Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Escape to, or, Escape from?

To sacred hills, woods and groves, 
To sacred trees and shrines 
Do people go, gripped by fear.
But they are not safe refuges, 
Not the best refuge. 
Not by going there 
Is one freed from all suffering.

Part of yesterday's vacana that I pondered about last night after a couple of days back in the granite.

Earlier I'd seen a teenage girl, not even breaking her stride, kick out at a telephone box. "Two days back in the city, and I'm already annoyed by the way people behave". The 20mph speed limits in the city centre haven't made any difference, don't seem to be enforced, and just seem to be money wasted on signage. Do I want to escape from this, or escape to somewhere where people have more respect for their surrounds and society?

People have talked about the spiritual nature of the wild places, and tying it in with beliefs of old (actual or re-invented). I usually just have more time to think about things when I'm out walking - it's not the places, it's the lack of distractions. Then I often find that the big hills, river crossings, or walking carefully over scree, helps me get things into perspective, and the worries shrink away.

"No-one took the minutes of the team meeting before Christmas...so what, there's a golden eagle hovering. Oooh."

In the same way that the chav kicking a telephone kiosk doesn't care about me, neither does the landscape. It doesn't provide a stunning valley for me to appreciate because it gets some sense of pride in return, it is just nature, geology, erosion, weather, wildlife - in the raw. Uncaring in the main, or in the case of wildlife, just trying to get on with life (which it'll do once the sodding humans have gone past).

So, in the words of the adage "wherever I go, there I am". There is no escape from feelings, but the wild places allow me to get some 'head space' to put them in to perspective, show how unimportant some things are, and how important other things are to me. The estimated times in trekking books are never enough for me when I'm solo, as I can stand for 10 minutes just watching a herd of red deer retiring into a forest, noting the way that the stags watch the threat (me on the other side of the glen). I'll watch a bird flap from one rock to another and wonder what it's going after as there are no insects around. I used to be able to 'people watch' in the urban environment: now I just get annoyed by the attitude of most people, so I can't do that any more.

I mainly get annoyed by my own attitude.

To me, the urban environment is uncivilised and wild; many of the inhabitants are soulless beasts, hunting goods in the shops that never make them happy.

Humans are spiritual people. We can't help but take our beliefs out into the world. That doesn't make the wild places spiritual places, just places that people go to get in touch with their problems or memories.

I caught a petal fallen from cherry tree in my hand.
Opening the fist
I find nothing there. *


John Hee said...

Total agreement -well said

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
(Leisure - W. H. Davies)

AktoMan said...

Time ... slayer of man and mountains alike.

I use a PDA and MS Outlook to keep track of what I need to do. Life is so complex and my memory so poor. Going for a coffee becomes an exercise in logistics and checking watches ("have I got everything prepped for my next class?").

I berated some students today for their lack of attention span when watching a programme about a radio station's use of technology. And yet, during the break, I rarely completed watching an episode of "Scrubs", but jumped from one channel to another during the advert breaks (different episodes were on the different channels).

Tick...tock...the sound of the reaper's scythe...

Time...a limited resource.

For most people, life is actually reasonably good. Live it. Don't waste it, cos in the end, we need to have made a difference. Otherwise, what was the point of having lived?

Time...oh, what, it's midnight? Sorry, lass, lost track of the time.

Topic for contemplation: why is watching things relaxing and enjoyable?