“There’s nothing else to do but write. No job to work, no woman to marry, no reason to settle down. I see no meaning to it all anymore. There is nothing else to do but write. So here I am typing on these keys, and walking down those streets, and staring at the things that pass me by: the faces that tell a story, the dogs staring into space, the sadness and the madness of the suburban universe. I stare at it all and try to make sense of what it is to be human, to be here on this earth, and to try to get by in whatever way you can. I try to understand this all before dying so I can put it into words that might mean something to someone somewhere. This is what I have chosen. This sickness. This insanity. I was not gifted with many things. Hell, I’m not even too good of a writer. But at least it’s something that feels inherently right. And I believe that feeling is the beginning of doing something that makes your life one worth living. To find what comes naturally and throw yourself into doing it completely. To find what makes you feel as if the whole universe is working in harmony the moment you’re doing it. Surfboards and keyboards. Dancing and singing. Sex and love. These are the things. This is the secret. Like others before me, I am a devotee to the rivers of passion running through me, letting them carry me along, moving ever forward to the lands of some divine light.”
“For most human-beings there is no greater spiritual pain than a life devoid of substance and meaning, but if you are willing to do the inner work and have the courage to follow your heart, then one day you’re going to find that thing that sets your soul on fire; the thing that leaves you feeling like you can march against a million armies, and sail the stormiest seas, and climb the deadliest mountains. There is no gift greater than this, and a person who is deeply in touch with their own existential core is surely the person who gets the most out of this life. Unfortunately we are currently living in a society where many are made strangers to themselves – whose morning mirrors show them every day drifting ever further away from the shores of their own souls. This is the fate that befalls so many in the modern world and right now through television, consumerism, social media, drugs and alcohol, we are seeing so many people self-medicating on vices which help them escape from the existential emptiness of disconnected lives. It is an ever-growing reality and to be able to truly live in this day and age, one must be able to do the inner work; to light the torches of self-discovery, to venture wide-eyed into the unexplored areas within themselves, and find the thing that fills their veins with purpose and desire. On the path to a fulfilled and meaningful life, nothing is more important than this. A person who has enlightened every corner of their being, who has found their inner treasure and knows how to yield it while aligning themselves in with the totality of it all, becomes a person of incredible power in a society that seeks to suppress this very state of being. They become wild-eyed creatures of purpose and passion. They become healers of a lost generation. They become empowered, awakened, emboldened, alive. Sometimes they even become unstoppable.”
~ The Wanderers ~
“Everything in this culture is designed around ushering us all toward the life of schedule and routine. First comes school, then comes career, then marriage, then kids, home-ownership, and – eventually – retirement. Make no mistake about it, the system is set up meticulously to usher everyone into this one formulaic mould. But what if your fingers fidget for something else? What if your heart longs for freedom? What if – for some reason you struggle to articulate to friends and family – you find that every ounce of your body rejects this conventional way of life? If this is the case and you find yourself out of odds with absolutely everything, then don’t worry – you are not alone and you are not crazy. Maybe the coworkers and relatives will never understand, but we sure as hell do. So keep a look out for us, and we’ll look out for you too.
Wherever you go, whatever you do: look out for the ones looking wistfully into the skies, for the ones embracing the touch of the rain, for the ones delighting in the sound of silence and dancing out of place. We are out there and we are the wanderers; we are the misfits and outcasts; the adventurers and dreamers. You will not find us in immaculately groomed houses, or in trendy shopping malls, or expensive bars and restaurants. In fact, you will not find us in one place for too long at all actually. No, we are the ones you find beyond the borders, the ones you find away from the crowds – the ones you find on the sunset beaches and mountain paths and peaceful forests. Our nature is awkward and unpredictable; our spirit is rough and uncombed. We are slightly deranged and a mystery to ourselves, but we are sure of some things. We are sure that we do not seek status and security, but freedom and adventure. We are sure that we don’t live life to others’ expectations, but to the flow of our hearts and passions. We are sure that we do not wish to possess, but to cultivate and appreciate. Such a state of being means we usually walk alone, but if you keep an eye out you will be sure to see us occasionally. From the mountain peaks to the concrete jungles: we are out there roaming; we are out there exploring. And we’re destined never to belong to one place. Because we are haunted by the horizons; we are bewitched by the stars. We are rugged and restless, wild and reckless, lost and found.
We are the wanderers.”
~ To See Things Become Sane ~
“Peace and happiness came to me at times; I knew it was always there, like the blue sky behind the clouds. No matter how bad the storm got and how much the rain drenched me, I felt that it was a passing thing; that underlying at the core of the universe was this eternal state of bliss. And often I looked at the rivers flowing, and the birds singing, and the sunlight shimmering upon the water’s surface. I could feel it in my bones that I was a part of something magical and beautiful, and I didn’t need to stuff it into a box and label it as a god; I could walk the paths and the woods and know that I was connected to everything at a fundamental level. No words or concepts were necessary. I was walking divinity, and the people who passed me also were. Their eyes gleamed like diamonds; their skin shone like sunlight. Each and every one of us was a work of the whole cosmos, a piece of poetry in motion. And yet it made me sad how few realised this. So many out there were marginalised and disempowered by their cultures. They were constantly made to feel they weren’t good enough. They compared themselves to others; they numbed themselves with pills; they missed the beauty of life while stressing about trivial things. These mental bubbles we lived in clouded our vision from the obvious reality that was unfolding. And maybe it was the shamanic side of me, but I couldn’t help but want to stop people and remind them that they are the entire universe in motion. To shake them awake and see their eyes light up like dawn skies and their minds become as clear as fresh mountain snow. To see things become normal. To see things become sane.”
~ In Between Places ~
Living in a hostel in my own country, I had become one of those strange ones who was a drifter in their own ‘home’. There was no way around it when people asked what I was doing; I was without a job, without a place to stay, without a woman, a car, and any real sort of life plan. I was floating in the existential breeze, a modern-day drifter, and no matter how clean my clothes were, people still stared at me like I was a bum when they found out my circumstance. I guess in reality that was the truth these days. After all, I had just spent the last couple of weeks drifting around the country on a bicycle – my few belongings crammed into a couple of flimsy pannier bags while staying in random hostels along the way. On top of that, I had quit two jobs and lived in three cities within the space of nine months. I was out living on the edge and it was a strange feeling because, although I had a decent amount of savings in my bank account, I still felt as though I wasn’t far from being completely in the gutter altogether. I guess that was just the anxiety speaking.
The time spent doing nothing allowed me to reflect a lot on what the next chapter of my life would entail. It seemed the coronavirus crisis had put an end to any international backpacking desires – that world was at least a year away from recovering to its former self. The best thing I decided for me was to get my own place and wait it all out, try and get some words down on paper and some miles down on the bike to maintain whatever sanity I had left. I began searching for a place and quickly found out I was no longer worthy to pay overpriced rent to landlords. Most house shares and apartments demanded ‘PROFESSIONALS ONLY’, as well as proof of income, three month’s bank statements and references – none of which I was duly able to provide. I quickly realised that, even with those savings in my account, I was not able to integrate myself so smoothly into human society. So in that hostel I dwelled, perpetually extending my stay every couple of days, telling people I was looking for a place and was just there temporarily whenever they enquired about my living circumstances.
It seemed I wasn’t alone in being in between places. Another woman in her fifties was staying at the hostel in the week while working as a nurse, before going back to stay at her mum’s on the weekend. Then there was the Brazilian guy working there after leaving his family behind in Brazil. Then there were the people from the council who were put there temporarily while searching for housing. That’s not to forget the Chinese girl waiting to see if her visa was granted so she could stay in the country. All in all, it was a random collection of vagrant characters, and it made me feel slightly at home to be around people whose days and weeks were not scheduled or planned to any civilised degree. At night, we sat in the kitchen and chatted away while the world of society went on outside. The hostel was on top of a hill and I stared out the window and saw the lights of the city shimmer below: settled people in their settled lives, going through the roundabout of their routine existence’. Did I want to be like them? At the moment, for the first time in my life, I felt like I did, but I knew I’d also be feeling lost after a couple of weeks in that life too. No doubt the problem wasn’t my circumstance, but myself (as usual).
My days continued to meander on in the city of Sheffield. I took myself out hiking and cycling in the peak district. I saw some friends and drank some beer. I soon got to the point where I had no motivation to even look for a place to stay and entered into some sort of passive, detached state. I sat in parks and stared into space for hours. I aimlessly drifted down the city streets, deciding at the last second where to turn. One day that random route took me into a rundown bar in a rough neighbourhood. I sat down beside the bar and drank a beer when a guy I had met on a medical trial the year before walked in. We started catching up and I soon realised my situation wasn’t so bad. He confessed to me his drinking and gambling problems, and the fact he had spent a grand in the last five days, as well as his frequent visits to the local brothel. Maybe I had no direction, but at least I wasn’t that low, although the bottle was tempting me more and more. I tried to stay away from drinking heavily to help keep my mind clear, but pretty soon I was back at it with people in the hostel, stumbling to the pub with my comrades of the rootless life. I guess there was no way around it. I needed it there and then to help alleviate the anxiety of my situation.
I continued to look at the options I had and felt no desire toward any of them. A couple of years ago, I would have got on a plane to anywhere that I could afford. But now, something in me had seemingly changed. I was in between places physically and mentally. There was no clear thought process; everything was hazy and it was like reaching the peak of my entire existential journey through life. I was drifting in a smoky mist, expecting to see the sight of a lighthouse somewhere in the distance to help direct me towards the shores of belonging. But the reality was that the shoreline was never going to come. I was a lost sailor out on the ocean of human existence, and for now the fog was thicker than ever – my mind in a state of frozen helplessness. I think many people experience this in their lives at some point, but for me this seemed to be my eternal state. The state of being in between places. The state of feeling lost. The state of total non-belonging to the world around me.
Some more days drifted by and I eventually managed to get some viewings for places to live. I had decided Sheffield wasn’t the city for me and that it would be better to retreat back to Nottingham – the city I had lived in previously before the coronavirus had forced me to move back with my parents. I arrived at the viewing and was shown around the property by the landlady. It was an old Victorian house on a quiet street, occupied with two other tenants – a Spanish bartender and an old sound engineer who lived in a hut at the bottom of the garden. After introducing me to them, she showed me up to my room in the attic conversion. “The previous tenant was a woman who lived here for eleven years,” she said as we entered. “She was an alcoholic and didn’t look after the room too well, so I’ve cleaned it all out and redone it completely.” At that moment I looked around the room and imagined that woman being myself; someone who had stumbled in there one day while unsure what to do with her life, and had ended up dwelling there for over a decade while enslaved to the bottle. It was a grim thought and I looked at the bed in the corner. I looked at the old desk beside the window. The sight of it all made me feel uneasy. There was an aura of sadness and I imagined my months and years passing by between the walls of that small room. I imagined lying on the bed and staring at the ceiling as the fire inside me finally died out. I wanted to run far away from it, but there was nowhere to run to anymore. It was either this, or back to the hostel, or back home to live with my parents. Seemingly, I had been cornered by life.
After the viewing, I went to a park I knew and lay there in the grass. It was a hot September day and the park was full of groups of people, all relaxing and laughing; drinking and playing sports together. It was the same park I had visited frequently the last time I lived there. I walked through it and sat down in my usual spot – a patch of grass beside a tree on the back of the field. Deja vu struck as I beheld that familiar sight, and it seemed I had gotten absolutely nowhere since the last time I sat there. In fact, I had even gone backwards. I had even less direction than usual and I didn’t know whether to take the room. I didn’t know whether to book a flight to some far-off country. I didn’t know anything and I just sat there like a statue frozen in time. Perhaps the future would hold something better for me, I thought; something where I at least felt a connection to what I was doing, but for now I was directionless, passionless and devoid of any real zest for life. Questions about what I was doing with my life would have to be avoided and deflected. I was in survival mode; just holding on until the fog in my mind cleared and some basic way forward was revealed. This was it. There was no great wisdom or revelation like in past times. My guts had gone; my burning desire for life extinguished. There was nothing left to do and, with that, I laid down on the grass, looked up at the sky and closed my eyes – hoping my dreams at least could save me from the reality of life.
~ Seriously, What’s the Point? ~
“Seriously, what’s the point?”
“The point to what?” I asked.
“Life, of course.” She rolled her eyes. “All I’m doing is working, eating and sleeping – just struggling to get by and survive. It all seems so meaningless. When am I actually going to live?” I paused for a second, trying to think of a helpful response.
“Maybe you need a change of environment,” I suggested. “Or perhaps to go on an adventure?”
“Adventures cost money,” she said. “And what little I have I need to keep a roof over my head.”
“There are ways to do it,” I told her. “I’ve never had a lot of money, or a good-paying job, but I’ve found ways to get out and see a bit of the world.”
“That’s because you do those medical trials,” she snapped. “I don’t want to do that. And besides, I’m getting too old to travel now. All my friends are starting to buy houses and start families. I’ll fall behind if I go bum around in a foreign country now. I’m almost thirty, you know?”
“So?” I snapped back. “You need to stop caring what people think. You say you want to really live so open your mind and explore something new. Who’s to say a little adventure won’t give you a new perspective on life? There is more to life than just ticking boxes and trying to fit in with the crowd.”
“Is there? You went out and travelled the world, but yet here you are back home seeming unhappy with your situation once again. Face it: the best thing one can do is just find someone you can tolerate and settle down and maybe go on a nice holiday every now and again while trying to not go insane. Those who do anything else usually end up homeless or something.” This time it was me rolling the eyes.
“You are looking at those people and thinking they have ‘arrived’ or something because they have the classic components of a ‘normal life’. In reality, many of them feel just as lost and confused as you, if not more so because they are trapped by contracts and commitments. Maybe they are looking at you and wishing they had the freedom and lack of responsibilities you have? The grass is always greener on the other side. Don’t be fooled. Create your own reality. Write your own story.” She shook her head with a look of annoyance. I could see she was reaching the end of her tether.
“You know what, you give all this advice but look at you: you’re almost thirty and you have never had a proper job, you live in a flatshare with people you don’t like, and you don’t even know how to drive. I don’t think I’ll be taking advice off you, thank you very much.” An awkward silence fell over us for a few seconds before she looked away. I opened my mouth to say something but decided against it. The conversation was beyond saving and I walked off to leave her alone with her thoughts.
I should have just brushed her frustrated comments aside, but her words stayed with me for the rest of the day. I thought I had some wisdom about life, but maybe she was right and I really was just a no-hoper that no one should have taken advice from. I guess I was a bit of a loser by society’s standards. I was quickly approaching the age of thirty and had never had a ‘proper job’ (whatever the hell that meant), a girlfriend, a car, my own place or even an Instagram profile with a load of pictures of myself on a beach in Dubai. I was now at the stage where I was clearly ageing too. I looked in the mirror and saw the hairs on my head begin to grey, as well as the first wrinkles start to make their mark across my forehead. Apparently I was now an official adult, fully grown, but with absolutely none of the things that were expected of me at this age. I guess I had at least seen a bit of the world and climbed a few mountains, and done things many only dreamt they could do, but how much further could I really take it? Maybe my current method of living was not one that was sustainable past your twenties, and that I was just going to end up homeless like my friend suggested. The thought of it all made me also think: seriously, what’s the point?
The point to our lives? The point to our paths? The point to our struggles and trials and battles? It just seemed that it was an endless fight. No matter how far you had come or what position you were in – whether you were poor or rich, famous or obscure; whether you were in a relationship or single; whether you were young or old or good-looking or bad-looking – the one thing that stayed the same no matter what was that you were perpetually dissatisfied and always looking for more. True contentment and fulfilment was something you only read about, and the few who said they had it were usually lying, secretly trying to fulfil inner voids with whatever vice they could find. All in all, life just seemed an absurd joke in which no one really ever got lasting happiness or inner peace, and that people were constantly searching for it like my friend. Like she had alluded to, so much of it was a struggle to get by – when were the times when we actually arrived? When we actually lived?
I guess the futility of it all is what led men and women to get ‘fucked up’ – as many tended to call it. The bottles, the joints, the pills, the powders – whatever recreational substance you chose on the quest to alleviate the pain of being human. That was what I did that very night as her words continued to grow in my mind. I poured myself a large glass of red wine and prepared to sink once again into a bubble of being comfortably numb. This was it: the universal vice. No matter what culture or creed you were from – no matter what age in history – one thing that stayed the same was that people always looked to get out of their ordinary states of mind. It was the great escape; tricking your brain into thinking that something exciting was happening because the reality of your normal life was too much to bear at times. All across the world, weekend warriors could be found finishing work on a Friday evening, then heading straight to a bar to pour that poison into their blood so they could momentarily escape the dreary drudgery of human existence in a hazy blur of liquor, neon lights, and late-night takeaways. Then there were the pill-poppers who lived for the raves; working and waiting for that next time they could use up all the happiness chemicals in their brain in one swift swoop. Ultimately, then came the comedown which brought them sharply back to the gnawing aches and pains of reality which was always waiting for you.
That reality ceaselessly consumed each and every one of us. The girl I had the conversation with continued, I knew one day she would have it a bit easier, perhaps even have the house, the partner, the steady career and a few offspring running around on a rug in the living room. But I also knew she would still be standing beside the curtains and looking out at the world, dreaming again of something more – something that would finally allow her to feel like she had arrived. She resented her situation now, but she would also still find new things to resent her future situation. Even for me, I was now at a stage I always hoped I would be – having seen all the places I wanted to travel, wrote a couple of books and had a bit more confidence about who I was – yet I was getting easily derailed by a simple conversation with a friend; spiralling down into a state of unhappiness and alcoholism and feeling like I had gotten nowhere over all the years. I guess this is it: the reality that human-beings were never meant to be happy or content or satisfied. Our brains have gotten too big. We contemplate and think too much for our own good. We now look at the animal kingdom in jealousy that they live so simply in the moment without our trivial pains and worries and concerns and conundrums. What is left to do but get drunk and try to find a point to your absurd and trivial life. Even if it’s just supporting a football team, or teaching yoga, or searching for love, or writing a book. What’s the point to it all? I’m not really sure either, but if you have any original ideas, do let me know. We’re all secretly grasping at straws here.
~ Why? ~
The dream faded from sight as my eyes opened to the reality of my room. I didn’t bother to check the time, but the light penetrating the small gap in between my curtains made it clear once again: another day of existence had begun.
I lay flat and limp on my bed, casting my eyes outward toward the window. Suddenly I felt a shudder surge through my body. I knew that out there beyond that glass the human race was preparing for another day of battle. Right now alarm clocks were bleeping, ties were being tightened, ignitions being turned and traffic jams forming. Soon the workstations would be manned, fake smiles would be cast, hands shook, lies told, deals made – economic and political doctrines successfully enforced and followed. On the streets the pedestrians would be marching along those grey sidewalks pulled along by some vague meaning and purpose for life. Their hands would be clutching and clinging onto briefcases, or shopping bags, or lottery tickets, or holy books, or beer bottles, or prescription medicines, something – anything. Throughout the course of their day advertisements would be consumed, newspapers read and lies believed. Meanwhile the politicians and businessmen would be sat in offices plotting and conspiring the latest activities of corruption and self-interest.
Such ferocious absurdity was not just taking place in this city, or this country, or this continent, but across the entire goddamn planet. The thought of what was out there was enough to turn my face into my pillow and retreat into my own dark cave of isolation. Humanity and its strange ways were as relentless as the English rain, and burying my head in the sand often seemed like a good alternative to going out there and joining in with the madness. Unfortunately my existence on planet earth was subject to the concept of money. My temporary peace and solitude was afforded by the few remaining pounds I had in my bank account which had been continually dwindling down and down to the last three digits. A gradual realisation had been dawning on me and I knew that there was no avoiding it any longer. It was time. My name had been called; my letter of conscription typed. I knew it was time to go out there and join the war, to face the firing squad – to let myself be beaten and bludgeoned by the companies and bosses and executives.
I got out of bed, got dressed and headed into the kitchen of my flat. There my roommate was cooking breakfast. He glanced at me with a judgmental look. “So what are you going to do today?” he said. “Have you started looking for a job yet? You know that our rent is due tomorrow right?”
“I started looking a few days ago” I lied. “I should have something sorted out for the end of the week.”
“That’s great, but you have the money for rent right?”
“And also for the bills – the internet and electricity?”
He nodded in satisfaction and carried on moving erratically around the cooker. I grabbed my cereal from a cupboard and began pouring a bowl, trying to avoid further conversation with him. I didn’t really have anything against him, it’s just that frankly talking to him was a strained affair for all parties involved. To be honest I often wondered how I had ended up cooped up with this creature in a small flat. He was a strange one. For one he happened to be the only gay person I knew who opposed the gay marriage (on account of his Christian faith). When I moved in he had claimed he was a people person but that started to seem dubious when he came home every day angry and sour-faced from his bus driving job telling me how much he hated everyone in this town. “Those fucking people!” he would curse as he recalled his day to me. “I want to kill those fucking people!” He once devised a grand plan to escape to Austria to live a quiet life in the mountains, but that had failed and had left him come crawling back to England with sad and bewildered eyes. I kinda felt sorry for the damn guy to be honest. Here he was: unhappily single, balding, thirty-five, and had already spent his entire youth stressing and butchering away his best years. It was obvious he was lost, but that was okay – everybody was secretly lost in some way, it’s just that some people hid it a little better than others.
I finished making my cereal and retreated to the lounge to eat alone at the table. I sat down with my laptop beside me. After a few minutes of mindlessly staring into the vacuum of space and time, a thought entered my brain. I decided that I better search the latest job adverts; I did need a job after all. I started searching and for a moment I was quite optimistic; I imagined that maybe there would be something out there that interested me. Perhaps working in the local national parks outside the city, or doing something somewhere in solitude. Precious solitude – yes, yes, that would be enough! But predictably the search returned nothing of the kind. The majority of jobs were commission-based sales jobs which were designed for charismatic extroverts who could bark their way to scamming some senile elderly person out of their retirement savings. I could imagine some goblin-eyed boss putting his hand on my shoulder and telling me “good job kiddo” after conning some eighty-year-old out of her rainy day fund. Besides the sales jobs there were also some retail vacancies, which of course meant interacting with hordes of humans throughout the day. In the end, I gave up and decided I’d just go to the employment agency to see what grool they had on their own menu. I closed my laptop, slumped back into my chair and stared out of the window.
As I looked out into the skies above the surrounding apartment blocks and houses, I suddenly started to feel a bit down about everything. The whole thought of going out there and joining in with the human race filled me with dread and despair. Why couldn’t life just be a fun adventure, I wondered once more. It was a thought that went through my mind at least one hundred and twenty-seven times a day. Often I’d find myself getting philosophical about everything and lamenting the banality of everyday life. I mean, you couldn’t get away from it. Every day the average human-being was awakened by an alarm clock to again face the absurdity of citizen-based existence. Here you were: an intelligent being that floated through space on a twirling, organic spaceship in a universe filled with black-holes, shooting stars and infinite horizons. And yet you were subjected by gravity and government to live in a world of monotony and mediocrity. Instead of sailing through the cosmos, you’d stutter through traffic jams; instead of exploring the earth, you’d explore supermarket aisles; instead of writing poetry, you’d write up tax-returns. Why was it like this, I wondered over a bowl of sugar-free, low-fat cornflakes.
~ Finding the Others ~
It was another riveting day of sitting at home, staring at the walls and longing for some basic form of human connection. I looked around my room and saw the type of mess only created by a single man living alone. It had been another shameless period of solitude filled with writing, drinking, masturbation and late-night ventures through the virtual wilderness of the internet. For the last two weeks, my only interactions with humanity had been done via satellite signals and electronic devices. I had vented to some strangers on Reddit, argued with people on Youtube and Facebook messaged old travel friends who I was probably never going to see again. It was the modern type of isolation and I thought about my scenario and laughed at the sheer absurdity of it. I now lived in a world where I was able to speak to someone in South America, but not in the same building I was living in. No doubt that apartment block was full of lonely souls all around me: dozens of people living together under one roof, but all separated by some shoddy walls. Like society in general, everyone was so close and so far at the same time. It was a strange state of affairs and in a moment of restless frustration, I removed myself from my lair to hit those grey streets in search of someone or something.
I exited the building and started heading towards the city centre. As I did, I looked around at the people passing me on the streets. I saw the businessmen on their way home from work. I saw mothers pushing prams, students carrying beer back to their halls, well-dressed couples holding hands on their way to dates. I saw many types of people, but very few I could be sure I’d be able to connect with. So often I stared into the eyes of the human race wondering where my fellow misfits were hiding. I guess I did need to see one or two of them every now and again. After all, a part of what it is to be human is to find your tribe; to find your people who make you feel like you aren’t alone in your own state of being. It’s why the hippies wear flowers and dread their hair. It’s why the pill-poppers go to raves. It’s why Trump supporters go to country music festivals. We all crave social validation and to be with people who share our perspectives and give us a sense of belonging. We had been doing it since we were tribes roaming the plains of Africa and nothing had changed in the environment of the modern world. Even though I was well-experienced with the act of being alone, I too felt the need to stare into the eyes of someone who also felt like they had been accidentally dropped off on the wrong planet.
A philosopher I listened to called Terence Mckenna had once told me how important in life it was to ‘find the others’. I guess that was what I had been doing in some way while out on my backpacking adventures. Over the years of bumbling around the world, I had naturally come across a few of my extraterrestrial clan along the way. I had met them in the random sort of places people like myself would inevitably end up. Budget hostels. Rundown bars. Long-distance bus rides. Minimum wage, low-skilled jobs.
One situation that came to mind was when I was working in New Zealand. I had arrived in the country with just a few hundred pounds and had been getting by off any type of work I could find. After doing a few agricultural jobs, I had ended up working for a crooked labour agency in some small town. The bosses knew how desperate their staff were for work and consequently assigned you terrible jobs that paid nor more than the minimum wage. It was the type of agency where people who didn’t have much of a clue what they were doing in life ended up, so it was only natural that I had found my way to the front door. Hell, it even appeared that a couple of the others had ended up there too. First was a guy from England who claimed he had never written a CV or been to a job interview in his life. He had spent the last four years working for a cheffing agency before blowing all his savings in Asia and limping into New Zealand with just a few dollars in the bank. The other was a Dutch guy living out of his van – a fellow introverted writer who was out on a soul-searching voyage around the world. We ended up working together on the same tasks and quickly discovered we shared similar eccentric views and perspectives on the world. I was able to talk freely with them about certain philosophies or ideas without being met by the usual looks of consternation and horror. It was a rare and refreshing moment of belonging, and we continued to converse regularly online after we went our separate ways.
Another one of the others I recalled was a depressed French guy I had met in Nepal. We had connected over a few remarks during a group dinner and within days we were chilling together on the roof of his hotel while drinking beer and discussing the meaning of life. He was a wanderer like myself – a person whose plans changed by the day and who had so many ideas that he was perpetually unsure with what direction to take in life. One moment he was moving to Australia, the next to Iran, the next to Russia. As the week went on, we continued to meet up and share the contents of our minds. Conversations were had regarding literature, women, conspiracies, cults and society before we eventually scurried back off into the wilderness to continue our own existential journey through life. Again, we kept in contact after we parted ways.
Besides those guys, I also had met a few more of the others somewhere in the world. Sometimes it was for a minute, sometimes it was for a day – sometimes a few weeks or months. Those wanderers were now sporadically dotted around the world – my comrades of isolation holed up in dark rooms while also engaging in the same everyday struggles that I knew. Of course, it was slightly easier to find a few of my tribe on those bohemian adventures, but for now I was living in a new city back in the U.K and I knew they would be slightly harder to locate. Still, I was determined they were out there somewhere and I kept roaming those streets like a man on safari, hunting for a rare species. I stared into the eyes of those people standing in supermarket queues. I watched the body language of people in crowds that formed at traffic lights. I eavesdropped on conversations in bars, hoping for a certain type of conversation: people with awkward demeanours talking about art or existence or philosophy – any reference to any esoteric thing which might indicate they were also hopelessly out of sync with their surrounding society.
Naturally you had to be careful about the sort of places you frequented while searching for your tribe; in particular your drinking holes. There was one place I knew that usually had a wide range of eccentric characters in there, and consequently it seemed like the best territory to focus my hunt. I proceeded to go and drink there often in an outside smoking area while observing the creatures around me. I listened to their conversations. I stared into their eyes. I watched the nature of their hand movements as they picked up their drinks. It was after a few visits that I eventually met one girl called Christina from Italy. I had overheard her conversation on the table beside me and straight away sensed she was also uncomfortable in her own skin. I got talking to her and found out she was a hiker who preferred to be in nature rather than the confines of the crowd. Like myself, she had also walked ‘El Camino de Santiago’ – a classic pilgrimage for wanderers on some sort of soul-searching journey. The shared experience allowed us to connect on a deeper level and find out more about each other’s lives. It was the start of a friendship that went on for many months as we united under the same banner of being starry-eyed dreamers who just wanted to hike in nature, rather than engage in the social requirements of human society. It had taken a few weeks of hunting but, finally, I had found the first of my tribe.
The second of my tribe was a guy who sat on the desk next to me when I started a temporary office job. At first we didn’t connect or speak much at all, but as the days and weeks went on, I gradually identified some giveaway signs that he was a man of a similar disposition to the world as I was. Sometimes I spotted him staring into space with a wistful look in his eyes; another time I saw him scribbling some fantasy sketches in his notebook while half-heartedly talking on the phone. I got speaking with him with a bit of formulaic work colleague small-talk and, after a few clumsy moments and references, we began to notice that we were the same type of awkward personality. I knew of a personality test which assigned people into sixteen different personality types; I was sure he was the same as me so I made a reference to it which he immediately responded too. As predicted, he was a guy who shared the same personality type with me: an INFP personality – the type ruled totally by the heart and intuition, rather than any sort of logic and judgment. It was only natural this type suffered in this mechanical society (as evidenced by the fact this type was the most likely to commit suicide or earn the least amount of money). Male INFPs made up just 1.5% of the population and this rare bridge of connection allowed us to converse on a deep level whenever we got a moment to escape from the suffocating reality of the office environment. It was soon clear that I had located another one of the others as I experienced that rare moment of being totally understood by another person.
The months went on as I started to locate more and more of the others. With my hunter skills improving all the time, I was gradually getting better at detecting and distinguishing my fellow misfits among the crowd. Of course, I needed to remember to make sure I was also putting out my own signals in case there were others out there looking for me. I thought of how many of the great artists had found each other by others putting themselves out there. Like stranded castaways, the weirdos had put themselves out there in SOS signals for others of their kind to come and find them. As an internet meme once told me: ‘You’ve gotta shine your weirdo light bright so the other weirdos know where to find you’. I did exactly that by spewing out my thoughts and writings on internet blogs. Consequently, a few people came into my life, including one English Italian woman living in Switzerland who had messaged me through my Facebook blog. We started speaking casually until we eventually ended up talking almost daily, even going on to create a sort of ‘madness diary’ in which we confessed our latest episodes of madness like we were each other’s online therapist. Another was an Indian girl into Henna tattoos who had read my books; we also spoke online for a while and ended up meeting in a street food restaurant as we discussed why trees were the greatest works of art and how the universe was essentially one giant brain, much to the confusion of the people around us who looked at us like we had just escaped from the nearest mental asylum.
All things considered, it was safe to say I was gradually becoming quite skilled at finding the others. I was slowly mastering the art of testing the waters with certain conversations, probing and poking others to see if underneath the social mask there was another one of my tribe trying their best to remain undercover in human society. It was a skill I knew I was going to use throughout the rest of my life as I continued stumbling along on my solitary path. I guess it was true that I was a man who thrived on wandering alone, but it seems I couldn’t escape the human need to stare into the eyes of someone who understood me for who I actually was. Life is a lonely march for many of us, especially the ones who frequently feel a bit alienated and misunderstood, but just a moment of connection with another of your tribe was sometimes enough to keep you going on your path for another few months. That was exactly what I did as I ended up going travelling again before returning and settling down again in a new city. Life soon returned back to normal as I went about life on my own, drifting through the days and returning to my lair of solitude for more shameless spells of drinking, writing, masturbating and late-night ventures through the virtual wilderness through the internet. Sometimes it all became a little too much, but the idea that there was more like me out there was comforting enough to convince myself that I wasn’t totally crazy or doomed or destined for that nearest mental asylum.
And hey, I guess we all needed that reassurance every now and again.
~ Life as a Game ~
Did you ever hear the theory that we are living in a giant computer simulation? That the universe is merely lines of code written by a higher technological body? That we are essentially living in the matrix? Enough scientists and physicists believe it could be a possibility that it’s actually a relatively respected theory. Hell, even that Elon Musk guy believes in it. I often think what would happen to our society if we eventually found out we were all living in a giant computer simulation. I mean, everything in society seemingly operated on the notion that this thing called existence was all very serious and that we must work and strive and chase success and find our way into whatever heaven it is that we were supposed to believe in. But for it to be revealed it was all nothing more than a computer simulation? Nothing more than a game without a serious purpose? Now what a glorious sight that would have been to behold. I imagined the great existential crisis speaking across the earth as the churches crumbled, economic systems collapsed and people who had taken the game of life too seriously were eventually driven to either ecstasy or suicide after finding out that none of it really mattered. I imagined the look on the faces of the likes of Trump, Putin and Piers Morgan as their ego collapsed inward on itself.
Me? Personally, I would have welcomed the discovery with open arms. I already liked to treat life as a game anyway. It was a philosophy that gave me some sort of carefree joy and one which I believed had solid grounds. I mean, when one looked at the laws of physics it was clear that the universe was essentially a singular energy system just dancing in the present moment without a clear end goal in mind. One only had to watch the waves crash repeatedly on a shoreline, or the leaves dance in the wind, or the clouds drift across the sky, or the dog chase a stick for no other purpose than for it to be thrown again. These weren’t trivial things; these were the little secrets that reality was merely a rhythmic dance of energy just flowing and changing shape for no apparent purpose or reason. Watch the change of the seasons: the leaves blossoming and falling; the flowers blooming and decaying; the stars shimmering like fireworks before they died and dissipated into nothingness. This was the reality of existence in a nutshell – a transient playing of energy which certainly shouldn’t be taken seriously to any considerable degree. Something more closely related to a game to be played, rather than some sort of battle to be won.
So let’s say just for fun that tomorrow physicists managed to conclusively prove the universe was a virtual simulation and that nothing really mattered in the traditional way we thought of it. My theory is that initially the world would lose its mind. Jobs would be quit, shops would be looted, suicides would be committed. We’d enter into an age of anarchy as a great existential crisis swept over humanity which lasted a few years. Eventually after that initial crisis was over, people would calm down and look at their situation with new eyes. With a collective sigh of relief that life was just some sort of virtual experiment, the world would return to a peaceful and loving one, everyone united under the banner of just enjoying the game while we had a chance to play it. We could nurture our environment, be kind to one another – spend our time pursuing our passions and creating art. Knowing that we were all just here for a bit of fun, we could put our trivial differences aside and make sure we enjoyed everything for the momentary game it is, rather than the job it most certainly is not.
Of course, this sort of thing has been suggested in some way before, most notably by the hippy movement or by certain Eastern philosophies which described existence more as a state of play rather than something to be taken seriously. Hinduism in particular suggested we were all the drama of the godhead, letting itself go and play all these different beings and environments just for the fun of it. There was no point to it other than seeing how far out everything could go. It was a nice thought which alleviated many common worries and stresses, and it was no surprise to me that many western people who had gone through a crisis arrived at the doorstep of such a way of thinking.
Although many people stood to benefit off this type of life philosophy, there was however a certain class of people who wouldn’t benefit from people treating life as a bit of fun. Let’s just imagine that there were people who knew the universe was a computer simulation system, but didn’t want others to find out because it would make them lose their power over others. These guardians of the game would be the bosses, the politicians, the media rulers and religious leaders. These were the people who needed others to think life was serious so they would keep anxiously toiling away in those cubicles; so they would keep donating to their churches and worshipping their gods; so they would fear for the future and buy more insurance; so they would bow down to trends and fashions because they cared what other people thought of them; so they would not go out and live their one life but compete against each other in some trivial rat race. Yes, there were many people who had a lot of power and wealth due to people taking life too seriously, and it made sense why some of them would not want people to have this state of mind. Conversely, there were also the ones out there who tried to remind you that it was all just a bit of fun and just to enjoy life as it is. These people were the artists, the musicians, the philosophers, the shamans, the jokers, the jesters. Like the prophetic Comedian Bill Hicks once said:
“Some people have remembered (that life is just a ride) and they come back to us, and say: “Hey, don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” … and we… kill those people. “Shut him up. Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride…”
Hick’s speech was a piece of philosophy which stuck in my adolescent head along with many others of a similar ilk. There once was a time where I was experiencing a dark period of depression. For a long time I had suffered with the ego and the thoughts that I was failing at life and not living up to the things expected of me. Because I was still attached to taking life seriously at a fundamental level, I suffered greatly within my own psyche. But when words such as the ones from Bill entered my head, as well certain Zen philosophies from the likes of Alan Watts, I was able to let go and finally relax and just enjoy life just purely for what it was. Consequently, my depression and anxiety subsided and suddenly life became a hell of a lot more fun. This realisation of letting go from taking life seriously naturally made me think why so many had been conned into something that was tearing and twisting themselves apart. How hadn’t they also arrived at the same realisation after a few decades of running around on the hamster wheel of human existence? How hadn’t they also let go and allowed themselves to have a bit of fun? No one is getting out of here alive as they say, so ‘why so serious?’ as a certain comic-book villain once wisely said.
Now, you may think that these are just the manic musings of an existential millennial, but seriously, if you go out there and face that world tomorrow with the idea that you are merely in a game, see how different your life will become for the better. See the transient beauty of the decaying leaf, the clouds forming and dissolving in those enveloping skies, the stars shimmering high up beyond the ether before they implode on themselves. Become detached from trivial and frivolous worries that don’t deserve to occupy the space in your head. Stop wasting time doing things you feel you have to do because it’s expected of you. Imagine that all of this universe is merely a momentary playing of energy with no serious end goal or purpose. Be mindful of that fact and watch the stress and the anxiety disappear slowly; watch the trivial bickering suddenly appear meaningless; watch the world appear as mysterious and magical as it first did when you were a wide-eyed child; watch the game begin to play out more vividly and beautifully than ever before.
As some pretty famous writer once said: “all the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players.”
Now go out there and enjoy it while you can.
~ A Transaction ~
“To lose your mind and find your soul. To abandon it all for the thrill of adventure. To not live bound by formula or convention, but instead slip beyond the boundaries and follow your heart through the wilderness. These things were all I ever wanted from life and I knew that such an existence would not come easy. Living a life true to yourself would inevitably see your character tested every day. You would be tested every moment it was easier to sell off parts of yourself to fit into crowds or systems. You would be tested when you are asked to trade your authenticity for acceptance – your dreams for comfort and convenience. I knew how it all worked and I was ready to walk my own path through life. Yes, I knew it would lead to solitude and isolation, but to be able to stand at the end of the day and say that I lived a life totally true to myself was a thought too beautiful to escape. Of course, on this path I knew I was not destined to be rich, or popular, or even accepted, but when I felt that passion surge in my heart, I knew that I was at least destined to live a life I could be proud to call my own. And to me there was no goal greater in life than that. I was out beyond the safe farm and it was a life of being completely guided by the heart. A life of finding your own truth and treasure. A life that did not allow itself to sink into some form of submission, but instead knew the glory of what it was to jump the fences and taste the air of real freedom.”