Friday, December 18, 2009

Being back now for almost 4 months, it is still hard to adjust

I read a really nice interview called Nothing to Lose But Our Illusions.

I think what I liked about it is that it is another voice that echos my experience of leaving my job to hike the PCT two summers in a row. He quit his job to do different things, but his thoughts are similar to mine.

He writes about our way of life:
the death of the planet is symptomatic of a deeper, institutionalized subordination of all life-including human life-to profit
Back when I was working full-time and making a lot of money, I suddenly woke up one day and realized that my entire life, my time—which is the only thing I truly own—had become completely subordinated to helping others profit and get rich. Sure, I was making decent money, but it stopped feeling like it was worth trading my time away for it. I would climb into bed each night shocked that another day of my life had passed by with no memories made, no experiences had. Sometimes I would catch myself wondering if it was Spring or Fall, what day of the week, what month of the year, even what year it was. Even though my job and the work of the company itself seemed relatively benign, my time and energies were supporting a huge machine that is devouring the planet and killing all of us. I couldn't do it anymore.

So, I quit and went hiking. While hiking, I realized the same thing that the man in the interview realized after he quit his job and started living simply:
Once you start to see through the myth of status, possessions, and unlimited consumption as a path to happiness, you'll find that you have all kinds of freedom and time. It's like a deal you can make with the universe: I'll give up greed for freedom. Then you can start putting your time to good use.
The beauty of the hike was that the less possessions I had the happier I was. I could feel deep inside that being a part of nature was like coming home. It no longer mattered out there if I wore fashionable clothes or even if I impressed people with my gear. I could just be me and speak the truth and talk softly.
So don't ask yourself what people want. Ask instead, What is true? What really inspires me, excites me? What will really help people and take away their confusion and suffering? It's sort of a funny, crazy way to go, but I think it's the only way to bring water to the wasteland Joseph Campbell described. When I read something truthful, something real, I breathe a deep sigh and say, "Fantastic-I wasn't mad or alone in thinking that, after all!" So often we are left to our own devices, struggling in the dark with this external and internal propaganda system. At that point, for someone to tell us the truth is a gift. In a world where people all around us are lying and confusing us, to be honest is a great kindness.
It is difficult to be back from the PCT and know that I'm not going back. There is pressure to rejoin the system and commit to it permanently. I risk being rejected and alone if I don't conform. I feel conflicted between the truth that I learned out there and the fake world that I've returned to. According to the interview, telling the truth about this is helpful because it helps others not feel so alone. Hopefully someone out there reading this will feel less alone if my words have rung true for them.


  1. Hello Piper,
    Interesting reading your comments. For various reasons I don't think anyone who has experienced the PCT or possibly any long distance trail is ever quite the same afterwards. Not least because it actively brings home the realisation of how little extraneous 'material' possessions really contribute to contentedness. The experience convinced me to take early retirement and pursue a more enjoyable (if less affluent) lifestyle. Something I've not regretted. Four months of 'withdrawal' is not long - it's been years since my through hike of the PCT and there is still part of me wistfully lurking along that trail!
    My only regret is that even though I live in a great 'outdoor' country, it doesn't have the PCT :^)
    Good luck and Seasonal Greetings!
    George S.

  2. Thank you for your comments, George. I have sort of semi-retired. Maybe it isn't quite fair that I have since I am now somewhat dependent on another person.

    I work only part time now. If The Man were to kick me out, then I would live portably and continue to work part time rather than rejoin the rat race. I have no desire for affluence, for plasma TVs and fancy cars. Nor even for money enough to have a name-brand prescription drug retirement.

    If a full time job came around that I felt a strong burning desire to trade my freedom for, I would do it. But at this time, only 4 months home, I don't feel any such desire.