The Absence of Man

“The greatest joy in nature is the absence of man.”

-William Bliss Carman-

Every time I hike along the shoulder of a mountain or even just walk in a local forest preserve outside Chicago, I recover a part of myself.  I gain a fragment of my self that I had lost to civilization.  In the world made by minds and crafted by committees, I feel alone and small.  Yet when I spend time with the earth, I experience those identical states as solitude and humility.  I can reckon with the rejuvenating violence of a storm or the rhythmic extremes of the seasons more easily than I can negotiate the outburst of a jackhammer or the tantrums of rush hour.

Out in the dessert, I can put on a camelback when there isn’t enough of water, or punch on a rain parka when there’s too much.  Yet for all my trying and obsessing, I still don’t know what to do when there’s too much liquidity in the market, or not enough of it in my mouth when I’m trying to speak in a meeting.  In the world, I’m too tempted to sell myself out to the highest bidder, whether that be the boss, a beautiful woman, or the comfort of my couch.  But the unmitigated earth won’t bid for me.  The wilderness allows me to take the price off my forehead by celebrating myself with me.

© 2015 by Michael C. Just