SHANE STEINKAMP'S BACKPACKING BASE CAMP
ARE YOU BROKEN?I had a discussion that sprung out of a discussion of names. Everything has a name - a secret name that only the person or think knows. Someone asked me what mine was, and I had to say that it's not about language, it's about simply being. When God relates his name in the Bible, it's 'I AM'. We all put tags on things. We call our dogs 'Spot', and our cats 'Felix', but these are just tags. Their NAMES are something entirely different. Animal names aren't hard to learn, and my friends are astonished that I can call their cats and dogs individually by barking or meowing... I always like to quote from "Kung-Fu": "Old man, how is it that you can do these things?" "Young man, how is it that you cannot?"
If you have children, you probably understand it already. We call my daughter 'Virginia', but she has a NAME that is all her own.
I don't know how old you are, but you used to know your name. You just forgot it, probably because of the adults in your life. This isn't really their fault, though, just the nature of things... I don't want to sound like Peter Pan, because there ARE limits and appropriate times and places for some things.
I like Peter Matthiessen's take on the subject: “Soon the child’s clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day…we become seekers.”
'Training' Bob for the AT has had me thinking about this a lot lately. So many adults are badly 'broken' by our society in ways that are hard to fix. In our society, from the time we are born, we are exposed to negative conditioning. This conditioning usually comes from our parents, grandparents, religious affiliations, and our peers. We are taught to be uncomfortable with our thoughts, our bodies, and even our joy. In many ways twin fangs of guilt and sin are sunk into our souls and the joy is sucked out of our lives. Effectively, this causes us to deaden parts of our minds and bodies to awareness, sensation, and energy flow. Wilhelm Reich referred to this as ‘body armoring.’ When we suffer emotional hurts and disappointments in the course of our lives, we further armor ourselves to protect ourselves from pain - physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain - but this only hampers our ability later in life to seek out our individual truths and experience pure joy freely. This armoring is heavier than any pack, and greatly interferes with our full realization as human beings, and with our enjoyment of our senses, our emotions, and indeed our entire psyche...
If you really want to know your name, there are several easy methods, some of which I have already related. Don't just pick up your pack and trudge all over the country side carrying around your armor. Cast all that armor off with wanton abandon and damn anybody who tries to put you back in your box.
Remember when you were a kid? Splashing in puddles, rolling around in the mud, getting dirty, running around out in the rain...? What did all the adults tell you? If you never did any of these things as a kid, then you really are deprived... Don't be too hard on the grown-ups, though, they were put into their little boxes by their grown-ups too...
Rain, wind, rustling leaves, cool grass, rivers, lakes, streams, the sea...they all remember your name. Just jump into them with wanton abandon and LIVE who you are and take back that joy that was stolen from you as a child.
Breathe for a change. Really BREATHE. Suck it up! Laugh. Let it all out. Scream. Go ahead, just yell for the pure joy of it. Make stupid noises with your mouth. Whistle. Kids scream and make stupid mouth noises all the time. What do the grown-ups say? "Stop that noise!" Damn them! Twirl. Spin yourself dizzy. Laugh some more. Dance. Play with your food. Put sticks in your nose and stick out your tongue. Jump up and down. Stomp your feet. Sing. Eat desert first. Shake your booty. Run around in small circles as fast as you can until you fall down. Roll around in the grass. Holler, "Look out below!", and pee off the edge of a cliff. Kiss a tree. Kiss the ground. Taste dirt. Get muddy. Go buy the biggest water cannon you can and challenge your family to a water fight. Daydream. Pick your nose. Sigh. There's a child in you that remembers how to do all these things.
By now it's no secret that I cast off all my armor, and my clothes, with wanton abandon at every opportunity. Well, don't knock it 'till you try it. While it's not possible or desirable everywhere at all times, when you are off the beaten path, cast off that last piece of armor and really visit with the river, or with the rain, or with the grass. There are certain things that you haven't really done until you do them naked. Swimming, dancing in the rain, basking in the sun (WITH sunscreen), sitting by a fire, the list goes on... If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you really have no idea...and should. Just try taking a bath with coveralls on...
Do you know why a dog drags his butt around in the grass? Because it feels good.
Oh... Some people may find that offensive... I'm sorry. I'm not sorry if you're offended. I'm sorry that you're one of the grown ups... ;)
Damn the grown-ups! Eat cake for breakfast! Bang pots and pans! Rebel! What are they going to do now that we're over 18? Take away our allowance?
My daughter, even at 15 months, is a very busy person. When I get home, she runs around, scatters toys, junk, her clothes, and trash around the house, then picks up the trash, puts it in the trash can, and then takes a break for some juice and a snack. On the weekends, or when Andrea isn't home, we take out my bells, gongs, singing bowls, and sometimes a few pots and pans - and we make all kinds of strange music. We have screaming contests. (Andrea really hates this...) We chase one another around the house. (I hate to hear parent say, 'Don't run now...' We don't, however, throw balls in the house...there are limits...) Then she runs around some more, enters into a one-person yelling contest, and is eventually satisfied that the room is sufficiently destroyed. She then finds me and demands, "UP!". I'm a sucker. I can't NOT pick her up. Then she demands, "OUTSIDE!"
So, what do you suppose this busy little person does when she gets outside? She sits on the step by the front door and quietly watches the world go by... Sometimes she talks to the plants and pets them. She sits there for a half hour - and sometimes longer - at a time. I swear she meditates. When I finally tell her that it's time to go inside, she stands up, shakes her finger at me and yells, "NO! NO! NO! BAD! BAD! BAD!", and must be drug kicking and screaming inside. Once inside she demands, "BATH!", which is her second favorite thing to do, and the only thing that consoles her...
This weekend, we took her to the Louisiana Nature and Science Center. She petted an alligator (ten inches long), and a snake, then she was very interested in the turtle exhibit. Then we took her outside... She is her father's daughter. My wife and I turned around for two seconds and she took off into the woods while hollering like a savage.
I hope I never put her in a box, and even though most of us have been put into ours, we can break out. All it takes is a little time, a little quiet, and a few pots and pans...some time in the woods...and a little personal honesty...