The Emptiness Within


So you are decluttered. You simplified. Have only 100things left.

Congratulations! Here is your freedom (wrapped in silk, with a bow).

But why do you feel empty now?

No one can guarantee you that you specifically will not be one of the many who, in your 20th night of travelling the world only with a backpack, or staring at your newly decoration-less walls in your house, will have an unclassified sentiment of fear rising up inside of you. In explaining this, I’ll be making a bit of a stretch. Bear with me please.

How do I know?

I know that from working outdoors for many years. There is something that being alone, in a forest, especially at night and in places that are still white on our maps, can do to you. I am probably what many people call a loner. I am not antisocial, have friends, and so on, but I am a perfectly content person by myself. Alone. What being alone in a forest at night creates within me, is a fear of the unknown, of blackness and emptiness, and sometimes of death. Solitude means concentrating on the inside, and at the same time on the greater scheme of things. God? The Universe? Time? These thoughts are a tough thing to tackle – think solitary confinement. They can come up at night in a forest, but also everywhere and anytime nothing distracts one from oneself.
I will give you three examples of what I saw such solitude do to people. I changed their names for privacy protection

Neglecting – A girl that was with me for a while, let’s call her Ines, came from a typical wealthy and very protective family. Her contacts with the great Wild outdoors had so far been limited to vacations and summer camps. Well, she got The Fear. She had a relatively unique way of dealing with it – she wouldn’t let the feeling happen. When she got scared by something or by silence, she would start chatting away loudly, sometimes even the whole night. As the days went by, that strategy wasn’t working anymore. What Ines did then was also quite curious – she proceeded to view the scary big world as a camp adventure tour (commenting on the great adventures while they were happening). In her new way of things, she wasn’t vulnerable anymore, nothing could possibly happen except great adventures the stories of which could be shared on a camp fire, and her faked upbeat mood would certainly carry her through all of it unharmed.

Retracting – A young man, whom I call John for now, was perfectly prepared. He had a whole new set of fancy equipment and gear that would certainly aid him in facing the great unknown. What he didn’t expect, was The Fear overcoming him. More precisely, his Fear was about catching some disease while touching items that other “dirty” people had touched before him. He was suddenly very afraid of death, by being exposed to an environment where it happens visibly quite often, brought up by the stark contrast between our protected lives at home and The Wild. His fear was so strong that he refused food. After a couple of days, he felt symptomatics of diseases. He listened so fearfully to the sentiments within him, that the normal processes of his physical body alienated him. He started to medicate himself with all sorts of pills, which caused some actual conditions, which in turn frightened him even more. After he was discovered hoarding medication from the emergency stash for everyone, he was sent home.

Escaping – I haven’t been there myself but a good friend told me the following story. Nathan, a hired helper for a project, was very excited about starting his work in The Wild. Among other things he brought a flute, and a collection of fantasy books which he intended to read in solitude in the forest. Just after three days, he had a change of mood. The solitude had frightened him to death, and he never wanted to return again to the forest. Alas, he had to. The next night he got so scared that he lost his mind and started running away from his fear, which caused him to get lost. He was found unharmed and returned home.

Rio Chagres, Panama, 7am. Copyrighted material - please ask permission before use

I’m not sure why I even write this. If The Fear happens to you, there isn’t a magic cure. I don’t know of one myself.

But maybe after subtracting the fluff in our lives, dealing with these feelings when they arise, contemplating them, and accepting the way the world goes can provide you with calmness and a good path to walk in the future to become a better person.

Things won’t make you happy, but the absence of them won’t make you happy either.

After realizing that you don’t need your physical belongings, you might, after a while realize that it wasn’t these belongings that weighed you down in the first place – it was you.

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