As much as I love the wilderness, as much as I love the reduction of living to its most basic components, there is a part of me that I welcome back. After the magnitude of various acts of living are reassembled, after eating and sleeping and pooping have returned to their previous insignificance (although with renewed appreciation), there is a dimension of things that I realize I have missed. At some point into a weeklong expedition I invariably will have found myself humming violin concertos, but it isn’t until after I’ve returned to civilization that I realize how much I miss the other stuff of the mind. Intellectual stimulation is a large part of what I love, and most of a sort that is technically superfluous. I relish my return to the world of complex literature and abstract science. I want to contemplate the dissonance in a Shostakovich string quartet. I crave a discussion about artificial intelligence or agricultural domestication. I need to catch up on the Science journals that have stacked up in my absence.
These things are a part of who I am, and I love them. But I never want the knowledge of who I am to come at the expense of what I am. A living body with muscle and breath among a world of towering rock and cavernous ocean. One living thing among so many others. One living thing that can hardly survive in this landscape of wind and sun, that doesn’t really belong, yet I do.
I want to hold the world of muscle and breath and sweat and grime alongside the world of paper and pencil, data and scores and the maze of knowledge my mind can explore. I want to inhabit both the wilderness outside and the sculpted landscape of the mind. I can’t say which is the bigger part of me.