My ambitions are better served each day, in busying myself foraging for food water and shelter, the three necessities to maintain existence, rather than money or fame; on which no living thing can be nourished, nor provide protection from the uncontrollable conditions of Nature. And so begins my stay in the Skamper. Surrounded by an urban jungle, a tight residential sprawl of gridded quarter-acre lots.
The residents manicure the landscape encouraging an unnatural subdivision, pointedly placing tree, shrub and fence; a false and wistful re-creation expressing the desire for Nature and solitude. Conditioned to this visual and social ‘norm’, people have no conceptual imagination and understanding that their environment could be quite diametrically different if they chose. It is strange to me, to agree so easily to another’s visions and perceptions without contemplating it first. To examine the details, to perform a careful comparison and study before reaching a then informed conclusion. A realization that every decisive action reflects a personal choice made, for every situation and circumstance. And allowing others to make those decisions for you will never facilitate a contentment of the soul and true happiness.
There are rare moments of natural silence in this environment. I hear the engine of a lawn mower hum steadily. A small airplane flying low overhead. The whistle warning of a passing Amtrak train. Cars driving by, a man sneezing, a teenage girl screaming angrily at her father and slamming doors. The constant whir of a window air conditioner. If a noise must be at a constant, let it be the water flowing over rocks and the wind in the trees. My heart is melancholy for the pure sounds of the wilderness.
This cozy 8’x20′ area contains everything I require to live. A sleeping space, a counter and sink, a table and benches for friends and company. I am off-the-grid. I live without electricity and running water; an independent and alternative existence, a staunch refusal and repudiation of relying upon modern technology. There is a small television occupying a large portion of the counter which I will be pleased to see go. For now it serves as a mirror and shelf for a few items. For some, this picture box is an imagined necessity. In fact it provides no real value to living or enrichment of the mind. I take my light from the sun or by candle, water from a nearby source, pleasure in my own company and entertainment in my own thoughts.
Some friends are enchanted with the idea of how I live. Some find it bizarre and their discomfort manifests itself in their conversation and body language. When some visit, they are afraid, at times, to enter or stay long. Their inhibition Pavlovian.
I leave the door open and unlocked. I have nothing to hide. There is no possession I value so much as to miss its presence if it were to disappear. Some ask if that picture box and a small refrigerator are hooked up to electricity. Does the sink provide running water? They grow silent when I answer, “No.” and then ask me, “Why?” Why ask why? The answer is so obviously and simply that I do not care to have it so.
In this Age of the Ownership, my lifestyle and words are strangely foreign. The concept of money is a grave travesty. I find nothing so uninteresting as the conversation which begins with the question, “What do you do for work?” And the presence of those who wave about a bill roll of dead trees with symmetrical markings utterly disagreeable. The very word and concept ‘value’ simply distasteful in its inherent hierarchical definition and use in judgement. People today are not so very different from those that existed centuries ago. The majority of the population exist as indentured servants. The distraction of the Colliseum a button push away in every living room. How cleverly slavery has been re-conceptualized, presented, with the escapist elements of distraction well woven in the fabric of what some call ‘ciivilized society’.
To busy oneself day-to-day with the hunt. To understand the foolishness and imminent disappointment of expectations. To appreciate all living things, plant animal and human being, knowing each are equally deserving of respect and a right to existence. To actively exemplify these thoughts addressing the truly important aspects of living through one’s actions. These are the foundations of happiness. These are the cornerstones of enlightened realizations. Ah, what joy to Skamp and live free!