I’m in a house. One place for six months, but I’m not settled down. My house feels strange, alien, sometimes uncomfortable. Why have I signed a contract that says I must be in one place? Why have I stopped for six months, when the windy road in the morning is all that calls to me?
Renunciation. I never loved that word, not as such, but I gave up my home, my belongings, and my job. I even gave up my temple. A higher path called to me, and these things are no ladder to reach it. As any backpacker knows, the first thing you do is chuck stuff. You packed too much, the bag’s too heavy. A journey of the spirit begins the same way.
But I saw this chucking as pragmatic. It’s not that I didn’t want a house; I just couldn’t afford to keep one and travel. The road says otherwise. It turns out, New Orleans teaches me, I don’t want a house at all.
Religion, too, I’ve renounced. Not denied—I will always abide my vows. But the path of the repeat customer, the path of the teacher-and-student, the path of community celebration, these are not going to take me up the river. I adore them; they are fine tools. I do not, will not mock religion. But when I see the man who still uses these tools, I see a man with a different face, on a different road with unsimilar hopes.
Some days I don’t seek the divine at all, but I won’t pretend I found it.
In the morning my creed catches in my throat. I make sacrifice, I sit before my god—what do I say? What is the oath, the mission I will swear today?
I am on a mission, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t know the purpose of my journey, or why I move on. So I’m a wanderer. A dirty, aimless wanderer.
On Esplanade there are kids in brown pants and dirty coats. They’re travelers. Not one of them states a purpose. They tell jokes and ask for money. People spit on them.
So spit on me.
I wear a nice shirt, I wear a designer wool jacket. These kids ask me for money. I’m not their colleague. But I am the outsider just like them. My feet need sand, just like them.
Is it wrong to wander without purpose? Of course: it means you do nothing for Society, and that makes society frown. If you’re not trying to get somewhere, you might not work too hard to get there. A wanderer is next to a freeloader. That’s a sin.
No one loves a sinner except rock songs and reverends. So when I declared my journey I declared a purpose. Purpose is poetry, purpose is soul. I said: meet the gods.
I hope to. But this is not something you plan. There are no steps to take toward it. When you get up in the morning and make a little list, what do you write: meet the gods? Go the gods’ house? Set up a god call?
There is no bridge to where I’m going. I can’t have faith in any path. So my faith is in the journey.
The most selfish journey leads to enlightenment.
To wander is to see the invisible. It is to place yourself instantly out of the social order, out of normal life. The tourist, at least, fills a recognizable role; but the perpetual traveler departs the prescription of security and stability that society preaches.
From this vantage, the pain and the joy of human life come into tremendous focus. We value kindness more, and become kinder ourselves; we lose more, and learn to live with loss. If I had to design a seminary, I would say it’s this: travel. If I had to design an art school, I would say it’s this: travel.
How do you find the gods? You find yourself.
How do you find yourself? Run.