The Hobo

Joe Clark ~~ Nov 20, 2004

Today is an unusual day. I have a class project to work on, but the deadline isn't for a week or so, so I officially have some free time. Amazing! I like days like today. I like the freedom to do what I want, even though I know that on these sorts of days I am a rampant waster of time, even more than usual. But whatever, it's relaxing. On the other hand, because I do have things that need to be done eventually, I feel sort of tense about doing nothing, because I still think I should be doing something for a fair share of the time. And, also, because I'm not motivated to work right now, and it's a bit of a boring (in a good way) day, I feel a little alone too. But such feelings come, and such feelings go, and such is life.

So, in a bit of time I set aside today, I read a little from a book called "Hobo." It's sort of a weird book, and I really have just read the prologue so far, which is a bit disjointed. But you know me -- I like trains, and I make my silly random comments about hobos occasionally -- so an observant friend bought me this book recently, and I'm interested to hear more of what it means to be a hobo.

Deep in my silly head, I kind of have this respect for the hobo lifestyle. But I have this respect only for the lifestyle that I would like to have if I were a hobo. The book may convince me that I need to be more discerning about my use of the word "hobo", as it can be interpreted many different ways.

Well, the book, even in the prologue, talks about (what I call) positive things like riding trains, visiting remote townships, eating pancakes at some random diner in the middle of nowhere on a snowy morning, having a sense of freedom to go wherever I want, etc....those are all things that, well, I sort of admire (not that I want for example freedom to leave -- I just like the feeling of freedom -- if you can see that distinction at all). I am sort of hypocritical about it, because I don't think I'd really ever be a hobo. I don't think I'd want to break the law to do it. I think I'd get too cold in the winter time. I think I would be opposed to such a solitary lifestyle. I would miss the community involvement. But. I think there is something in the hobo lifestyle that I long for. I long to integrate that freedom and ruggedness into my lifestyle somehow. But it seems like a dream, like a fantasy, and I really can't escape my life as it is, my situation, and most of all I can't escape myself, whether I want to escape these things or not.

As I think about the hobo lifestyle, I keep thinking of Rich Mullins. I think he would have had some respect for hobos too. Don't you think? I don't know a lot about him, but from his music he seemed to embrace the .. what? .. the "deeper thoughts" of what it means to be alive, to be a human, to be a creation in the image of God. "Deep thoughts" what a stupid phrase. But it has to suffice for something I can't even explain. What is "deep"? I think I can tell you when I'm feeling deep, but I can't really describe what it is. I want so much for other people to understand the joy and the bittersweetness of life when I talk about my "deep thoughts" or my "wise thoughts", but I don't think anyone gets it, unless they've had their own bout of "deep thoughts" that they also can't explain. I feel like there's some way of thinking out there that is at the exact same time both intensely "Christian" and intensely inquisitive and intensely seeking...but I don't know how to express it or describe it or figure out how to share it with anyone else or even if I should. Maybe I'm just messed up and need to just live my life in the usual way. But then...

"And in the east the whole horizon is in flames
And I feel the thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain,
And I hear the prairies calling out Your name"
-- Rich Mullins

Amazing. I don't know why it's amazing, it just is. And I feel like, in my glorified view, this is a song that a hobo would echo. This may not be what a *real* hobo would say, but it's my fantasy so my hobo will feel that way. My hobo will ride his freight train in summers only on the UP overland route heading west from Omaha and on through Nevada, watching the sun rise as if in flames, seeing the rain fall, and hearing the prairies calling out God's name in some intensely not-boring, not-typical, enlivening way, even above the loud jolts of the train as it clips along. My hobo will live his moments drinking in the scenery out the train car door, and will live for *both* the time allotted with nothing to do but observe and think, as well as the time when the train stops and he can run into the nearby small town and find a bite to eat at a local diner and talk about trains and the beauty of creation with the random people he finds there.

Well that's what I think. Now that I've been all philosophical, I should get back to real life. I say that in jest a little, because I so much want to make this ideal dream of living a part of my "real life." I don't want to be cold, I don't want to hop trains for real, I don't want to be a migrant, I don't want to be alone all the time or even most of the time. But I want to be detached enough from the junk of life that I can appreciate the separation and being a free agent, free to seek God and think and even to love without the usual weights and concerns. To use familiar imagery, this is beautification engineering. This is life beyond silly bubble hugs. This is life beyond Linux. This is life beyond the usual. This is life outside the box. And this is life beyond using simplistic terms like "outside the box."

I know, it may not make any sense. And I am talking in contradictions. And if it did make sense, it would be a stupid dream world anyway. But whatever, I can state my dreams if I want. And if there is such a thing as "youthful idealism," I better voice and describe my dreams now before I get even more bogged down in non-youth and the non-idealistic, ho-hum life.

Okay, have fun thinking about this. :-)