Tuesday, August 26

Into The Wild?

I watched Into The Wild the other day. Ok, so this Chris McCandless guy seemed like a bit of a pompous prick, at least based on the way he was portrayed in the movie. Where does he get off preaching to everyone he meets? But I digress. The film got me thinking about the whole fleeing civilization method of "enlightenment". Hermit in a cave, wanderer on the road, monk in a monastery, whatever. I totally see the appeal. It's difficult to live in the modern world and not feel disgusted and disillusioned a lot of the time. "I'm not in love with the modern world, it just brings me down", (thank you Wolf Parade). Freedom in this day and age, also seems allusive. I think that many people are becoming more aware that all the comforts of modern life do not bestow freedom, but rather that they potentially thwart freedom. Yet, we feel almost powerless to avoid consumerism, our dependence on material things, our dependence on other people and on our own self-image. In Eastern philosophy, all these things are referred to as attachments. People, places, things, ideas about yourself and about the world... all of these can be attachments. And when we are attached to something, we are entangled, we are not free. They literally tie us down to suffering.

So, ok. We can completely fuck off and go on the road or into the wild. No more possessions or committed relationships. No job, no family. Perhaps in some cases, no more ego. (Although this clearly was not the case with our friend Chris). And let's be fair, giving all this up is a hard fucking thing to do. Brutal I imagine. And maybe it's the most efficient way to dissolve the desire which the Buddha identified as the root of all suffering. Yet, I question it. I question whether or not it is a short cut, whether or not it is genuine. In some respects could it be seen as avoidance? Isn't it much harder to let go of our attachments while still living in the modern world? Isn't that the true challenge? Avoiding something with a stoic austerity or asceticism does not mean you've truly let it go. Yoga teaches that we can be in the world, but not of the world, meaning that we can participate in and enjoy life, but not become entangled in it. Not an easy achievement of course. But what a beautiful state it would be!

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