soul is moved on to another being, but usually as a whole, self-contained set of memories and ideas.

What is however becoming increasingly clear in the world, is that in the attempt to reach longevity or individual immortality, humans have ruined their hope to survive, in any form. They have eaten up the earth and taken away the matter of their bodies, removed it from the cycle to be re-used. They have killed almost all other beings to make room for their offspring, their self-images. In their ideas of gods, human shaped or abstracted, they have removed themselves from the cycle of life and death.

There are, of course, images, ideas and stories about the circle, but always tainted with the implication that the human spirit is different, better in a way.  And while people can read and understand words about becoming one with nature, we have no real stories for it, and therefor we can’t understand what it means. The closest I can think of are Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and they don’t really cover it.

Also, those that denounce the spirit, do so in everything, because to them, if humans can’t have a soul, nothing can.

I like living as much as the next squirrel, eel or badger, I enjoy having a body.  I’m rather attached to it. But the body is made of matter, of cells. They come from something, from somewhere. From what you eat and drink and breathe. All human practice surrounding life and death has been an attempt of closing these cells off, hindering them to go back to the earth. To encapsulate them in stone, to freeze them in space and time, to burn them before the fungi and earthworm get to take back what we have borrowed. Because we do borrow all our matter from the earth. Not from your parents or children, not other humans, not some god. From nature. From everything that we construct ourselves of.

We are told that the pyramids are great achievements, that human immortality is a good and great goal and it isn’t. It’s a horror. It has always been and can only be a horror.

And all the things we are told to want are somehow linked up to this. Every item, every garden, everything constructed or spun as a story. Everything we think we know and think we want. The whole idea of self fulfillment, contrasted to being ruled over by gods or humans and given as the only option to this, gives rise to dreams and images that can only be sterile still life. We think of the scavenger and of rot as something vile, but it’s our only way to reach anything close to immortality. To be part of life and death once more. Your roads are broken because your stories are broken.

Human civilization holds nothing for me and the wild, the real, the world that balances itself, is temporarily ruined. And human tampering with it only makes matters worse, because it is done with the same, broken stories as guidelines.

To possibly slightly twist the meaning of the words of Poe; The play is the tragedy man and the hero the conqueror worm.

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Coming up: The need for a new apocalypse.