(English version below, on "all that stuff" I carry with me on the journey, as well as the relationships and the process of gearing up..)
All That Stuff
The reason why I have a Great Worry
Is because I have a body
If I have no body
What worry could I have?
- Dao De Jing, Ch. 13
When there's a body, there's stuff -- to keep the body nourished, sheltered, and moving. This post is about "all that stuff" I carry with me on the journey, as well as the relationships and the process of gearing up.
On this pilgrimage, when it comes to gears and stuff, the principles are:
1. Minimalism: as simple, as few, and as light as possible.
2. Sustainability: buying new is the last resort.
3. Trusteeship: non-attachment to things, knowing I am just their current steward and user, before they return to the circulation.
I once read somewhere, "If I need something, but I don't have it, then I don't need it." And, "If I am carrying something that I haven't used for a month, then I don't need it."
Minimalism and simplicity, as an art of living, is a ideal for this journey-- without it becoming a fetishism, or an ultra-light obsession.
Here is the link to my complete gear inventory.
On this trip, I am only bringing two sets of clothes -- one for wearing, one for washing.
What I did not bring:
- Front panniers: got rid of them on Day 4. We have the tendency to fill up as much space as we have available, so, by cutting my carrying capacity by half, I am leaving less room for error :)
- Contact lenses: too much hassle to put on and off… Contact lens solution also weighs quite a bit.
- Water filter: I am in the US…
- Stove system, fuel, cooking equipment: will be doing all cold food that doesn’t require cooking.
- Bike computer: it broke. I took it as a sign to stop outsourcing my body's intuitive knowing to gadgets: speed, temperature, distance, etc. Not replacing it.
- Electronics: Kindle, MP3 player, camera, external battery. A smartphone does it all. And when the battery of the phone runs out, what better excuse for unplugging!
Throughout the process of putting together the gears, I had to work seriously to resist consumerist impulses and inner cravings. Going to the store is a hard battle, requiring a lot of will power. I would go into REI for an hour, and come out with only one item -- most of the time in the store was spent on resisting the urge to buy things. Voices like, "Oh, that one is one sale, and I might need it on the road!" "Oh, this one is only $20, with 10% REI membership refund anyway!" And so on.
An old Chinese saying goes, "The child who wears clothes passed on from others will grow up faster."
I held an intention to avoid buying new things as much as possible for the pilgrimage, and instead, to source them from thrift stores, friends' garages and storages, etc. In addition to the resource-saving benefits, it also carries many community and spiritual benefits.
The shorts I wear are $7 from Goodwill, plus $20 at the tailor to resize it -- still cheaper than buying new, and it is also supporting small local business, and making friends with the local tailor, who also made the pouch for my flute from recycled fabric.
I am using the same phone (Nexus 4, bought used on Amazon for $125) as I did three years ago -- the one I used while riding across the US last time. It works great, as a camera, voice recorder, MP3 player, e-reader, maps, and so on.
Getting used things from my community also builds relationships. On any given day of the journey, I am wearing or using items passed on to me from half a dozen friends. Each item is not an mere object, but a living relationship and fond memories. Right now, I am wearing socks from Earl, pants from Tom, and shirt from Jack. I am literally surrounded by a cocoon of gifts and well wishes through the "stuff".
Kahlil Gibran wrote,
For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow?
And tomorrow, what shall tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?
And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?
Before departure, I gave away almost all my "possessions". The contemplation of mortality and impermanence helped me to let go of even the more sentimental items.
Over the past three months, four people close and/or dear to me have totaled their cars. Luckily, all of them escaped more or less unscathed. But, the proximity and frequency of these near-death encounters made me chuckle as I look at my (relatively small) pile of stuff: there's no guarantee that I will come back to use them. So why not release them back into the greater circulation, so that they can fulfill their purpose, and I mine? What's more, if my storage pile is too big, or too significant in my heart, then, energetically, I would be too weighed-down to truly journey far and free.
This uncertainty is in fact true every day, every time we sit in a car. But we have been desensitized. The pilgrimage has helped to re-sensitize me to uncertainty of safety, and the certainty of impermanence.
Finally, back to Gibran,
You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
A pilgrimage around the globe by bicycle, in service of the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time.