Ed Bedford 2:59 a.m., May 22
When I first landed here on the shores of the broad Pacific to winter in paradise, I fell upon an article describing the new face of homelessness. Recently, I read another article describing how more and more people are choosing to take gap years "off".
Over the last few years while I traveled the country, I met these gapper renegades everywhere I went. Not all were living out of cars or vans; some were living off their motorcycles. Some had been laid off; others were unemployed by choice. A portion were draining the last of their unemployment benefits as they crossed state boarders chasing elusive interviews while making the most of the miles in between. A handful, like me, lived off squirreled savings or cashed in 401K's in effort to prolong the journey. Individual circumstances aside, they all had one thing in common: an undeniable carelessness, a fathomless faith. They are modern day samurai surfing their final days.
We don't like to admit it, but we all know they are coming. It's just a matter of Time. Whatever that is in reality. You and I will all transpire and when or how is rarely within our control. How we choose to live until then, however, is. I choose to ride, long and lean, into the heart of the curling wave.
I find myself making decisions these days based on the premise that if I were to die tomorrow, if this were my last day to live, how would I choose to live it. Like the ancient spiritual warriors of yore in top knots and loin cloths, I ask myself, if this were to be my very last cup of tea, would I slurp it absentmindedly while browsing yesterday’s paper or would I focus on its subtleties, on all the lives that went into bringing it to me. I consider with each breath I yawn into the rising dawn whether it is indeed a good day to die. And you know what, it works.
As impractical as it may be to some, I now try to live without crutches or excuses, for the sheer experience of living, for the ecstatic joy and freedom of BEing. I look at things differently; prioritize things differently than I did previously. I care less about some things and more about others. More importantly, I remind myself that this is what life--for me--is meant to be, that this is what empty nesting is all about--the remembering who it is I had wanted to be before I became what I needed to be in order to feed and clothe my children.
The current economic conditions--without a doubt--contribute to this growing phenomenon; the gloomy looming predictions of Nostradamus and the Mayan priests seem to further justify an all or nothing approach. If I am any indication at all, which I very well may not be given how out of the box I know I am, then even if conditions improve, for some of us, our choices will never again be the same.
The Wall Street crash of 2008 didn't just affect us here in the States. Mark Boyle, the Celtic Moneyless Man--former businessman turned dumpster diver--was moved by social conscience to take a year off from the corporate grind to see if he could exist without making or spending money. What began as a personal experiment resulted not only in a career shift but a serious life style about face.
I, personally, have spent most of my professional career helping socio-ecological adversaries become advocates, bridging the gap between the inflamed EarthFirst mentality stemming from deep rooted appall and the apathetic irresponsive stockholding monsters (including the U.S. government). If it’s not me pushing the envelope outright, it's me helping others to do so. But, Boyle's Gandhi influenced strategy has been genius.
He realized at some stage of the game that 'ethical business' would never quite be enough to effectively address problematic global issues such as "environmental destruction, sweatshops, factory farms, wars over resources". As frustrated and disgusted as he had become, he decided instead to become what he termed, a "social homeopath, a pro-activist..."
Four years later, the ab-rippled vegan Irishman who once claimed independence is really interdependence has published a book, The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living, proceeds which are funneled directly into the FREEconomy Trust formed to develop the first ever FREEconomy community. He now writes for the The Guardian, a British newspaper with a daily circulation of a quarter of a million. (The Guardian is the second most viewed online newspaper in Britain.)
I grew up on platitudes, like "walk a mile in your neighbor's moccasins before you judge" and "actions speak louder than words," and "walk the talk". I grew up hating them because they didn't seem to be quite enough--those famously phrased words. Right up there with "I love you, but..." and "you'll always hold a special place in my heart..." Call me nuts but I want more out of life--I want the words we utter to actually mean something. Else, there seems little reason to bother giving voice to them. The platitudes felt empty, wise as they were. But, I've come to recognize that with them as with most things, the reception's all in the delivery. And from the likes of Boyle, they pack a reality shattering punch.
There will always be those who crucify the messenger though. Always. It doesn't seem to matter much what we do right in an effort to contribute towards the greater good, there will always be those who find fault, who would rather stand in opposition as part of the problem rather than as supportive advocates seeking solutions in solidarity. I don't claim to comprehend the why of it all but I do see it all too often. Doesn't matter that Boyle left a cushy corporate life to become the change he wanted to see in the world. The fact that he uses a solar powered laptop to deliver his message will be the thing for which others will condemn him as if his personal choices are intended to placate anyone's conscience aside from his own. His wave, his ride, his story.
We all have one in the making, a story, a choice infused life with the dregs forming pictures of our future in the bottom of the emptied cup. But even tea leaf destinies can't hold back the beckoning wall of liquid living. Waves come in long slow curves, and they come in ferocious frothing roars. Getting wet and going under's a given. How and when we choose to ride though reflects not only sheer guts but also divine grace.