Holly Brook, graceful meanders, Eagle Cap Wilderness . . .
On the road in the American Northwest. [ click photo for next / BUY prints online ]
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ON THE NECESSITY OF ROADLESS AREAS (II)
WILDERNESS IN NORTH AMERICA?
A goddess chained to a rock
with on all her sides
the greedy grind of petrochemical lust
racing to road’s end—
ready to take the wild bitch for a ride.
Because of the near complete motorization of North American
culture, roadless areas have gained in the past twenty years
or so tremendously in significance. Now, at road's end, we also
reach the spiritual end of what I see as a defining imbalance
of the made-in-the-USA metaphysics of the world, namely, a
remarkably one-sided way of thinking about freedom.
North Americans seem largely to take a self-centered view
of freedom, what we might call the freedom to of the individual.
Why might this be imbalanced? In my view, it is because it fails
to take adequately into consideration the possible harm caused
by the potentially negative consequences of our actions as they
reverberate out into wider contexts, into the wider community.
It is really very simple, this idea that freedom always has two
sides, the freedom to, and the freedom from. Take the example
known well to every big city apartment dweller: I want to listen
to my loud music in the middle of the night; You want to sleep.
So to make life liveable, we have to work out some kind of a
balanced agreement between us. What I want to suggest is
that all freedom works essentially in this same way. And what
is more, individuals and cultures may be characterized by which
side of the two they tend to give emphasis, give the most
significance and legal protections. We can easily imagine the
extremes, and it is good to do so for the sake of clarity. On the
one hand, we have the state of absolute lawlessness, where
every one just does as they please; And on the other, we have
the state of total control where no one is allowed to do anything
at all freely. Whereas North American culture has evolved an
exemplary balanced form of liberty in the areas of freedom
of speech and expression, it seems to me extraordinarily
imbalanced when it comes to the three key defining areas of
finance, private property. or anything powered by hydrocarbons.
If I can make money, if its my land, or if its my car or truck or
dirtbike, 4-wheeler or snowmachine, the basic assumed
metaphysics is, "Get the hell out of my way!"
Even though the original idea of setting aside large tracts
of land without roads of any kind undoubtedly originally
concerned itself with the harm wrought upon the environment
by the negative side-effects of mechanized travel, roadless
areas now also offer us a place to experience the benefits
first hand of a more balanced idea of freedom. In addition
to the freedom to, we now have a complementary freedom
from. Predictably, the freedom from part of the equation deals
mostly from the unwanted by-products of car culture, like
freedom from noise, or the freedom from air pollution.
Like water meanders through an alpine bog, finding a kind
of living balance by turning now to the left, now to the right,
I think this more balanced idea of freedom is something
beautiful to behold. But don't take my word for it. It might be
worth making a bit of an effort to get out of one's car and hike
up into one of those areas just to rediscover for oneself what
freedom is really all about.
Eagle Cap Wilderness,
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