This is not another update on a recent breakdown I had with my camper, nor a story from a successful talk I gave at some University. This is my personal insight after 25 States, and 10 and a half months of life on the road!
As I began moving west, crossing the Texas-New Mexico border, the somewhat flat, undisturbed land that characterize most parts of the Eastern half of this country, suddenly change and the sierra (more commonly known as the Rocky Mountains), spread before me.
Some 80 million years ago, a tectonic plate shift helped form the American Cordillera, a mountain range stretching from the Alaska Range in the north, to the Mexican Baja California Peninsula in the south, and allowing me, a tiny, insignificant creature, living on the face of this earth for nothing but a blip of a second in a cosmic perspective, to enjoy some of this planet’s most spectacular views by the age of 30.
Views like the majestic sunset in Sedona Arizona, as its sandstone monuments appear to glow in a brilliant orange and red, as the illuminating sun disappeared in the west.
Sights such as the famous Horseshoe Bend, a canyon wall shaping the Colorado river in such a way that makes you question whether your eyes are actually seeing it, or did someone slip some LSD drops in your water, because your brain just can’t seem to interpret this much concentrated beauty all at once.
Or even just watching the entire Zion National Park from Angel’s Landing, after an hour and twenty minutes, and some 1,500 feet elevation hike, when the view that unfolds before you as you reach the summit, looks more like a scene from Jurassic Park, than an actual place in the United States of America.
I often pinch myself, just to be absolutely sure that this is not a lucid dream, or ask Danielle (who returned to the journey, and I’ll probably elaborate on it in a different letter), how does she envision Heaven, because for me, this right here is it.
But something about this divine experience, something about this continuous state of bliss I’m in, something about the surreal journey I’m going through, is in complete contradiction to the way society expects us to live our lives.
A society that teaches us to be obedient creatures and follow the herd. We should go to school, then grad school, then get a master’s degree, just so we can become better employees, and hopefully earn that desired six-figure salary, so then we’ll be qualified for an absurd mortgage, on a much-bigger-than-needed house, right next to the Joneses.
And so what if we fucking hate the Joneses and everyone in this cookie-cutter neighborhood, who are just too Goddamn busy acting and pretending to be who they’re not. This is what society says we *Should* do!
See, according to this logic, I’m a complete failure!
As a teenager, instead of being in the classroom preparing for finals, I spent most of the day at Gordon beach in Tel-Aviv, playing Footvolley, flirting with older women, smoking pot and exploring sexuality at the prime of my adolescence.
I didn’t go to college or university and my official level of education is barely a high-school one. I didn’t serve at an elite intelligence unite. I don’t know how to code. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in my bank account there’s currently less than $1,000.
Why I’m sharing with you all of this?! Well, it’s not for your condolences or gestures of empathy if that’s what you’re thinking, I’m a truly free and genuinely happy man!
I am sharing with you this information to emphasis just how broken our logic, as a capitalistic, Western society in the 21st century, really is.
As I’m reaching the halfway point of this journey, with 25 States under my belt, I’ve had the great fortune of spending some time with dozens of wonderful people who welcomed me into their houses and hosted me with much love and kindness in their homes.
I got to be that fly on the wall in so many types of homes, and all levels of income. From very low income people, to the middle and upper-middle class, to millionaires and even 0.1 percenters who live in luxury and splendor I’ve never seen before. I was there! Seeing not what it looks like from the outside, but for what it really is.
And as God as my witness, none of them, and I mean NONE OF THEM, got me thinking even once “Oh man, I wish I was in their shoes”.
There’s a famous letter Benjamin Franklin wrote to Peter Collinson in 1753 during the time of clashes between the European Colonials and the Native Americans.
Franklin was puzzled by the fact that though all the Native American captives were thrilled to go back to their native tribes during an exchange of prisoners, there was a substantial amount of European captives who were held by the Native Americans, that didn’t want to go back home, and in some cases, even fought against it and begged to stay!
Here’s what one of the Founding Fathers of this country wrote to his distinguished British friend –
“When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and makes one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return. [But] when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good opportunity of escaping again into the woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them.”
You see, Franklin’s presumptuous (and I should say, it was a reflection of the entire European colonialist) way of thinking, just couldn’t fathom the fact that one would give up on all the comforts and luxuries of life, the European settlers brought with them, in exchange for the rural, tribal, commune (some might say barbaric) Native Americans way of living.
In this journey, more often than not, I felt like that little Native American kid who sees the comforts of the West, but can’t wait to escape it all and go back to the woods (or in my case, my 82′ deteriorating Winnebago camper).
But what’s even more surprising is that on the other hand, almost all those people, from the average to the mega wealthy, were envious of me and my way of living (and even my earthly problems).
So why is it then, that we strive to own and possess so much when that’s not where our happiness comes from (or worse, it’s where it dissolves).
I don’t know, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers to life’s biggest mysteries, I’m just a storyteller who shares with the world how he sees life.
What I do know though, is that long after this journey will reach its end, whenever I might find myself contemplating the vanities of this world, this letter would be my reminder that money does not equal freedom.
And if the first words on this blank paper were written at the foot of one of America’s most beautiful National Parks, following a week of outdoors and nature activities which inspired me to write this piece, like every great symphony Finale, it is only appropriate that I’ll finish this wordle concert at a Starbucks, right off the main strip of “Sin City” Las Vegas.