So. I’m going to the Northwest again.
Those of you who read my travel journals as they happened or know me from Seattle probably realize this is sort of a strange thing for me to do. I lived in Seattle for most of 13 years, being utterly in love with a city that increasingly made it difficult for people of my sort (poor, uninterested in technology, unable to pass by suffering on the street without being painfully moved or angry) to live the sort of life I’d like to live (not working myself to the bone at low-wage jobs, not scrambling for rent). One of the biggest reasons I moved from Seattle was that I realised I couldn’t fucking afford to live there without radically becoming something different from who I want to be, and that sort of still pisses me off, actually.
Also, there’s the Europe thing. I still would really like to move to Berlin, but I can’t afford to yet. Besides the utter awesomeness of seeing my family and the space and time to work on my writing (most of you wouldn’t have even heard of me if I didn’t choose to exile myself in central Florida for these past few months, an odd irony, seeing as I have nothing in the way of a social existence here), I’d also been hoping to make enough money in order to move to Berlin while here. Free rent and food and no social life (and thus nothing to spend money on), however, do not translate into significant savings at low-wage work.
In addition, there’s this silly thing I thought I’d be able to do that I’m realising was sort of absurd.
I got a reading from a First Nation’s elder and wiccan priest before leaving Seattle that has stuck with me heavily. Everything he predicted had come true and in the time frame he’d asserted, but there’d been this last thing, a “what would happen at the end of the year,” which sort of haunted me. He’d said that, by the end of the year, I’d be unpacking the rucksack, all the tools and experiences and things I’ve learned to do and knew I needed, and when I took stock of them, I’d realise there was one really important thing I didn’t know I needed and thought I could live without but now understood was utterly vital and I really couldn’t continue on my spiritual path without doing what I needed to do to attain it.
I’d been thinking maybe it’d be the study of magic, or maybe trying to get a college degree or pursue a different tradition, and had wracked my brain for quite some time trying to figure this out. What was I missing?
A friend helped me uncover the answer I’d known but couldn’t admit. “What if it’s community?” he asked, and I actually wanted to get a bit grumpy with him. Because he was right, dammit.
An interesting quirk of suddenly having so many people reading my writing, both here and on Patheos, is that the massive influx of social interaction through the internet has corresponded with an increasing awareness of the isolation of my current circumstances. I made one friend on-line in central Florida before arriving and have seen him thrice (in three months), another friend I’ve had coffee with twice, and that’s it. For “solitaries” or introverts or recluses, this might seem not so insignificant; for me, this is brutal exile. My life in Seattle was filled with friends and constant interactions, 60+ person parties several times a year, friends who’d enter my perpetually unlocked-door (and often times open, even in winter), walks to work or the grocery store where it was rare not to run into someone I knew and exchanged at least short words with (and more often than not chose to be late to work to talk to someone).
Here, I know no-one but my family. They’re great, and I’m utterly glad to have had the chance to see them. But social isolation for me is brutal, and also unnecessary and not the matter of “toughing it out” that I convinced myself it would be. Honestly, I suspected that being apart from the world would be a good thing for me, help me develop things about myself which are difficult to do when in the throng of humanity (I often had trouble carving out space for myself in Seattle). I thought maybe I could sort of go it alone for awhile and maybe diminish what I’d feared was a potentially unhealthy need to be surrounded by people.
That last matter is an interesting thing I actually picked up from Seattle. There’s sort of this strange notion of independence there which asserts that those who seem eager to be around other people might not be self-actualized. Of course, those same people who embrace alone-ness than spend hours on the internet or on their phones interacting with people, at a comfortable distance. That is, interacting without all that unpleasantness of flesh and humanity, something I was equally guilty of there by choice and here out of necessity.
I dislike the internet, by the way, and particularly dislike that I rely upon it so much. Yeah, I’m a writer who puts his stuff out on the internet by choice, so this sound hypocritical perhaps, except nuanced criticisms are the language of complex thought. My reliance upon the internet and my dislike of internet communication co-exist, helping remind myself that disembodied communication is inadequate for many things. You don’t know what I look like in the rain, I don’t know what your face looks like when you experience my words–there are things we don’t know about each other that are necessary to social knowledge. It’s horribly easy to forget this, which is why so many internet arguments on Paganism (or, like every other topic on earth) devolve to endless frustrated attempts to communicate.
I think, in “internet” writing, we forget that the written word has a very specific place and very specific modality of expression, and then attempt to add other modes of expression into it (and thus our reliance on emoticons, as in “this is what my face might look like when I say this). The written word actually cannot embody so much inhabited meaning–as it attempts to become more than it is, it becomes poetry, which is useless for everyday communication as it requires a lifetime to fully understand a poem.
So, yeah. Back to the northwest. Probably not Seattle, as, well, fuck–I’m poor. Likely Eugene, possibly Portland. Back into the throng of humanity, sidewalks and cafe’s and bars and other places people can interact without using a screen (or owning a car, the lack of which prevents me from going anywhere where people congregate here in central Florida). Maybe someplace I can raise shrines, celebrate rituals with others
No specific plan, really. I’ve got a rucksack that I haven’t gotten to use since Europe. I’m gonna fill it up again, pack almost everything I need, almost everything that’s important to me. My altar pieces, my instruments, my books. Sleeping bag, crystals, tarot, clothes (not many, as I never own more than three full changes of clothing). A few candles for myself, several for others. This laptop I bought. Some miscellaneous herbs and baubles and a tapestry or two. I’ll pack it all up soon, stuff it into my rucksack and heft it onto my back, noting that there’s something that will never fit into it, something that I forgot I needed, something I have to go find.