Perusing the Indian jewelry in Old Town Albuquerque, Sash asked me, "Do you know what I wanted my Indian name to be?"
"No, what?" I answered.
"Leaf on a River", she said.
Last night as we sat at the table in our studio motel, looking into our laptops, we talked about what it meant to be homeless, referring particularly to those friends of ours who couldn't understand us wandering aimlessly across the country without an itinerary, giving up much of our possessions and living like gypsies.
"It used to be that humans were all hunter-gatherers, living in clans and moving to wherever they found food, water, and shelter.", I said. "But when they developed farming, they created civilizations, and with it laws, money, and power."
"What do you think makes people want to live in one place?" Sash asked.
"Because we grew up that way?" I figured. "Because our parents did, and their parents did?"
"I think it's because of a lack of trust." she said. "Having all of their things in one place, where they can protect it and control it, makes them feel safe. People want to surround themselves with material things, along with wealth and power, so that they can hide their insecurities."
Security is perhaps what it really boils down to.
Even as hunter-gatherers, there was a need to protect ourselves from predators, rival clans, and the elements. But within an advanced civilization, insecurity takes on new forms, and how people deal with that may include building wealth, owning property, securing position within an organization, and even getting married. Collectively, those solutions force people to dig their roots into a specific geography.
Early on when Sash and I were dating, she brought up the phrase, "pushing the river", referring to how people expend a great deal of effort to affect something. In college, I studied music, and would often force myself to write compositions only to end up writing something awful. Yet, there were other days when music would just flow out of me effortlessly.
"We're not homeless", I said. "Our home is the river."
But the asphalt doesn't carry our motorcycles. We still pick a direction and then follow that road. It's when we force ourselves to find a place to go to, or expend energy deciding where our next destination should be, that we're pushing against the river. What's wrong with staying in our motel room the entire afternoon buried in our laptops, if that's where the river takes us? Sometimes the river hits a wide spot and slows down.
Almost a month into our six-month motorcycle road trip, and the motel we stay at is just a place with a bed, television, microwave, and coffee maker. It doesn't matter I stay at a Motel 6 or a Hampton Inn, all I care is that the room has what we need and it fits our budget.
Sash is starting to see something similar. She'll be at a Starbucks, and only see that it's a Starbucks, forgetting which town she's in. Perhaps somewhere down the road, it won't matter that it's a Starbucks, as long as it has chai tea lattes and free Wi-Fi.
It's like we're getting to a paradigm where we see only the intrinsic value of things, and care less about their extrinsic value.
For me, it means stripping away another layer of security, where I can find comfort internally than externally, where I don't surround myself with designer brands and expensive stuff.
But it's not to say that I'm there yet. I still find myself seeking praise from others. I still find myself trying to measure up to others. And there I am, still trying to push the river, rather than be happy drifting along the current.