May 30, 2016

Resiliency, Reasoning, and Remarks on Simple Myth

Image: PCT Blog funny trail 6
Juxtaposition. As explained by the Pacific Crest Trail. 


Upon my return from hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last year, I had quite a mess to clean up.  In truth my life was a disaster. I've had a lot on my mind over the last nine months and much of it has to do with not only that mess I came back to, but my reasons for hiking the PCT to begin with. If we met in person and you asked me why I hiked the Trail, I might have given you little more than a shrug. The remainder of this piece is my answer to that question.

Resilience.

All right, so my life was a mess when I hit the  Pacific Crest Trail, and when I returned as well.  It is not easy to explain how I had brought my life to such a state, I admit. I can most accurately explain it by employing a term that has become immensely popular in recent years: resilience.



Have you noticed that resiliency as an ideal has seen a huge rise in importance? I see the term "resilient" all over the place. Everyone from ministers to government agencies, to sociologists, seems to be preaching the doctrine of resiliency. We're encouraged to put it into practice in our daily lives. We are taught methods to be resilient against potential external crises of all sorts.  We are told constantly that we must be resilient as individuals, resilient as a society, and resilient as a species. If we are to survive, we must be resilient. It has become a zeitgeist term: part of our collective soul.

More on that later...
But regarding the mess of my life, I'd say it could be best understood as a product of a lack of resilience on my part.We all experience problems. Nothing is ever perfect. When confronted with the inevitable earthquakes of life, however, I can't say I've responded in a way that made the best recovery possible.

Resilient individuals can change course, adapt to what's around them, and bend to the shifting nature of a seemingly chaotic world. When I look back, it is my lack of resilience that brought upon wreck of a life.

For example, a few years ago I was accused of and charged with a serious crime. The root-causes stemmed from dangerous choices,  unfounded trust, and a naive faith in grander principles over  practical reality.
That all sounds very abstract, I'm sure. The truth is, that everything is more complicated than we like to think, and while I made a serious mistake, I don't trust you, my reader, to take into account those complications,without casting judgement on me were I to disclose the details. We live in a thoughtless world sometimes, sad to say. Nonetheless, I was humiliated and stressed by the whole affair. I was also angry and determined to clear my name.

During this same time, I reckoned I had had enough of my job. I considered myself excellent at what I did and knew that my growing sense of professional worth conflicted with the structure of the business I worked for. Thus, I decided to take my talents elsewhere. That decision was separate from what were considered, my "personal problems" at the time.

Nevertheless, the charges pending had great effect upon my ability to find work. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a stellar concept in the application of rights and liberties, but businesses and employers with any sense know that to employ it when making business decisions is downright foolish. Those decisions should be made using probabilities; business intelligence, so to speak. Factors which, when applied, would cast me in the light of pariah, as opposed to potential star new-hire.

This became clear when a job offer I had received was rescinded immediately after my background check. I was devastated, and felt I was effectively shut out of my career field.
This went on for months until, finally, the justice system worked its course, I was exonerated, and the charges were dropped. In the grand scheme of life, this was but a minor hiccup and, as is poignantly preached today, a situation requiring resilience.

While perhaps draining, the overall impact did not need to be life-altering. The truth is that if the stress and and denied opportunities caused by the situation were properly accounted for and understood; those effects could have been mitigated rather than compounded.
I was anything but resilient, however. In effect, the situation, when coupled with a changing outlook on life altogether, ended my career in hotels.

I chose instead to become hermetic and delve into the ideological dark side of our society, examining motives, power, and conspiracy. The things I learned were incredible and difficult to disprove. I threw away friends and contacts as unnecessary. I ceased caring about my finances.I stopped pushing my sisyphean rock altogether. It was at that point that I began to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Most would say-and I would agree-that what I did demonstrated a lack of resilience. I could have ignored the things that captivated me, and gone back about the business of building up my career. Especially once the threat of legal consequences weren't hanging over me. By that point, however, I didn't care anymore. Call it rebellion, or lunacy, or whatever you may, but I no longer thought of myself as part of  this society. Indeed, I lived, and in many ways still live, in another country altogether.

Don't worry, I'm not going to flood this blog with conspiracy theories, if that's what you're thinking. Most of my thought is devoted to transcendentalism now. The great meta-conspiracy, as I think of it.
It was in this milieu of thought and reality into which I returned after my hike of the Pacific Crest Trail ended.
It was a goddamned mess, let me tell you.

Now, less than a month from embarking on another thru-hike, I look around and see that, by society's standards, my life has barely improved. I have a small sum of money, and that's important. I have a steady job that I'm moderately good at. I know I could be incredibly successful, if I put more effort into it, but that isn't the focus of my life, and I doubt that it ever will be.

I'm 36 years old with no assets to speak of and no ambitions to anything society considers normal (power, money, fame, importance, safety). Indeed, it appears that nothing at all has changed.
Appearances aren't just capable of deceiving however, they are inherently deceptive. There have been significant developments in my thought since returning from the Pacific Crest Trail, and I'm certain they will drive my life going forward.

For example, let us revisit the concept of Resilience.

Have you noticed it? Why do you suppose that notion is suddenly at the forefront of national consciousness?

It didn't happen without a reason.




Perhaps, as a result of the financial crisis, scientists have had more opportunities to measure the resilience of our society and that in turn has fueled the concepts' progression and promotion.
That is a possible and very reasonable explanation.
Or perhaps we are being prepared for a known hardship that comes our way. That, too, is a possible outcome although the evidence would be circumstantial and assumptive.

It doesn't really matter. The important point is becoming aware that some underlying force is promoting the Idea. This happens beneath the surface of what we perceive, and its existence begs many questions about who we are and what drives us forward as a society and civilization. I consider my awareness of this force one of my greatest assets.

  With that in mind, I'd like to tell you another story. It's an alternate, but equally valid version of my reasoning for hiking the trail.  Earlier, I implied that I hiked Pacific Crest Trail after looking into some ideologically dark concepts. That implication is only half-true. Its compliment to my mind is much more interesting.

Image: Pacific Crest Trail Blog; Great Pyramids of GizaThe Giza Plateau
Splinter, Truth, and Simple Myths

Two years ago, I became acquainted with a concept that fundamentally changed my worldview. It began as a passing interest, but quickly grew into a passion, then an obsession. The concept was a splinter in my mind that willfully evaded all attempts to be pulled out. I attacked the splinter from every angle I could think of searching for a means of explaining it. I ventured into the more obscure areas of philosophy, science, and religion in search of opinions. If you know me, you'll know I think I'm pretty damn smart and to have this splinter poking into my brain was driving me insane.

What made the splinter' sting so great was that acceptance of its existence demanded radical revisions to other deeply held beliefs I had. Most of these beliefs, I would have said, were beyond any reasonable reproach.
If I accepted the concept that I could not disprove, everything would have to change. As I looked into it more and more. I began to come to one inevitable conclusion.  The world was in fact, not what I believed it to be.

This realization was a great blow to my intellectual ego. Pride is one of my greatest faults, and while I guard against it in certain aspects of life, in others, such as my intellect I had let it run amok.  Now, facing a worldview that was crumbling to pieces before my eyes, I came to understand the depth of my mistake.

The more aware of all this I grew, the more desperately I wanted to know the truth. Since my acquaintance with the splinter idea, I have searched more subjects, revisited more histories, and had to abandon and embrace so many ideas, that I no longer understand the person I was two years ago. It has been scary, enlightening, and very humbling.

At one point, I was ready to abandon everything: the people I cared about, my life, whatever. I wanted to know the truth and I would have done anything to get it. This is a dangerous way to live. People like that are unpredictable.  It was then, that I chose to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Hermeticists become hermits largely because their ideas aren't fit for normal society.

Myth of Self-Discovery

There is a common type of person in the world who believes that perhaps somehow I'll "discover myself," out on the PCT.  They say things like "hope you find what you're looking for," or tell me, "you'll be a different person," and other nonsense. Everyone is guilty of this to a certain degree. We don't understand so we assume.  But these assumptions are anathema to my ears, so I would like to address them specifically.

  Thu-hikers aren't looking for anything. (unless of course you have tacos, we are on occasion, looking for those...) They're not devoid of any purpose and I have never met one that needed the trail to discover who they were. Thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail will not make them or me better. I understand how and why these concepts may exist for you, but they are, in essence, your myths and have no valid application to my life.

Television, movies, badly-conceived books, etc.  have rarely portrayed mankind accurately. Nevertheless we have seen the fantastical stories and simple narratives they weave over and over again. It's only natural that you assume thru-hikers are just conforming to a pre-conceived "rite of passage" or "mid life crisis" mythos that you might have learned from those ill-intending mediums. 

Without those myths you may not have a way of explaining why I would do something like go hiking for four months. You may be forced to create an explanation with other ideas, perhaps physical fitness, or the classic  "Man vs. Nature" trope. This reasoning, in fact, may actually be the case for a few hikers. But to suppose you understand anything of another person is a stretch at best, let alone to think that they act according to myths our society can't let go of.Hikers don't "find themselves" on hiking trails, although they may realize who they would prefer to be. I can speak for myself only in this regard.

I hike to alter my reality. I hike to better understand what is, in effect, a massive deception.
The closer I am to the everyday humdrum life that tends to keep us boxed in, that rarely presents us with new experiences, that doesn't require active living, but rather passive compliance, the outcome of which is predictable, the further I am from the truth.

I write of these things now, because they occupy me constantly, and they'll continue to occupy this blog as I proceed to hike my way southbound on the PCT this year. In all my posts last year, I never really spoke of why I was on the trail to begin with. Now, having revealed the sum of the two half-truths I spoke of before, I feel more at ease with discussing everything else I think of life, which you may be assured, will pop up frequently in this blog. 
If you're still reading, thank you. 

Cheers,
Justin.

Post a Comment