I decided to get a little existential with my next question. I sent a quote from Nietzche to Sam, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” I asked him if he had any “great thoughts” on his own long walk. Though he says he is more predisposed toward experience than contemplation, it seems the walk did have a powerful effect on his mind:
Sixty-one days on the trail, a dozen or so of which I spent in utter solitude. Stretched ahead of me were the linear miles of trail pulling me ever onward and drawing my thoughts out into the vast wilderness around me. Drawing me to contemplation of these great places, what they mean to the animals and people whom reside within and what they mean to humankind overall. Walking this footpath spanning the many ecosystems and many economic systems as well brought me face-to-face with what natural resource management (or lack thereof) is all about. Many an hour was passed, a horrified look on my face as I passed through mile after mile of forests cut clear to the ground, slash piled high and rutted muddy water-flows run amok. It was contemplation of these thousands of square miles which brought me sadness as it lay in stark contrast to the hundreds of square miles of pristine old growth wilderness.
But reality tends to keep me in check and awakening in the morning to find the dew-heavy leaves and the morning sunrise do great things for even the simplest of man. Joy is found right in front of you and spreads through the ephemera that is your reality and your presence. I’ve spent my life as a thinking individual always feeling somewhere in the back of my mind that all things are related through some force, be it God, Mother Nature, Science, whatever. How this force is defined has changed definitions to me over the course of my life. As a teenager I defined my being through Christianity, growing older I rejected this dogma and reduced it to something I simply referred to as spirituality.
Although not formally educated as such I feel as though I found Zen while walking in the woods. Life reduced to its simplest parts, sustenance and shelter being your only concerns one is forced to grasp life at it’s minimum. Stripping away the intricacies of society the mind far better grasps the relationships not of one person to another but rather one person to the world. Kicking your foot mid step knocks over a plant which ultimately rots into compost making way for new life. A pebble thrown into a pond creates ripples of water which send ripples into the air and so on and so forth.
This rippling effect followed me back into society and strengthened my beliefs in the interconnectedness of all things. It boosted my beliefs that people must be good to each other as the ripples aren’t just in the water, but in the conversations we have with others as well. As my sister-in-law loves to quote, “Live well, laugh often and love much.”
Anyone else who has read David James Duncan’s “The Brothers K” find Sam’s last paragraph reminiscent of certain realizations and revelations the young “Scientists” Bet and Freddy have about “humps of energy” and the such?
Don’t forget, Sam will be giving a presentation on his hike, titled “Ultralight Thru-Hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail,” at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis this Saturday at 11 a.m.