Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Noble Tradition

by AJ/Skald

The new nomads... Hobopoets, Young Homeless Professionals, Retired RVers tooling around the nation like a tribe of wandering mongols.... there is a large and powerful movement underfoot. A new restlessness. Unseen, perhaps, undocumented and uncelebrated. Perhaps because of its eclectic diversity, it is not seen for what it is: neo (new) nomadism.

There are the Rainbow tribe... the classic hippy dead-head phish-head peace lovers. But so too is there a growing wave of cyber hoboes... wired nomads with lucrative jobs-- plugged in, and on the move: freelancing from every corner of the world.

The American decades since WWII have celebrated stability. Ours is the age of the suburb. Mom and Dad and two kids in a sterile landscape... a rigid schedule..... a stable job. That was the official lie anyway. It was never true... but now, even the facade is crumbling. Americans have always been restless. New technology, new (old) philosophies, new lifestyles are once again opening the road... opening the world... to a life of nomadism.

These neo-nomads take many forms. There is the Itinerate Poet. Basho walking the road to the far north. The restless artist on the move... ever searching for inspiraiton. This is a long and noble tradition. Nomadism, in all its forms, is in fact as old as the human species itself. Over the centuries many archtypes have developed.... many ancient lineages of wanderers-- who continue to live and thrive today: oftentimes unaccepted.... sometimes even despised... by the crumbling, ever-fearful sedentary hordes in the suburbs. Nevertheless, we are growing.

There is the adventurer... the adrenaline junky.... the restless wandering spirit in search of the next mountain, the next dive, the next wave, the next run. Centuries ago... this was a noble undertaking. Scores of aristocratic explorers spread across the globe.... they topped Everest, raced to the poles, drove into Africa... every remote and dangerous nook and cranny of the planet. In other ages, these reckless, rakish, daring folks were celebrated. Today, they still exist..... in the form of the wealthy adventurers of old... and also in a new form: the ski bum, the climbing bum, the surf bum. ìBumî implying a negative judgement to most-- someone who refuses to ìget a real jobî or ìjoin the rat raceî. But these people are of the same aristocratic lineage as the explorers of old.... they may lack wealth... but the relentless urge to push the envelope... to seek the next adventure.. is the same.

Then there are the troubadours. Wandering musicians and performers.... the minstrels of the middle-ages..... the vaudeville acts of more recent centuries. The meek and sedentary have always held both fear and fascination for these folks. Fear of their freedom.... and a secret yearning for it as well. Today they are called ìbuskersî or ìbandsî but the essential lifestyle is still the same. Going from town to town---- settling for a time perhaps-- but ever drawn onward by the next gig, the next performance,.... the next magical connection to an audience. They are held with the same fascination and contempt as their ancestors.... this is the archtype of the Rock God: the unbridled, barbaric hedonist..... new name, new music... but not really new at all.

There is, of course, the most famous American tradition of all: the car nomad..... what is this but a revved up version of the mongol, the crusader, the Berber.... an engine instead of a stead. On the road- that is the story of America from its founding..... from horseback, to wagon train, to steam train, the automobile..... ever onwards: nothing symbolizes freedom to an American like a long stretch of open road. What happened? When did we become a nation of idle bumpkins? Gated communities. Grid-like McMansions. Strip malls. Stability and safety are the enemies of freedom.

There is the hobo-philosopher... the recluse, the dropout. Our most famous, and perhaps the sanest American who ever lived: Henry David Thoreau. The man of conscious who leaves the comfort and conformity of mainstream society in search of higher and deeper truths. This too has long long long roots....... one of the noblest and oldest lineages of mankind. This is the tradition of Jesus walking into the desert, of the Buddha leaving the palace, of Milarepa in his high mountain cave. Today, it is the homesteader, the back-to-nature movement of fed up urbanites: heading to the hills.... back to the land.... find your own truth.

There are, of course, the hobopoets themselves..... the beats: Kerouac, Cassaday, Ginsberg-- the literate wanderer. The poet walking a lonely road: Basho, straw sandals on his feet, treading the lonely path to the far north. My nickname is derived from just such a tradition: the viking skalds of the middle-ages.... mobile poet-shamans. Composers to kings and peasants,... servant to none. This is Hemingway and Fitzgerald in Paris. Itís every writer whose left home in search of a voice, a character, a story, or an inspiration.

And on, and on, and on. Weíre a nation and society enamored with the new. But none of these movements are new..... all that is new is the spin.... the circumstances. Technology has transformed the nature of the nomadic lifestyle, but not its spirit. In fact, technology is opening the way to an explosion of nomadology.....

Cars, computers, global travel, the internet, cell phones-- all make it possible for the mobile explorer, poet, musician, philosopher, & seeker to keep on the move AND stay connected. There are a host of tools available to the restless spirit that have no precedent in human history. The nation.... the world,.. is now open to every type of temperment and motive. It is possible to make a living and wander the world. It is possible to be a penniless hobo riding the rails or a wired professional with a laptop and expense account.

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