Discover more from Poetic Outlaws
By: Erik Rittenberry
Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought.
I awake to the ethereal wind singing in the trees. The morning sky, the color of ashe overhead as I roll my aching body out of the tent. The grass is damp on my bare feet. My body worn and ragged from yesterday's 18 mile trek through the forest. I strip naked and gently wade into the cold lake. The ripples of the still water disperse as the sun emerges from the night. I let the golden rays blast my face as I dry off and sip black coffee in silence thinking about the great poets, mystics, and wanderers of the past. The ancients, the romantics, the transcendentalists, the beats. The words of Gary Snyder crop up from the depths, “Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.” It was said that the English poet William Wordsworth sauntered close to two hundred thousand miles during his lifetime. The unrivaled romantic poet would venture off on foot to landscapes unknown, sometimes with his sister Dorothy, sometimes alone, with a rucksack of writing utensils and notepads, drunk on the nectar of nature, his senses heightened, capturing the poetry of existence. I wandered as lonely as the cloud That floats on high o’er valleys and hills. Just two years after the American Civil War, John Muir embarked on a thousand mile impromptu walk from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico. It was this wild, transformative journey that fueled his devotion to nature, entirely changing the course of his life. The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. In 1878, the Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, took up a 12 day 120 mile trek alone with his stubborn donkey through the vast, diverse landscape of the Cévennes mountains in south-central France. With no marked trails for guidance, he journeyed through rocky terrain and pine forests and grassy meadows with little more than a sheepskin-lined sleeping bag stuffed with bottles of wine, chocolate, books, and coffee. For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more clearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints. Ah yes, we still have it in us, don’t we? The metaphysical grit it takes to reawaken the primitive within? To emancipate ourselves from the unbreathable world of modernity, to finally say YES to the neglected murmurs of the blood. To let the ancient wind relinquish the useless urge to know, and to keep the poetic fire forever raging in the chest. To depart from the steel and asphalt of the status quo, the futility of busyness and the cozy cage of so-called success. To live out the secret life of the imagination, to live in the NOW in full celebration of the flesh and spirit, to break from the lower domains of rational and discursive knowledge in search of the higher realms of unitive experience. It was Nicolas Berdyaev who reminded us: Freedom from "the world" is union with the true world, the cosmos. Thus to go out of oneself is to find oneself, one's true centre... Ah, yes… to be enriched with little, to need almost nothing, to triumph in solitude, to evade, at all costs, the desperate, fear-ridden state of the contemporary flesh, those rancorous children of the profane, glutted to bone with benign comforts and bloodless conveniences, their minds riddled with dogmatic theories and concepts, their spirits completely severed from the soil it came out of. We still have it in us, don’t we? You and I? Deep down we all harbor a wayward inclination to take on that rugged journey to the sublime, to revel in the immortal awareness that lies beyond space and time. The earth yearns for a radical elevation of our stifled consciousness, the courage, once again, to live dangerously, to move into the unknown, to become a transcendental drifter like Wordsworth or Jesus or Matsuo Basho. To live in the purity of your own light, to live beyond all understanding, a treasonous life bound to no creed or convention, to live as a renunciation of the well-worn path. To be a metaphysical outlaw who treads lightly upon this war-torn planet, to shun the mask of social pretenses and untangle the mind from all ideals and ideologies. To do the “heart-work on the images imprisoned within.” To be a spiritual lunatic forever in exile in search of a new dawn, roaming and roaring like a wild-eyed vagabond beneath the unconcerned skies, to sit and sip jugs of red wine like the ancient Chinese poet Li Po, carefree in a wildflower meadow beneath the elm trees on blue sky afternoons, to “drown away the woes of ten thousand generation!”, to bathe ourselves in the wild mysteries of the earth, away from masquerade of the political world, away from society’s lies of what it means to BE to BE to BE… Ah, yes, to BE, to Be like Thoreau and Whitman, to commune with nothing but the universal soul of the here and now, the OVERSOUL, “the wise silence” that slithers throughout the ether, and come to discover, once again, the hidden source of the stream of who we are. Oh, wandering One, if you are in search of the greatest treasure, don't look outside. Look within, and seek That.
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