When searching for a trail to the road less traveled, it’s a rather simple endeavor if you are surrounded by other ‘free-range humans’ (as coined by Marianne Cantwell). These are people living life by their uniquely personal terms (self-employed) and they are usually living in places that honor free-spirited living. Places where one is not adjudicated based on the accoutrements of wealth, but rather given a high-five for a life well-lived based on an individual definition of happiness.
After returning from the big writing conference in San Miguel, where ‘free-range humans’ abound, I fell into a blue-hued purple rain that I’ve been unable to shake.
Purple rain: A restless feeling. A non-descript feeling of boredom, restlessness, and confinement. A feeling one has when wanting to escape from responsibility (chiefly emotional) by traveling. Sometimes synonymous with ‘wanderlust.’ (Source: Urban Dictionary)
Die-hard ‘Calgarianites’ are none too happy with me when I express my views on the brain-numbing trends that are mesmerizing us—with nary a shrug from the peanut gallery—much like the frog in the boiling water who realizes only when he is almost cooked, that he is being cooked.
It is mostly from people who have left Calgary for a while or are frequent travelers that I hear similar musings on the trance-like effects of the city.
Over a business lunch last week, two sales reps told me that they were assigned company iPhones with GPS, which tracks their every movement. At a dizzying pace, offices and workplaces, and apartments and condos are equipped with cameras. Pray tell how this became an acceptable lifestyle? I can’t imagine the insidious stress of knowing that every move you make (picking out a wedged thong is over!) is captured on film and subject to scrutiny.
But all over North America, there are cities on the slow boil. People living the good life under the watchful eye, driving through hours of traffic (or ‘sardined’ on the train/bus) each day to get paid a good salary, to buy food priced for greed instead of value, to go home and manicure their lawns like the neighbor’s, and to obediently carry little baggies on a walk to pick up steaming dog poop—so as not to be lynched for a wayward turd.
I heard a pastor speak on the weekend about his/our suburban lives and he asked, “Where is there room for unscripted passion or big, scary, new surprises in this scenario?” So I’m not the only one thinking it.
At times I listen in fascination (and mild horror) to Oprah Radio and Dr. Jenn Berman as I drive through Calgary each day. I hear tales of a society with escalating dysfunction at every junction.
The benefits of North American life?
Freedom of speech.
Large salaries (for some).
Luxuries not experienced by billions of humans.
The side effects of modern day culture?
Loss of authenticity.
Out of control addictions.
Disease and chronic illness.
Crazy attempts at perfectionism.
Insane amounts of cosmetic surgery.
Children with an enormous sense of entitlement.
Researcher Stephen Ilardi did a TEDx Talk, called ‘Depression is a Disease of Civilization.’ He’s done anthropological studies of tribesman and says, “We were never designed for the sedentary, indoor, socially-isolated, fast-food laden, sleep-deprived, frenzied pace of modern life.”
This Thai man shows us a brilliantly simple solution to an easy life as seen from someone who came from a “poor” village and was convinced to go to the “good” life in Bangkok. He addresses all key aspects of life and exposes the seeming insanity of our striving for success. This is poignant.
We do harbour the renegades and misfits who swim off the main arteries: the artists, the poets, the yoga teachers, the dancers, the actors, the photographers, the musicians, the healers, the astrologers, the writers. They live interspersed amongst the mainstream, many times struggling to survive, with their beautiful art valued far below the importance of a new Mercedes or a designer bag.
I find myself in a most tricky and precarious position, straddling the two worlds, sitting on a proverbial fence post (yeeeeeouch!). I practise gratitude everyday, genuinely, and I don’t dismiss my blessings. The purple rain falls from the clouds of awareness begotten through both travel and strife.
Now that I’m in the ‘burbs post-flood, my life revolves around traffic. My pay cheque goes to a doubled rent, bills, and the astronomical food costs of this city. My creativity withers and wanes with the concrete cacophony. My energy is splintered with the demands of keeping up and the constant vigilance of abiding by myriad rules devised by morons. The life I have lived now feels like a pair of shoes two sizes too small.
I am a fledgling who is trying to traverse one world to another and I confess that I do not possess the endurance and resolve of the seasoned rebels able to assimilate here while creating their art (like my prolific friend, Francis A. Willey). My sense and sensibility is with the free-rangers living in slower frequencies and I feel the pull more than ever.
I envision buying freshly grown food from old men at markets and being gifted an extra bag of olives for a smile.
I see animated people waving their hands as they debate in piazzas over a strong coffee with dear friends.
I hear foreign music in the streets and see people dancing. And I dance.
I feel my body getting stronger and leaner doing natural physical activities, not something I’ve scheduled and raced to.
I dream of walking in beautiful, temperate places rife with nature instead of fighting an endless barrage of traffic and nine months of bad weather.
I reminisce of places where strangers bond with a sense of care and personal connection instead of on Facebook.
I yearn for cultures where people of any age are considered sensual, sexual beings and men are still permitted to boldly flirt.
I imagine deep friendships with artists and poets, defectors and deserters.
I crave slow living ripe and rich with meaning.
I burst with desirous wanderlust.
So, for Pete’s sake, leave, you might say. The dilemma lies in the dumb-assed-ness of wedging myself between worlds. While I’ve awakened to what’s über important while visiting planet earth, I’ve entrapped myself. There is a solution to every conundrum, but the riddle remains maddeningly illusive in the entanglement of modern day issues.
The other day on a walk, a new friend told me of her incredible act of faith when she went off to college. She came from a highly unsupportive family who did not want her to leave. She literally had 10 cents in her bank account when she arrived on the campus in another city before she knew if she’d been approved for a student loan.
I don’t know if I have that kind of faith or courage or strength. Some days I feel like I’m on the precipice of sanity, and on an errant day, the edge of glory.
Are you a ‘free-ranger’ disguised in sheep’s clothing? Whether you have well-buried dreams and you are for longing for a completely different life or just want some breathing space, remember awe.
Step away from the race and look at the heavens, stop and really notice God’s art in the flowers, enjoy the twitter of birdies. Remember to question things that don’t make sense and to wake up and speak up, to think for yourself rather than follow the herd blindly. Seek to transcend the mundane and live your life by heart.
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