My favorite thing about ìhomelessî living was the pace of life. As a work-slave I was always in a hurry. As much as I was a slave to a wage, I was a slave to the clock. Get up at 8:00... rush to work by nine. Eat lunch at 12. Home at 5. My life was regimented and my rhythms controlled by the employer and his stopwatch. It didnít matter how I felt... what my rhythms were... that maybe I was a ìnight personî and was most energized later in the day. Nope. Same schedule for everybody. Punch in... shuffle along.
Freed from wage slavery I also freed myself of the shackles to the clock. This was a more insidious form of mental slavery.... as it persisted for some time. In the beginning, it was very hard to escape a gnawing feeling that I should be ìdoing somethingî . But Iím a natural ìdo nothing man of Taoî so in about a month I cured myself of that disease and for the first time since starting Kindergarten, lived completely according to my own whims.
I followed the sage advice of zen masters. When I was tired I rested. When energized, I walked, ran, wrote.... engaged myself in stimulating activity. When hungry, I ate. If I was depressed, I moped around and allowed myself to be sad and useless. When enthused, I ran with it. I napped in the afternoon. I danced in the middle of the night. Whatever my body or mind needed, I gave it.
This, I think, is a workable definition of freedom: the ability to live according to oneís own nature. Itís a zen/taoist notion.... not fighting yourself... but flowing. The more I sank into this lifestyle, the quicker my anxiety melted away. Without a clock and a taskmaster.... depression or illness or fatigue were nothing to be worried about. I responded to them appropriately, let them run their course. As a result, they rarely lingered. Likewise, I could indulge every restless impulse. There were times, when "employed", when I felt like a wolf in a trap... desperate enough to gnaw off a leg. I yearned to be running in the woods, or paddling a river, or throwing a frisbee,... or to just feel the sun and wind on my face. Tension and anger would mount inside me.... building to an unbearable knot of stress.
But homeless... that is, living as a voluntary unemployed nomad.... I could let that be as it was. That restless energy was no longer ìa problemî. When it built... I released it. And so my life established a kind of effortless flow that I'd almost forgotten. Ever since Kindergarten I had been subjected to forced regimentation. Finally, over 30, I was free.
That taste of freedom was so exhilarating, so addictive, so humanizing... that I have never looked back. Never again will I subject myself to full time wage slavery. I may, for the sake of eating & income, have to resort to work from time to time. But in short bursts, or as a freelancer, or part-time. Once you taste freedom... once you remember it....thereís no going back. This is something the social workers and administrators and politicians do not understand. For a sizeable section of the homeless population there is no going back either. Its not that they want to be hungry, or ragged, or dirty, or miserable. Its that they're unwilling to trade away their freedom for an apartment and a steady income. They are not willing to be slaves to fit in.
And for that, I respect them.