Juggling the Blood and Fire

You cannot meditate. I cannot meditate. Nobody can.

Nobody can meditate. But you are not nobody. Not yet.

You are still somebody. You are still a Christian, a Moslem, a Hindu, a scholar, an atheist, a teacher, a saint, a criminal, a businessman, a parent, an orphan — you are still somebody. You still have identities.

You have a name. And when people ask who you are, you immediately say it. “I am Fred, I am Charli XCX, I am Zeus, I am Groot.” And if people keep asking to that, you start mentioning your profession, your place of origin, your family tree, your social status, your nationality, your religion, your political views, your philosophical schools — you are not yet nobody.

Some people try to renounce the world. They leave their jobs, their belongings, their families, their societies. Some of them even change their names. They go deep into the forests, high on the mountains, down in the roads. They become a pilgrim, a monk, a hippie. But that doesn’t mean they have become nobody — they are still a pilgrim, a monk, a hippie.

There is a famous story. It is about Christopher McCandless, an American hiker who died in Alaska in 1992. The story has been written into book and later adapted into a film, titled Into the Wild.

McCandless was a bright young man. He graduated from college with double major in history and anthropology. Almost all of his grades were A. He was about to get into Harvard Law.

His parents were rich. When he graduated, they wanted to buy him a new Cadillac as a graduation gift. But McCandless was always unhappy with his parents. He knew about their constant fights, his father’s affair, and all the lies that went through his childhood. So he refused their gift and became more sick of them than ever. Instead of going to Harvard, he chose to disappear.

He left his apartment, donated all his savings to charity, burned his cash, and took off to Southern America. There he met some hippies and lived with them for a while. He changed his name to Alexander Supertramp. Then he worked for a man named Wayne at a grain elevator, earning some money to fund his way along to Alaska.

When Wayne knew about this, he asked McCandless, “What are you going to do in the wild?”

“You’re just living, man,” said McCandless. “You’re just there, in that moment, in that special place and time. Maybe when I get back, I can write a book about my travels. You know, about getting out of this sick society.”

“Right! Society!” Wayne exclaimed.

“Society, man! Society!” said McCandless again. “Cause, you know what I don’t understand? I don’t understand why people, why every fucking person is so bad to each other so fucking often. It doesn’t make sense to me. Judgment. Control. All that, the whole spectrum!”

“What ‘people’ we talking about?” asked Wayne.

“You know,” McCandless answered, “Parents, hypocrites, politicians, pricks.”

Upon hearing this answer, Wayne realized what went wrong in McCandless’s head. So he tapped his long finger against McCandless’s forehead, saying, “This is a mistake. It’s a mistake to get too deep into all that kind of stuff.”

Wayne is a man of great insight. He could see something that McCandless missed — that he was too serious with his life. He was too serious with his family, too concerned with society. He was juggling blood and fire all the time!

But McCandless could not see his own seriousness. His own dis-ease. He was blind inside. He kept juggling his blood and fire and headed north to Alaska, hoping to live simply in solitude.

After spending three months in Alaskan wilderness, he began to feel lonely and scared. He began to desire people again, his family, civilization, society — all that he called sick, poisonous, hypocrite, and prick. He started to miss them — very silly. What could be more stupid for someone who seeks solitude than missing the relationships? If he really wanted to be alone, why not he dropped the desire in the first place? And if he still had the desire towards people, why the hell did he go to the wild? His whole adventure was a joke.

McCandless was in the wild but he never stopped reading books. He read Tolstoy, he read Thoreau — he kept his mind busy. He kept acting as an intellectual, as if one intellectual was needed by the wild.

He wrote a famous line: happiness only real when shared. Yet, his happiness remained unreal because he could not share it. He couldn’t share with the mountains, the rivers, the rocks, the trees, the animals. The whole universe was available, it is always available. Always present. But McCandless couldn’t share with them. He was never present. Always absent. He longed for the people from his past. Couldn’t move on from his past.

That’s why, in the end he could not help thinking about calling each thing by its right name. Right before he died, he came back from Alexander Supertramp to Christopher Johnson McCandless — from the new self to the former self. From somebody to another somebody. He was not yet nobody. He was not yet nameless. He was too serious, hence the tragedy.

Every journey that has been done by the so-called pilgrims and monks in search of the truth, God, peace, real self, and whatsoever spiritual is stupid. It makes no sense because anything spiritual can only be found inside, not outside. You can change name from Matthew to Mohammed, to Marx, to Mahavira, go to Mecca, Lourdes, Jerusalem, but it’s only superficial — it has nothing to do with your inner reality. The real journey is inwards.

You can keep your old name and become nobody. In fact, everybody will always be somebody outside. But deep inside, we are always nobody. Nameless. Religionless. Priceless. People always say that less is more, but they never want to be less. They always want to be more. So names are getting longer, religions become more radical, and things become more pricey.

Now there are four guys: Somebody, Everybody, Anybody and Nobody. Somebody has written something for Everybody, but Everybody has not read it. Anybody could have read it, but Nobody understands it.