Friday, February 29, 2008

Our Bodies: Possessions or Vessels?

Recently, I was watching PBS with my girlfriend when the story of Dick Proenneke came on. It is a documentary called "Alone in the Wilderness," I am not sure if any of you are familiar with it. Anyway, Dick lived a life of hard work as a carpenter in the Navy, rancher, mechanic and handyman type positions. At the age of 51, he was injured while working as a diesel mechanic in Alaska and ended up deciding to retire in the wilderness and built a cabin by hand in the Alaskan wilderness over the course of two years. After he built the cabin, he lived there for the next 30 years of his life until he was 82 and decided he was too old to handle Alaskan winters.

What I'm getting at is Dick lived a life pursuing different careers to make a living, but all the while he probably dreamed of getting away from it all and just "being," much like Square's thoughts about most all people now "having" a body rather than just "being" their body. It's the difference between possession and existence in some sense. Dick pursued his retirement life in the wildlife in the best of both his and his body's interests. He was strong, healthy, and active well into his 70s, something that cannot be often said of many people in common society today, and I would bet he outlived many, many of his peers.

Similarly, back in January of 1967, between 20 and 30 thousand people convened on San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for the Human Be-In. The event was provoked by the banning of LSD by the state of California and the announcers of the event at the San Francisco Oracle hoped to bring together the somewhat clashing societies of the New Left (Centered much around the political activists at Berkeley) and the Counterculture (Hippies
based out of the Haight-Ashbury district who created their own society as a protest of the mainstream). But, rather than holding a protest or rally, the focus of the gathering was simply to exist (and drop a great deal of LSD) and that is what they did. There were a few speakers and some musical acts, and even an open mic, but mostly people sat around the park all day, just "being".

So, this seems to be a rather common theme throughout American society and one I have thought about a lot, and I'm glad that it was brought up in Vas and given some thought, because it is something fun to wrap your mind around. With all the technology, entertainment, and other distractions in our daily lives, how many of us ever take the time to just exist. I know the times I have done it, it has felt great. This summer, I was a member of the Texas 4000 for Cancer and spent 70 days riding my bike from Austin to Anchorage, AK, and probably the best part of that experience was having so much time each day to just enjoy the scenery and what I was doing, rather than being preoccupied with worries about tomorrow or next week because I knew I would be riding 80 miles again, just as I was doing that day. I would have to say it was the closest thing to complete freedom I have ever felt.

Are you existing, or just using your body as a means to survive?

1 comment:

Haseeb A. said...

That's really cool you picked up on the "being" part of what Square was saying. Meditation and thoughts of being calm are coming to my mind when I think of a state of "being".