Friday, July 8, 2016

Joe Omundson

Visions of the path

I'm kind of excited to see what happens with the rest of my life. I feel like I'm in a process of freeing myself from everything. Somehow this week I've been feeling happier than I have in a long time, and there's nothing to explain it really, maybe it's just sinking in that life is pretty good right now as I establish myself among new people in a place that I like, or maybe I'm working through the things that have tied me down for a long time.

"Freeing myself from everything" will cause some eyes to roll because we are all dependent on each other. We need certain things, we need community. I don't question that, I know that I need people and actually I think having a sense of freedom enables me to connect more meaningfully. Still, I think many of the things that humans are said to "need" in our society are actually privileges (or burdens) that can be done without once people find a sense of stability, health, and contentedness in who they are.

I'm noticing that when I am happier, I spend more time dreaming about what I can do with my life to make an impact. I have had some ideas about this for a long time, ideas that will certainly be perceived by most people as extremely radical. I don't think I'm in the place yet to pull them off. And I don't quite want to spill the beans yet. But I'm going through the conceptual work to figure out what I want to do, why I want to do it, and considering a lot of other perspectives and factors.

If I pull off the symbolic lifestyle change I want to do someday, there are going to be a lot of sacrifices. I might be very alone, very often. I might risk spending time in prison. I would be removing myself from many of the basic privileges that I experience now. I have a lot to weigh out, and I know I need to be in a healthy state of mind while I weigh it out.

There are so many ways that people can make a difference. What I think is cool, is that pretty much no matter what your personality is like, or what your lifestyle preferences are, there are ways you can adapt that into some form of activism to help change things that are a problem and encourage what is good. So we don't have to radically change ourselves in order to make a difference. We just have to use what we are, and what we have, in a good direction.

For me, I have always felt like the contribution I want to make is one of symbolism, a conceptual act that will inspire some people, lead others to questioning, and no doubt infuriate others. I've been in a process of figuring out what I think are the biggest systemic problems that cripple our lives and steer our future in a direction nobody wants to go. And I want to make a dramatic lifestyle choice that rejects those systems, that demonstrates that life apart from them is possible and even preferable to living in the old systems. I have always been inspired by people like Daniel Suelo who do such things with their lives, and I feel that this kind of activism is in my future.

Yet it comes with a lot of consequences. My ideas would set my life apart even more dramatically than Suelo's. I might never see certain loved ones again. I might be faced with real struggles to survive. Most people would write me off as insane, or ridiculous, or self-absorbed, or ungrateful, or idealistic, and I'm realizing that if you're the kind of person like Suelo or Peace Pilgrim or Garry Davis who has an extreme vision and is unwilling to compromise it, people are just going to think you're crazy and wrong. I have to get a thick skin and strong determination. It's like the stories of Old Testament prophets who lived alone out in the desert and were set apart for their special work, or even like the story of Jesus. To anyone in mainstream society they seemed completely insane to live as they did, their messages were often lost on their audiences, yet something about their lives triggered introspection and important changes in the course of history. They had to remove themselves from the organism of our culture in order to see it clearly; like standing back from a painting to observe the whole, to gain insight on the interaction of the whole picture. It is my firm belief that these kinds of people are important, their purpose is valid, their visionary ideas are needed by society so we can begin to conceive of how things might become different. Contributions of ideas, concepts, and inspiration are still real contributions even if you can't point to a material exchange of services, even if there is no contribution to the economy. People love to hate on these kinds of dreamers, but I know that if I choose to go that route anyway, I will find my tribe and I will have an impact, and people can hate it if they want.

And so I am weighing out my choices. I know I am not a hermit, I am not a loner, I need people in my life on a somewhat regular basis, and I desire romantic love as well. So do I really want to set myself into a life path that might make these things very hard to come by? I have special medical needs with my heart, do I really want to make it harder to access a hospital? Without explaining my vision it's probably not obvious what lifestyle choice might result in these difficulties. I'm starting to do the research for how I could pull off my vision and be happy doing it, with somewhat of a sense of stability rather than constant anxiety and fear, because if I can't demonstrate that I am happy in my rejection of destructive systems then I haven't proven anything. I'm trying to gain more perspective on the statements I am trying to make and the alternatives to the systems I despise.

Some would think that willingly taking on a drastic, difficult, isolation-inducing life change is evidence of depression and masochism. But I actually feel much more inspired to do this when I am feeling whole and happy. Because I have this perspective that, fundamentally, life is very short and very unpredictable. If there is a trade-off between living an exciting, dangerous, purposeful, difficult, painful, fulfilling life, and a predictable, safe, robotic, easy, pleasant, mundane life, I gravitate strongly toward the first option. What is the point of holding back? Pretty soon we are all going to be dead anyway. In 100 years nobody reading this right now will be alive. What is there to protect? What is there to be afraid of? Why live with an illusion of security and certainty when the reality is that my end could come tomorrow? I want to go all-out and push the boundaries of what my experience of life can be. I want to try as hard as I can to change the problems that are affecting life on the most basic levels, so that maybe in 100 years when we are all dead, there will be generations of people who are still alive, who are on a good track to working out systems that are actually sustainable and desirable on a global level. And while I do find value in seeking others' perspectives, in order to refine my own, I'm realizing that nobody really knows what is best, especially for my own life. I get to make that choice for myself, and the consequences will be mine to accept.

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