Monday, August 24, 2009

You'll Know Some Day

The mind plays games with you at certain times of your life. Most of these events are instinctual. The adrenaline rush of a moment of peril, the imagination of realizing the infinitesimal essence of existence, the enhanced ability to sense during instances of extreme complexity. For me, nerves bring about the mind tricks, and the trick is usually related to time.

During the nervousness of public speaking, of which I have been and will always be one of its more vulnerable victims, time begins to fly. I will have said things I have no recollection of saying, I will forget lengthy conversations of passing the time in the buildup to the ultimate public climax, and I will be surprised at how long I've gone talking without breathing. Interestingly, I've adapted to these particularly stressful situations so well that my body has made possible what I wish for: getting it over quickly.

In moments of perceived peril (which rarely in actuality exist), time slows down. This, I gather, is just as natural. The senses become overwhelming. Every movement is observed; every sound is heard. The wind feels particularly warm or cold. It is strange how circumstances that are undesirable can be some of the most invigorating of my life. In my quest for experience in life, it is best absorbed in these situations. Let the involuntary take over, and the mind will do the rest. You will have lived through the very real experience of the survival instinct.

But many times, these survival instincts involve false starts. For me, these instances occur when I'm alone in the wide open spaces of the world. Whoever "they" are, they say you should never hike alone. You should always tell someone where you are and when you plan to return. I suppose for society's benefit, much less your friends and your family, those guidelines are fair enough. However, there are occasions in which I am not fair. My sanity may very well depend on this absolutely necessary alone time. Solitude is my way of experiencing life to its very fullest.

Some people cannot live in solitude for any substantial length of time. I am not sure why. I have always felt the most fulfilled, the most satisfied, when "the world" is simply nature. Land with grasses blowing in the universal breeze, trees creaking back and forth, and a sky endlessly spattered in blues, whites, and grays. A quiet animal's breathing can be heard, creating the knee-jerk response of shifting your head in its direction. A bird chirps, and suddenly you whistle unknowingly with it.

The world is a scary, hauntingly beautiful place. Experiencing the world with others is fun and almost always rewarding in some manner. Observing the cultures, eating the food, and participating in activities completely unrelated to your life can be very moving experiences. There is no question that to experience the world to its fullest, you must take in these other societies and accept, even fight for, these other peoples. And yet...

I keep going alone on a new hike. I climb a new mountain, listen to the white noise of the wind, watch the water dripping from the tree leaves into a tiny puddle below. Time seems to stand still at these moments. The water twinkles in the giving light of the sun. The plants look a little healthier. The bugs fly a little more slowly. Bit by little bit, you experience the paradoxical essence of nature. So simple in its utter complexity. Nirvana may be an ideal state, but you can find it if you know where to look. Maybe all that is needed is the mind to play a trick on you.