Sitting patiently waiting for my wife to come out of her spa treatment, ( her birthday treat from me)
I was approached by the receptionist with a copy of ESPN Magazine in her hand. She had noticed me sitting reading a copy of ‘Better Homes And Gardens’, and must have assumed that I was only reading out of lack of options. (There aren’t many men’s magazines in the waiting room of a Day Spa apparently)
Little did she realize that I have far less interest in sports than in gardening. I just don’t care about sports or who got traded to what team for how much. What’s the point? Not that I am a gardener -I’m not.
She made an assumption that because I am a man, that I would prefer sports. An assumption that is as understandable as it is wrong, and not unlike many I have made myself.
Stereotypes, ( Though they might as well be called Monotypes) are easy to make and usually about 80% accurate. It’s the 20% that bites you.
In my daily job, it is necessary to make snap judgements on the temperament of people and large dogs several times a day. ( I am perhaps more accurate with the dogs) I spend a lot of my day inside other people’s homes making holes in their walls, carpets, and floors. I move their computers and expensive audio and Tv equipment around at will, I put ladders on their houses, and walk across their roofs. Reading people is important.
A dirty house unusually means a careless person, an immaculate entry, and white carpet means precision and a whole different set of expectations. Knowing what is expected goes a long way towards reaching complete satisfaction for the people I have to please.
The oxymoron isn’t predictable.
‘IMAGINATION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN KNOWLEDGE’ – ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955)
At first, this quote sounds a little quaint and assuming; as though a vivid imagination is all that is necessary to succeed. Were this true, it would be welcome relief for all the worried parents of starry eyed oblivious school children. Imagination is valueless without some knowledge; this is self-evident: How can any fancy begin without a place to start, and experienced life to base an idea upon.
Those who have wild imaginations more often than not are also those who ‘know’ many things. Knowledge in it’s base form is simply what you can regurgitate from a book, however couple that with some imagination, and one can cease to walk only the path that has been pre-prescribed for him, and can instead wander at will in the fields of the mind. I would counter that imagination with little knowledge is more valuable than much book learning with no creativity. To couple a wide array of interests with no limitation to where your mind can take you is the true goal.
It was said that there were only two people in the world who could understand ‘General Relativity’ – Einstein….and God.
Into The Wild, by John Krakauer was a short read, it doesn’t take a lot of room on the shelf, but there are treasures within that belay it’s small size. A friend recommended the book to me about 4 years ago, and gave me a short synopsis of the story. I remember it well, because I had just finished reading: ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ by Aron Ralston, and I was telling him about it.
He immediately told me that I would like ‘Into the Wild’. Now, I find it in the used section of a local favorite bookseller.It is not a glorification of a man who failed, it is not overly critical, nor is it unemotional. Rather, it is the oft questioning watcher, written by a man who never met his subject, but who somehow connects to Christopher McCandless.Told in muse, and memory, by those who knew him, and those who think that they did, stitched together by the ponderings of the author and quotations from Thoreau and others, it brings one down to the place where understanding why a well educated young man would up and abandon every vestige of society and live a vagabond existence in Alaska.
The debate that raged over McCandless demise is secondary to the passions that drove him, and the side story of his impact upon those he came into contact with along the way. I wonder what would have happened to him had he lived though his ‘Great Alaska Adventure’ and returned (as he apparently planned) to society. Would he be known – some ten+ years later as another wilderness wanderer turned writer? (Another Peter Jenkins perhaps.)
Unknown to me at the time of purchase/reading; a movie of the same title had been made. ‘Inspired by the true story’ is the tag line. I watched the movie, and though I enjoyed it, this is not a review of the film, but of the book. The Silver Screen takes liberties with the story-line. Weaving romance through it, as only Hollywood can do. But I hope that the movie doesn’t ruin the story. It is not a grand and great adventure, this is fundamentally a tragedy. This was an intelligent and caring young man, he went into the wilds of Alaska one day, and simply never came back.
I would have liked to meet Chris, I think he would have been interesting conversation, and though we would disagree about a great many things, I think in the end we would have been friends. I too feel the wanderlust urge from time to time, but like most, I seldom really venture far from the world. I keep close to electricity and internal combustion engines. Some days I wonder what kind of changes an adventure like the 2 year tramp that McCandless embarked on would yield in my life. I am far too comfortable in my 21st century existence. In that thought; I give a hearty hey-ho to Chris’s ideals and adventuresome spirit.
Read the book, and failing that: watch the movie, then read the book.The debate that raged over McCandless demise is secondary to the passions that drove him, and the side story of his impact upon those he came into contact with along the way.
The damps of autumn sink into the leaves and prepare them for the necessity of their fall; and thus insensibly are we, as years close around us, detached from our tenacity of life by the gentle pressure of recorded sorrow. W.S. Landor (1775 – 1864)
I read that quote, once, twice; ten times. I wonder what unspoken grief pressed his hand to the parchment to pen those lines? How often he must have felt the ‘damps of autumn’ seeping into his soul, and felt a heaviness of step, and weary bones?
Face-to-face with his own mortality; the author bleeds ink to his page. Now nearly 150 years after his death, I read those lines, and think I know what was going on in his soul: Are we ‘detached from our tenacity of life’ merely by age, or as Landor wrote: ‘by the gentle pressure of recorded sorrow’ ?
I sense a deep rift between life, and the prospect of death, as though he is weighing the cost, and the benefits of continuing despite the toil and pain. When we are young, we have that sharp ‘tenacity’ to hold on. The very concept of youth is wrapped up in a veracity to live, and a feeling of immortality.
The older we are; the less death seems a specter to be fought, and more it seems an old friend to be embraced.
Coyote Soul, Raven Heart: Meditations Of A Hunter Wanderer stands easily in the company of other Nature Philosophical works as Ogburn’s ‘The Winter Beach’, Beston’s Outermost House, and yes even ‘Walden’ by Thoreau.
Like these other books; the subject and content of ‘Coyote Soul, Raven Heart’ is not easily distilled into a few words, Reg’s book is both about the experiences of hunting in the wilds of northwestern Pennsylvania, and contemplation of a persons place in the larger world. It deals with the small experiences and choices in life, and also embraces the larger issues of purpose, and hope, and despair, all the while not losing sight of the natural world tying all these things together.
It is a verbal salve on the soul; where the decision not to use a firearm for hunting represents more than just a choice of tools to take a trophy; but rather a philosophy of life.
There is no traditional narrative, but rather bits and pieces that at first seem random and scattered like so many leaves, but pick through them; and see the path obscured underneath, and they link together and form an understanding of nature; and of mystery.
This book is about the technique and skill of Traditional Bowhunting as much as ‘Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance’ is about degreasing a carburetor, but as ‘Zen’ may make you cross the country on motorcycle, so does ‘Coyote Soul, Raven Heart’ make you yearn to throw off your polyester gym shorts, and don buckskin and take bow in hand to commune with the streams and stones.