Going to Walden

Think… of the world you carry within you.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke


Have you have a dream? I had…when I was 14 I dreamed about travelling around the world with just a backpack on my back, a notebook to write notes and a camera to capture the essence of what I would see…

I didn’t know about climate change or resources depletion back then, but other monsters were on our shoulders: the use of nuclear weapons, the raise of terrorism, the shock doctrine ravaging Latin America, hunger in Africa, the raising shadow of Middle East; the creation of globalization and the free market.

I never got to travel the world that far, but went to a couple of mystical places in Europe, many wild ones in the Caribbean region and some boring places in USA; all under the umbrella of my then job as an accidental travel agent.

Life took me far from the South and I ended up in the opposite pole. Being un-rooted against my will had its advantages: I see the whole world as “my country” and human beings from all cultures as “my community”, I see through many cultures as what they are: stories told over and over again to satisfy a need, or a want, not always that of “the people”, and most of the time to satisfy elites and status quo.


As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” said Hermes Trismegistus

The pain of the world is in each one of us: whatever we do to the world and others, we do to ourselves. Our many dysfunctions and anxieties that plague these current times are just a reflection of what’s happening outside and around us…

So many times we run away from that what hurt us: addictions of any kind are nothing but a way of self-medication, “A rush of blood to the head”, sometimes sweet and peaceful, sometimes wild and terrible, always leaving us with shame, guilt, bills to pay and a never satiated craving for more. We are addicted to many obvious things (from over-the-counter drugs to candies to social media to much more dysfunctional addictions such as alcohol, gaming, etc.) but we also scape our pain through fantasies: “if only…I could be in another place, had a different lifestyle, different job, career, body, age, relationship…”

The controversial video games play our deepest fantasies, even the doomer ones as this article points out and the same is seen in the most watched TV shows such as “Game of Thrones” that throws sex and violence all mixed with beauty and inspiration for the “good ones” to succeed, just to kill them all at once when you least expected and expose you to the most nihilist of realities.

But even fantasies of “creating a better world” that imply changing your entire life and becoming something you can’t,  are part of this delusion: we inflict ourselves this pain because we will never be as wise, profound, kind, skilled, young, simple, etc. as those we admire……

My book and cup
My book and cup

I love books because I find friends hidden in them that show me how we suffer more due to our limitation to see and feel the whole, such as this:

I was frightened, and lonely. Frightened for a future that looks dark, and darker with each passing species, and lonely because for every person actively trying to shut down the timber industry, stop abuse, or otherwise bring about a sustainable and sane way of living, there are thousands who are helping along this not-so-slow train to oblivion. I began to cry.”

“The tears stopped soon enough. I realized we are not so outnumbered. We are not outnumbered at all. I looked closely, and saw one blade of wild grass, and another. I saw the sun reflecting bright off the needles of pine trees, and I heard the hum of flies. I saw ants walking single file file through the dust, and a spider crawling toward the corner of the ceiling. I knew in that moment, as I’ve known ever since, that it is no longer possible to be lonely, that every creature on earth is pulling in the direction of life – every grasshopper, every struggling salmon, every unhatched chick, every cell of every blue whale – and it is only our own fear that sets us apart” ~ Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words, The Safety of the Metaphor (p.75)

When we long for other places, peoples and times, we dismiss what we already have:

Have you ever seen
in your life
more wonderful
than the way the sun,
every evening,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone—
and how it slides again 
out of the blackness,
every morning,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower 
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance—
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love—
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
reaches out,
as it warms you 
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world—
 or have you too
gone crazy
for power,
for things?”
~ “The Sun” Mary Oliver “New and Selected Poems Volume One” Pg. 51
Walden, after all,  may be closer than we think:
It isn’t very far as highways lie.
I might be back by nightfall, having seen
The rough pines, and the stones, and the clear water.
Friends argue that I might be wiser for it.
They do not hear that far-off Yankee whisper:
How dull we grow from hurrying here and there!
Many have gone, and think me half a fool
To miss a day away in the cool country.
Maybe. But in a book I read and cherish,
Going to Walden is not so easy a thing
As a green visit. It is the slow and difficult
Trick of living, and finding it where you are
~ “Going to Walden” Mary Oliver “New and Selected Poems Volume One” Pg.239

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