We often forget that our current modes of being rest on the shoulders of countless struggles and historical conditions that grant us strange freedoms unheard of throughout human history.
Hiking is a strange and modern phenomenon, to my mind, that had never existed in human history before its current manifestation. We hike and walk for the pleasure of hiking and walking. There is no goal beyond the hike itself. Yes, we might hike to a waterfall or a viewpoint, but these are mere markers that show us the end, the point at which we need to turn around and hike back. We do not hike to get from point A to point B, we do it for the sake of hiking, for the sake of getting outside.
After a recent hike, and making a reply to another's comment on one of my older posts, the strange thing that hiking is hit me in the face. Modern life is strange for many reasons, but we are living in times where we do not have to work for food and basic requirements to stay alive. I am not talking about money, I am merely talking about the fact that we produce enough food to theoretically feed everyone with a workforce of only a few.
We have almost mastered the game of life. In fact, for many, it has been mastered. Living their lives without the need to ever worry about producing food or shelter, and not having to work for money, we have the luxury to hike...
The basic principle behind hiking is that we have the luxury to do a thing for the sake of doing that thing, whilst countless others throughout history did it for their survival. Thus the strange idea: we are able to go on hikes because our basic needs have been met.
The road leads to nowhere in particular. Maybe in the past, it led from one side of the farm to the other, or maybe it was the route they needed to take to get to a store of some sort. But today it leads to nowhere in particular. Yes, it leads to the destination or marker, a nice view, a waterfall, a picnic spot, but the fact remains: these are not destinations with purpose. We walk on this path for the sake of walking on it. We walk to our marker, but we are not headed somewhere with a goal beyond the goal of reaching the end.
And now the second strange remark related to hiking:
We have to destroy nature to be able to hike.
Think about it. How can we afford to have so much leisure time on our hands? Our basic needs have been covered. How are they covered? By us having too much. How can we have too much? By essentially destroying nature, by essentially taking more than we need.
So this strange idea emerges: we can hike because we have enough. Or stated a little differently, we can hike because we have destroyed the very thing we want to hike in. When we started our hike, we walked through cultivated ground, property used to grow food, orchards, grazing property, and so on. Walking over the first hill, nature returned. We were immersed in "wild nature". When we returned, we stood on the hill looking over the "cultivated" properties, food, domestic animals, houses, businesses, and so on.
Most older generations love to retell their stories regarding the long distances they either had to walk, ride horseback, or in slow-moving vehicles. To them, the idea of hiking for its own sake might seem laughable. Hence the historical conditions needed for us to be able to hike. But also the socio-economic environment that needs to destroy the very place we want to hike in. The destruction of nature - that is, all of the businesses operating just over the hill, the farms producing excess, and so on - allows us to have free time so that we can hike. But it is predicated on the eradication of nature...
Whilst walking, I constantly thought about this predicament. My very being here, able to hike, is predicated on the destruction of the very place I want to hike in. Or we can state it differently: our destruction of nature creates enclaves in which "wild and untamed nature" can exist for us to hike in. These spaces technically do not exist any longer, we have cultivated everything and we have marked every place with our existence. The path leading through the supposed "wild and untamed nature" to nowhere in particular destroys its status as wild and untamed. But we hike through it as if it were wild and untamed, whilst looking at the farms nearby filled with corn or wheat or grass for grazing.
One can also state it the other way around so that it sounds less harsh. If we left nature untamed and wild, and we all still had to work hard to meet our basic needs, we would not have been able to hike. Nature would have been pristine but no one would have been able to appreciate its beauty. The historical and socio-economic conditions would not have been right for hiking to exist.
Postscriptum, or Till Here Now Turn Around
This was something really unplanned. The ideas just happened to spring into my mind. I hope that you enjoyed it though. Hiking is so strange when you really think about it. We drive to the parking, only to walk in a circle, and then drive back to our homes. We hike in "untamed and wild nature" but if nature puts danger in our way - think baboons, snakes, and so on - we want to eradicate it because it is not safe. We want nature to exist but she needs to play by our rules.
Are you a hiker, and have you thought about this?
All of the writings in this post are mine, even though it is based on a comment I made earlier this week. All of the photographs are my own, taken with my iPhone.