There is no single reason I have adopted my current nomadic lifestyle. Yes, a series of events influenced my initial decision to shift into a nomadic mode of living. I am either rootless and mobile, flexible and edgy; shifty and unsettled or aimless without purpose, depending on the vagaries of the moment. All of these attributes may be true sooner or later. But there is a more wholistic view emerging on which I can hang my hat, insofar as there is any place that stands still long enough to do so.
The principal behaviour of the vast majority of people in the world is to remain still, to take one place, be where they are, relatively speaking, and to burrow inward. In so doing, after sufficient time, one place can become any place or every place. One may eventually regard one’s “place” either as one’s own or as entirely borrowed from the whole, never truly separate, yet temporarily under their care, a pocket to tend on behalf of the whole. After all, what we call “ownership” is in actuality a mere lease lasting less than the blink of an eye.
In that sense, we are gradually arriving at the knowledge that despite culture, geography, even genetics, we are one life, one people. We are also one place. We are, in reality, for all intents and purposes, one action, life living itself. Whether you choose to remain in one place or not, there are simple and resonant ways of expressing this all-encompassing reality, that humanity is entering the consciousness of being one presence, even one mind. An unsettled and conflicted mind, to be sure. But, still….All of this hinges on one question: the degree to which we (you and I) turn toward or away from this truth.
The struggle is becoming ever more intense, is it not? If you are even conscious enough to ask yourself how are you leaning on this question, I suspect you lean as I do, toward the one-ness. And yet, each of us treads a different path, coming to our own decision about how we refine our view and manifest it in the world. Personally, I prefer to be engaged. I’m fortunate to have earned some flexibility and I could easily drop away into a diminishing circle of comforts. Would I be happy? In a limited way, yes. On the other hand, Rilke speaks to me:
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?
A brother/teacher of mine, Bayo Akomolafe invites us to ponder this: “We are here. Sitting on the river banks with our feet in the gently moving waters. Behind us, the city – where we have been gestating so long. We are here. We want to be reborn. We want to feel different. We seek a pilgrimage, a sacred kind of belonging in a world that seems to have forgotten what it means to be embraced….”
Where, and what, is that city? Wherever I am, geographically, temperamentally, psychically, is becoming a city of its own. Every ‘place’ unwinds me out of my most recent, reified definition of city. ‘Finding’ myself there, I discover it is time to lose myself again. Which is not to say that I cannot sit still. I have and I will again.
Yet in the past 18 months, I have deliberately separated myself from permanence, stability. Having my feet in one place suddenly felt…unreal. Yet, like everyone else, I seek and cling to permanence still. Just when the ground begins to soften, becomes mobile, the moist soil oozing up between my toes, I grasp for stability again. I have no fixed home. My community is widening in mysterious, deliciously radical unexpected ways into something nearly global. I also doubt I am at all unique. Perhaps, if I’m not being grandiose, I am merely embodying what is already true for many.
No matter how I may grasp for a fixed reality, I am in the river again, lost in another city of mental and emotional constructs. Connection and belonging are continuously undergoing dissolution and reconstruction. I have found inspiration, quandary, felt myself both opening and fuelled by spacious connection and also retreating into the limited space of forgetting, imagining I can converse in the equations of a higher math, depicting freedom and connection, comprehending the architecture of relationship in which the ‘city’ I inhabit can become a narrow and limiting space, only to be gifted again with seeing that boundaries are ever illusory, never fixed.
Again, the German bodhisattva Rilke
How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
each stone, blossom, child–
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we tangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
–Reiner Maria Rilke
–Book of Hours, II, 16.
The obstacle, the roadblock seemingly always near, the pothole at the periphery, is the tendency to believe that ‘things’ are things at all, that they (and I) must behave in a certain ways, tangling myself in “knots of my own making.” To be loosening the knot is to relax into my own weight, to come to earth, to “trust [my own] heaviness,” not “needing to know” quite so fast or file anything away as if I can come back to it, as if anything will be where I left it when I go looking for it again.
Being every place and anyplace is to be brought to a mirror…to allow my cities to crumble and arise, to be moved, to be still regardless of place, to be inspired, unwound, undone, to come back into relation, to die a thousand deaths in Shiva’s eternal dance.