Extreme Journeys Into the Heart

Many years ago, I was a keen long distance runner. I had dreams of doing a solo crossing of Australia after I read my first Novel “Flanigan’s Run” and I watched 61 year old dairy farmer Cliff Young run the first Sydney to Melbourne race in 1983. But age, a child, losing a kidney and tumours put a stop to all that. From time to time the dream comes to visit but I think it’s just youthful fantasy ! If ever I did it, I would walk and walk very slowly.

Ever since I was young, I have been fascinated with other people who go on extreme journeys. For a long time I was fascinated with Antarctic journeys and read everything I could on the subject. I also read about journeys to the Arctic. My favourite books were :

I was conscious that most people who went to the poles were either extremely driven ego maniacs, people in search of something elusive or people who wanted to discover themselves.

I’ve always wanted to go to Antarctica but it’s not easy to get a foot in the door. You have to have something significant to contribute to your field of endeavour. i thought I’d eventually get there as a writer (not this type of writer !). Gone are my days of scientific research and studying people. But who knows, anything is possible.

People take on extreme journeys for all kinds of reasons but often it’s for a special cause – the environment, gay rights, global warming, against the war, indigenous rights, women’s rights, cancer etc. You name it, someone is out there taking an extreme journey for that  cause. Forrest Gump’s followers were a testament to that ! You can run, ride or walk wearing nothing at all or dress up as your favourite character. You can do it solo, with a team or have someone tag along to look out for you.

Humans take on all kinds of extreme journeys. We make the body move by running, walking, running or walking backwards, swimming, flying through the air or climbing. And then we fly, sail, dive, climb or do things to the body to break down the ego (or strengthen it). We take journeys to find ourselves (not that we were ever lost), to raise awareness, to provoke a response, to grow spiritually, to see what our body’s and mind’s can endure, to be the first or follow in the footsteps of others, or to find God. We always seem to have a reason. But sometimes like Forrest Gump, we take extreme journeys for no reason at all. At least it seems that way at the beginning.

Sometimes our extreme journeys help us to grow up or to evolve spiritually and sometimes they seem to help us to escape who we think we are, the places we came from, people we no longer want in our lives, our past and all the things that would confine us. But no matter how hard we try, we are still who we are and the I is still the I.

I know a woman who has climbed the highest mountains on every continent. But when she’s home for more than a month, she gets severely depressed. So she rushes off to help children in Nepal or somewhere else exotic, oblivious to the needs of poor Aboriginal children in her own community. I once met a man who traveled with nothing but a bible, offering the word of God to anyone who would listen.

Sometimes we undertake extreme journeys because we have to. My father used to fly P-3C Orions around across the oceans that surround Australia doing maritime surveillance. He’d frequently fly for 12 or more hours, doing his job, protecting our country. Later he would fly some of the longest commercial airliner routes in the world. He’d come home exhausted and then do it all again a few days later. One of my uncles used to be  a truck driver and for many years he drove from Melbourne to Perth and then back to Melbourne and up to Brisbane and back to Melbourne again.A total of 10,400 km in less than a week.  Today he only drives 900 km per day 4 days a week. I had a cousin in the country who used to travel 200 km each way to school, before the school on the air was available. And no doubt you’ve heard about children in many remote regions of the world, going to extreme lengths and taking extreme risks, just to get an education.

But it’s not just humans, who take on extreme journeys. Many animal species do too. When I lived on the coast I heard about eels who leave the mouth of the Hopkins River in Warrnambool (southern Victoria) and travel to the Timor Sea (on the far north west coast of Australia) – a journey that might be close to 10,000 km each way and recently a cousin of mine, told me that she has been doing DNA profiling on a lobster that travels from Western and Eastern Tasmania, all the way to New Zealand (a one way journey of almost 7 hours by plane). When I was on the coast I was fortunate to witness one half of the life of the Short Tailed Shearwater, a bird that migrates 15,000 km up to the Aleutian Islands near Alaska.

A few years ago I passed a man on the highway, who I had seen on television. He was from Queensland and had travelled 2,500 km on foot to visit his sister here in Victoria. He lived on the road, where he ate the odd roadkill and food and drink that other people had tossed out of their car windows. I always wanted to talk to him but I never could find him again. I can only imagine the taunts he endured and the dangers he escaped. But most of all I am curious about what forces a man into such an extreme journey of isolation from his fellow human beings. That man spent more than 20 years living on the road. He liked his own company and the freedom of being a “man without an official identity.” Such people exist everywhere  on Earth.

People also take on extreme journeys of deprivation to cleanse some part of themselves. They go without water or food or air or sunlight in the misguided belief that they will reach some point of enlightenment or perfect health. In a more ordinary way, people everywhere go on diets to cleanse their heart, their liver, their gall bladder, their brain. You name it, there’s a diet for some problem. Some of you will have heard of the Indian Aghori – an extreme sect of Sadhus, who eat human flesh and excrement and do all kinds of objectionable things, because they believe they are one with everything and that they will merge with the absolute, if they lose all sense of identity and the need to protect the self. Such an extreme journey, seems to miss the point of the Buddha’s teaching on the middle way (the avoidance of extremes) and seems to me to reflect deep conditioning and a lack of awareness of the possibilities for human experience.

Many years after Cliff Young finished running ultramarathons, I drove past him not far from where he lived in Beech Forest. I gave him a big wave and he waved back. He ran in gum boots most of the time or crappy KT26 sneakers (the Kmart el cheapo). But when I saw him that day, I saw a man who loved what he did. He didn’t need a reason to do it.

I’ve heard of all kinds of journeys. And no doubt you’ve experienced some of them your self or met others who have undertaken them. We are all on a journey somewhere. Our ultimately journey will take us from the separate self, back to the Greater Self, when all sense of individuality merges into the Light. But until then, anything is possible, as part of the human condition.

We sure are a weird mob !

More reading here :

Enjoy ! 😉


About brightgarlick

Ecclectic kinda guy, who loves life and saviours each day as it is.

Posted on November 15, 2014, in Rants and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Excellent post, Bright. Sometimes, it seems as if human beings always have to function on 2 planes: the physical plane and the spiritual/higher self/whatever you want to call it plane. When we take a journey on one of these planes, we are almost always bound to take a journey on the other. Writing is a form of journeying, as is the act of learning (much like running is a more immediately physical act of journeying) . Our spirit feels expanded, and we traverse space and time in an entirely different, limitless way. My favorite journeying books:

    What is the What by Dave Eggers &
    Tracks, by Louise Erdrich


  2. Hey Bright, I remember you said you lived in Hong Kong when you were young, was your dad flying for Cathay Pacific by any chance? I have an CPL myself.
    Here’s a song “LONG DISTANCE RUNNER” for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er1oj0tZiHQ
    Peace 🙂

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