Road Trip! (1.19.12)
Got sort of sidetracked yesterday. UF was speaking of the joy that accompanies movement of any kind, which reminds me of the sacred Road Trip. Back in my college days -- which, lucky for me, lasted until I was 32 -- we would load up the car with a few cases of beer, get on the road, and take off for parts unknown. It seems to me that it was the movement we craved. It didn't matter where we ended up, so long as we ended up intoxicated.
Which, when you think about it, is another kind of "movement," from one state of mind to another. From my first taste of satan's balm at the age of 17, I well remember this sensation of psychic movement. Technically speaking, I never really cared for being intoxicated. Rather, I enjoyed the movement there. Once you were there, the movement was over. Which is also why I shunned hard liquor: too fast.
I remember back when I was a film student, we talked about the idea that there were two archetypal American characters, one of whom put down roots, the other of whom just kept on a-movin'. That was one of the great things about America, the mobility. America is all about mobility of various kinds -- not just social and economic, but intellectual, aesthetic, and spiritual as well. It's why it is difficult for some of us to join a religious institution, because we gots to keep rollin'.
Reminds me of Bob Dylan, and his "never ending tour." Why does he stay on the road forever, when he could live in a palace anywhere on earth and spend all day having money fights with his grandchildren? Because he's the driftin' kind. For him, paradise is apparently a tour bus to nowhere, staring out the window with the scenery flying past.
I'm no big fan of Jack Kerouac, but I just googled him for a quote, since his On the Road has become the archetype -- albeit an adolescent one -- for the peculiarly American joy of sheer movement:
"What is the feeling when you're driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -- it's the too huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
“We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one and noble function of the time, move.”
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
I remember Seinfeld touching on this in one of his routines. His hobby is driving. Why? Because you can be outside and inside at the same time. Plus, you can be sitting down and moving at the same time.
I agree. Although I am now more of an extreme indoorsman, my favorite exterior hobby might well be driving my car through the canyon roads with the CD player blasting. It seems to me that this activity is a sort of miracle, and yet, it's so common that people don't seem to fully appreciate it. Flying through space with Sun Ra in your ears, playing for you from saturn via his cosmic funkmanship? Remarkable.
I think "progressives" must confuse the road trip with politics. That is, at the end of the day, despite all of the frenetic movement, the progressive still hasn't gotten anywhere. Indeed, that is the whole point of the road trip -- to go from somewhere to nowhere, just for the thrill of it. But in order to do this, you must have maps and boundaries; in other words, to go off the map, you must first have one. The drifters need the settlers, and vice versa. They are a function of one another.
But look at the Obama cultists, a disproportionate number of whom are the young and stupid. Why? Because they want change, AKA movement. They didn't vote for a president, but for a driver for the road trip. Meanwhile, Obama has apparently sobered up since November 4. That's not when the road trip started -- that's when it ended, which his passengers are slowly beginning to realize. If this is a road trip, it's a trip back to the Clinton '90s, a bridge to the twentieth century.
Now, there are two kinds of spirituality that mirror the drifter and settler, which you might say reflect the "static" and "dynamic" aspects of God. The further east you go -- psychospiritually speaking -- the more you see the divine stasis, the eternal rest, the unmoved mover, the idea of entering nirvana, which literally means to "extinguish the light." But the same holds for Christianity, in that Eastern Orthodoxy prides itself on the fact that it hasn't changed since the time of the apostles. For them, the Catholics are the Protestants.
On the other extreme, you have all of the Christian movements that have arisen here in the United States. Why? I imagine a big part of it has to do with the idea of movement as it pertains to the American psyche. We will never be a majority Catholic or Orthodox nation for the same reason we reject public transportation. We want to travel about in our own vehicles. Is it possible to do this without being hopelessly heretical and narcissistic, like the new agers and integralists? Is it possible to be an "orthodox drifter?"
As a matter of fact, I think UF does a pretty good job of describing this person in Letter IX, The Hermit. For isn't that what the Hermit is, a religious hobo?
Come to think of it, what's the subtitle of the book? A Journey into Christian Hermeticism.
One of the best known of the Desert Fathers of fourth-century Egypt, St. Sarapion the Sindonite, traveled once on a pilgrimage to Rome. Here he was told of a celebrated recluse, a woman who lived always in one small room, never going out. Skeptical about her way of life -- for he was himself a great wanderer -- Sarapion called on her and asked: "Why are you sitting here?" To this she replied: "I am not sitting, I am on a journey." --Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way