Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Letter to Mike (excerpt), March 5th, 2008

Yeah, the traffic in the metro Atlanta area is just about as bad as anywhere else in the country. It even compares to the traffic in Los Angeles or NYC--and I would know, because I've been in both of those places more than once. Down here, we pretty much don't drive anywhere unless there's a darn good reason to do so--and even then, we always try to take the short-cuts and backroads, to avoid as much of the traffic as possible. In some parts of metro Atlanta, there's pretty much bumper-to-bumper 'rush hour' traffic mostly all day long, with little or no let-up. I'm telling you--I'm serious when I say I really want to permanently move away from a place like this. This is really sad and heartbreaking for me to have to watch, because when I was growing up here, most of the surrounding area was still rural and farmland. Now it's all subdivisions and strip-malls. It's pathetic. Having to watch the land I love getting raped by the soulless developers.

Best not to get me started on that topic--it breaks my heart, and will only infuriate me, and infuriate me even more, knowing there's nothing I can do about it except try to leave. I guess it's like knowing you have to get a divorce from someone you truly love deeply, but just can't keep living with. Like you, I'm a 'country boy' at heart, and belong in a place where the nearest neighbour is "two miles away as the crow flies". I would have preferred that my home be here, but I have known for some years that I could no longer be happy here.

I may have already told you about this once before, but the most incredible experience I ever had in my entire life was whilst ... in South Africa; we had travelled ... to a game preserve (Kruger National Park)--which is huge--and drove around in it all day that we were there. We were literally a hundred kilometers (or more) from the nearest other human being, or sign of civilisation. Nothing but the dirt road in front of us and behind us, grass, a few acacia trees, some occasional wild animals, and endless sky ... We would have really been in trouble had our car quit running. It's one of those places the size of a small country, and they make you register upon entering the park (so they know you're there, and can come rescue you if you don't come back out within 24 hours).

But I gotta tell you--being in that place--with only ... [two] other friend[s] beside me, literally a hundred or more kilometres from even a vestige of human activity, was the most overwhelming experience of utter solitude and desolation I've ever experienced in my entire life. It felt like I had found the wild and primitive Garden of Eden, out there on the sun-burnt plains of Africa. It felt like I had gone back in time to the very dawn of creation, to a time when no other human beings existed on the earth yet--to a time when the air itself was still pure, from not having yet been fouled by humankind's filth. What an awesome experience that was ... Truly, I had serious doubts about whether or not I wanted to go back to the States. Except for missing my family and friends, I think I would have been perfectly content to have stayed right there, in that paradise.

It occurred to me then (and I still think) that, in accepting our civilisation with all its benefits and advantages, we have nonetheless given up and surrendered something beautiful, noble, vital, and necessary from our existence. And the sad part is, that most people don't even realise it's missing! And what that missing thing is, is the knowledge of what it actually feels like to be truly free, and independent. We don't realise it most of the time, but we truly are slaves: slaves to one thing or another. We could be slaves to a career, or slaves to a spouse and family; we could be slaves to a government, or to taxation. In every instance, we have voluntarily surrendered a degree of our freedom, in order to purchase one particular advantage or another. But is the cost worth what we get? I still think that's a very compelling question ... You see, I once had the experience of utter, complete freedom--I thus know fully well what it is ... Most people think they have some idea of what it is, but probably are far off the mark.