5/12/2005

What a relief

My wife and I dream of escape. "Wouldn't it be nice to live out of the city in a place with land where the noise would be less, there wouldn't be the demands of the city etc. etc." I'm sure some of you out there have had similar thoughts. I know that we are supposed to live in the world, anything else is a denial of existence, and running away doesn't solve anything. But is leaving the city life running away? Why is choosing an alternative way of living considered not living "in the world." If I decide I no longer want to deal with the noise and crap associated with the city it doesn't make me any less involved. Achieving isolation in this day and age would take an inordinate amount of work. I suppose its theoretically possible, but how many places are there where its not possible to intrude. Just think if you managed to get there how unlikely is it that someone else won't follow. Once there's more then two the first MacDonald' can't be far behind. So-called civilization is everywhere so to think of running away, save through a coma or lobotomy(tempting on occasion), is a bit of a farce. Even those who have retreated into convents or monasteries aren't escaping the world, they are just dealing with it from a very singular point of view. The truly spiritual person in retreat believes they are working for the betterment of all through their devotion, and that commitment expresses an attachment that view of us could hope to emulate. I could be living in a cabin in the woods and still be writing these pieces, still be using the medical system that supports me in times of illness, buying essentials in the same consumer marketplace that everybody else uses, and paying taxes. But it would be the way in which I choose to relate to the world which would be the escape. Instead of letting the world dictate reactions, traffic noise, neighbour noise, street violence etc., responsibility would fall directly on the individual for all responses. Anger, sadness, and other emotions would come from within, or from interpersonal relationships not from extraneous stimulations. Its easy to imagine an idyllic situation where in there is the freedom to be what and who you truly are without compromise. The thing is that when faced with that choice how many would truly be willing, or in fact, are able to follow through on surrendering the convenience of having excuses for our behaviour? Its easy to justify being angry when there are plenty of reasons every day to raise your ire. Living surrounded by distractions gives you built in excuses for not reaching your goals or daring to live out your dreams. "If only I had a little peace and quiet I could...." Is the most often used excuse in contemporary life for not accomplishing those things that are supposedly dear to you. But what happens if your find yourself with all kinds of time, and little or no distractions? Believe me there's always something if you really look hard enough that can justify anything. For the last three years I've been unable to work because of a chronic pain condition. For the last two of those years I've been receiving a disability pension from the province of Ontario. This would appear to be ideal circumstances for achieving my goal of writing a novel. But it took me almost all this time to simply work up the nerve to take responsibility for doing the work. Some of the reasons were legitamet, I am disabled and it is difficult to focus through the pain on occasion, my wife is not well and we had things we needed to do to ensure her sanity and well being, but it always seemed there was something. It's easy to come up with excuses when living surrounded by others, you can just blame it on them, its too noisy, they've pissed me off too much, and so on. Ten years ago I volunteered to teach theatre at a day camp that was situated on a camp site. I was given a spot to set up a tent, and free board for the duration of the summer. I had two glorious months of living by myself in a tent, isolated from the majority of humans for a good chunk of time. I had to rely on myself for everything. If I wanted coffee in the morning, I had better have gathered enough wood the night before so that I could build a fire no matter what the conditions. There was no one to blame but myself if it didn't happen. I've since realized how fortunate I was to have had that experience. It taught me more about taking responsibility for my actions then a ton of self help books or years of therapy. The unfortunate draw back is that I get disappointed quickly, or fail to understand how, others don't show the same independence. The last time I mentioned to my wife that it would be nice to have a place where we could take people who we knew away from the difficulties of living in the city, her answer caught me by surprise. She said you'd be surprised how few people would actually go through with it. People don't want to surrender their excuses, or by implication take responsibility for their feelings and actions. They need the distractions of the city in order to continue the pattern of their life in a way that's comfortable to them. People have become accustomed to passivity. They don't like taking the initiative, they would rather simply react to situations. Whether sitting staring at the television being spoon fed entertainment, or responding to the stimuli of city life, they don't have to be responsible for anything. The new age philosophies that tell you how to behave, dress, what foods to eat, etc., so you don't have to make any decisions are simply an extendtion of this mind set. It's far easier to have some guardian angel telling you what to do then actually make up your own mind. The next time someone accuses you of running away from the problems of the world when you suggest moving out of the city, or that by doing somehow is shirking responsibility, ask them exactly what responsibility they are so worried about. Personally I think the more people who are responsible for their own actions the better. cheers gypsyman

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