You’re born into this world, you grow up year by year, go to school (maybe college), get a job, work yourself sore, meet someone, get married, maybe have some kids, maybe work some more, save up for retirement, and then take a dirt nap for eternity. And its not all guaranteed to be pretty along the way, either. The last part is the only thing thats certain, if nothing else.
Its a cliche and overused concept to challenge and reject this pre-packaged, stereotypical set of life events, but a valid concern and pursuit nonetheless. Countless books, films, music and other works have used this existential battle of a perceived, undesired fate as the basis for a story or to establish a message. It critiques the conformity in the course of life, the mundane and ad nauseam nature that infects newcomers to this world — and asserts that there’s more to this life that we’re given than bills to pay and jobs to attend. That more vast possibilities to pursue await us over the horizon.
This is all well, but my own concern in this regard more than anything is seeing how this plays out in civilized society per the individual: The actual application of rejecting all the garbage (something out of Fight Club or Office Space) and pursuing what you want in the midst of everyone else dragging their feet, doing what they really don’t want to. If one can live amongst the passive sheep while being something of free and feral hound.
It should first be understood that what we’re talking about can be summarized as a system. Be it a corporate, political, social or cultural system, to varying degrees, each aspect appears to intersect and form an underlying mode of normalcy which the majority of people default to as the constitution of life at large. This mold then becomes the burden of each person born into the world. The idea of going to college and having a miserable job and eventually settling down with a spouse and children is the most common example. We could go on to argue that society is determined to give an advantage to those who follow this, but I’ll allow that for one who would dig deeper before the actual object of practicality in resisting that system is comprehended.
I’ve always disliked the idea of something like school or work dominating a fair majority of my time. I’ve never been comfortable with a consistent burden hanging over my head and staying with me through a period of my life. I need underlying freedom from associations if I’m going to stay sane. The burden serves a purpose, however. School, as intended, to teach you. Work to supply money, and then money to obtain goods. But like anything else, we can circumvent the middle step and go directly to the end goal by our own initiative. As of writing, I never completed public school; I taught myself basically everything I know now step-by-step through encyclopedias and the Internet. In toiling for a wage, I don’t have to work nine hours at a job I hate to get what I need/want; I could always grow my own food, mooch off parents or roommates for housing and other such things. If I wanted to risk it all, I could always just steal everything I wanted or obtain money through unlawful means. But for convenience sake, I do work that job because having that paycheck is the most immediate and universal means of getting through the world we’re in now with markets and ups and downs on currency. It is what it is, and I don’t care too much about that particular aspect to go through the trouble of leaving it, but the idea of doing so interests me.
But I’m still tasked with that one stupid thing hanging over my head each week. From here it becomes a question of being either half involved in the system to get the bare essentials or goods out of society, or to remove yourself completely from it all and go through the world on your own devices, albeit probably missing out on some things. In a way, the former is how I have it right now, if I can keep it that way through adulthood. How it is for those who are fully and not half involved in the humdrum machine along the lines of a full-time office or factory job is something I can only speculate on. If their human side remains, what contemplations of overthrowing their bosses’ ownership of their toil they may have had, what thoughts they may have expressed to friends or co-workers so honest of their deepest feelings that it frightened them, what small glimpses of freedom they may have had, only for them to fade away each passing day.
So many people have made a definition for their world with jobs and compulsory responsibilities as the real world, I assume to distinguish the dumbass hippy dreamers who seek a way to breathe fresh air into life from the people who got it right who want to hang themselves deep down inside after working nine to five, insisting that they’re fine with it all. I find it prudent to be as relentless as possible to those who repeat that belief through asking if their natural human habitat was the recesses of corporate servitude and if their emotional health relies on such environments. If the weekly paycheck holds the same innate importance as oxygen to them. If there is truly no line between the empires built on misery and stacked on top of each other, and the open spaces and infinite skies of independence all around the tangible spaces of the earth.
In totally abandoning the system, or at least to the most possible degree, we often see it done in a single, romanticized act of courage or outrage when depicted in media. Something along the lines of what Nicolas Cage’s character did in Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas: Cash all your checks and head out to a den of hedonism (to drink yourself to death, but you might not want that) as one big fuck you to life. But overall, its a sort of drawn-out suicide than a departure from civilization with a moral background. For that, we can look to the ventures of Thoreau as recorded in Walden, where his truest joys are had in isolation and simplistic living in harmony with the rural area of Concord, Massachusetts. In what minimal interactions with shops and farmers he can survive off of, as expressed in Economy, he basks in the independence and clarity of his own spiritual and intellectual agency. His mind, body, spirit and cottage by Walden Pond are his sole possessions and obligations. This is practical, Thoreau himself was proof of it. It being practical now is another story. In the 1840s, before land basically became swallowed up nation-wide by either public or private entities, when the United States was still fairly young and had plenty of room to grow, it was only one of the most common practices to set off in your own direction and establish yourself somewhere, perhaps with some form of tax on land depending on the circumstances, though Thoreau most likely resisted them, given his background. Now, its all mostly bought to become a new Walmart or gated community. If you manage such an endeavor in today’s conditions, you’ve circumvented the impossible.
Those who live on the road or on the run are perhaps the only ones closest to what human instinct we have left in us from over a thousand years ago, if one can establish his or her life, or at least a period of it, on the principle of having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. Constantly shifting. Continually absorbing new environments, walking the length of railways and city streets, covering miles of pavement and highways in cars and planes, dominating landmasses around the world with their presence, all with what possessions they can carry on their backs and the infinite determination moving them forward. Where they go or what their global direction might be is irrelevant. The object moves three steps forward for every one made by the saunterer, and if nothing else, this is the one meaning in the whole affair. To travel, to make friendships and learn and do all that one can. This is perhaps the greatest example of hanging off the last thread connecting oneself to the entire course of systemic life, if he or she has the peace of mind knowing of potential debts and lost responsibilities piling on top of whatever is left of their name. This is possibly the purest form of freedom in modern existence. The most practical and obvious, the one course of life that isn’t (entirely) illegal or regulated. If you can dedicate at least four years of your life to being homeless and scrounging what you can to survive in all manners of direction and location, its correct in saying that you’ve lived.
In the historical quest to rally human beings into a society with layers upon layers of systems which act as the property of a few to employ the many into dependency, in conjunction with social defaults and norms, have we made ourselves a prison for our souls and our individual and collective capabilities? This isn’t to say that society is the problem, but that the seemingly mandatory way of existing in it has fostered a burning sense of hopelessness in those who have their own destinies to make while the system fights them each step of the way. There is no option to thrive or exist happily without a bank account; to enjoy peace from the grasp of enterprises or capitalism; to leave your own mark on the world without it in some way benefiting the system overseers and regulators.
We should acknowledge oncemore that the entire concept is a tired one, often used as a placeholder for a rebellious character in a film. But far too rarely do we actually step back from what we’ve moseyed along into and ask ourselves if serving the few for a fraction of what we’re capable of is worth it on that same level. If doing something we hate, not ‘hate’ in the sense of brief inconvenience, but a responsibility which we physically and emotionally loathe, and for the outcome to be a pathetic wage, is truly the only way to flourish in our own agency.
I don’t write this to explicitly endorse a rebellion or the methods propounded by anarchists or socialists, though I’d be lying if I said this didn’t take influence from them, but instead I seek to put the truth of our hearts’ desires and our sheer potential front and center, and that standing out in the midst of a century’s worth of conditioning into employment, capital, systemic participation and abject submission is the hallmark of humanity restored. For true personal liberty, for genuine happiness and clearity, for unfettered potential and progression.