Anytime I make a spontaneous decision, decide to go somewhere I’ve never been, buy a one way ticket, take a mostly stranger up on an invitation, try something I’ve never tried before, there is a feeling of stepping into a void whose bottom I cannot see, indeed do not know whether there is one or not, and then take that metaphorically consistent ‘leap of faith’- believing in the goodness of the void, and that my feet will land somewhere or other, surely decent, possibly good, or even even sublime… believing that the landing will be cushioned enough not to be bruised, and that it just may be something so remarkable at the bottom that any doubt at the top is worth its sweat. Worth it, but even, I am coming to realize, the thing itself- that the diving in is as regenerating as the experience it leads me to. That a feeling of weightlessness, of middle of nowhereness, of blissful unknowingness, and a growing comfort with that feeling (but always with prudence), is as essential to my world knowledge as any facts or places or experiences I may have had the pleasure to know. Many, most? people much prefer steady ground, known paths, a sense of heaviness, deep roots and well tended plants, known species and familiar surroundings. Who could blame them, such assurance allows you to sleep well at night, eat consistently, have someone to cry to on the telephone. This life does not prevent against loneliness however, and it does not even keep you safe against improbability, against horror or loss or death or even total destruction, but at least you know what you will be doing this time tomorrow, and if you are lucky how you will pay the bills next month. I am not sure how I will pay the bills next month, although I have done my best to create a nest of backup finances and have learned to live on next to no money at all so as to make it last a long time. Why would anyone choose to jump into an emptiness when fullness and knowness is so much simpler and so much easier?
I ask myself this question often, having chosen the former path- what am I thinking? why do I continue to trace the world’s plane and train lines, keep moving to a new community where I have to totally start over? why do I put myself in a situation where I have to live as scarcely as possible, scrimping, uncomfortable, and with a constant part of my brain on my finances? Why not get a good job, a nice apartment, a fiancé and a cat, a refrigerator full of organic vegetables, and, an image that I carry around in a drawer in my mind for whenever I’m finally ready for it, a cherry tomato plant in the window, healthy and covered with sweet red tomatoes for the salad tonight, a mint plant and a basil plant next to it.
All these things I want eventually, of course, maybe not permanently but in some quantity at least, to have and to hold, to plant and weed and feed someone with. One day I want to try this reality too. But for now I continue to jump into that void, because I have become aware of how much strength each flight has given me. How much faith in my own ability to take care of myself and in the fight I can put up, and how many times I have not perished, not at all, indeed have found wonderful things at the end of the uncertainty. That without being footloose I would not have found half of these places or people or things.
And that death is still present in the householder’s life, and may indeed inform it. Why should we as a species be so obsessed with matching a magazine lifestyle, thinner, more attractive, with better taste, richer, more cars and more money, new wallpaper, a better job with more prestige, but for a desperate feeling of a lack of time? That is, an awareness of our own inevitable, (hopefully) eventual death? I don’t know how often the average householder or wallstreeter thinks about death consciously but the perfectionism to which she or he is culturally held to and personally anxious for must be, perhaps circuitously, a response to the fleetingness of time, an end to breathing and eating and being ambitious- that is, a fear of death. But death does not feature a prominent position in most suburban houses, not in their decorations and certainly not in their conversations.
So I was wondering if the weightlessness of the jump is in fact a tete a tete with death, a face on view of the reality of nonexistence. A willingness to not have anyone know where you are at the given moment, since not being known is a kind of not being. And that floating in the haze of that moment between cities, when no one knows you yet, when you could vanish and no one would know the better, there you challenge the fear and build a respect instead. And a defiance too- I continue to jump and yet I continue to be alive, and even to be extraordinarily happy, open and free and willing, scared of death of course, humbled, but in a way that does not buckle my knees, and in a way with less denial and less rejection of that inevitable reality.
Travel is not the only source I have found for this feeling of falling. Literal weightlessness gives me the same release- swimming in the ocean, spinning (dance), biking. Moments that take the consciousness out of the mind and back into the body have the same effect- making music, doing exercise, making love, a very good meal. Perhaps this is what is responsible for our cultural obsession with these would-be simple biological necessities. To feel so alive is to proudly face one’s death, accept its inevitability, love it for the way it empowers our every moment, and kiss it goodnight for now.