Oh That Magic Feeling! — Song of the Wanderer

Some feel most at home when wandering.

To know where you are, to have a social and psychological context, can be comforting and carry a sense of security. However, it can also have the baggage of history, the weight of too many personal dramas, and come with a feeling of being stuck or trapped. The open road can offer not just a fresh start, but a perpetual freshness, tasting life without history, moving through worlds without becoming part of them.

Oh that magic feeling,

Nowhere to go

Paul McCartney

Of course, not everyone trusts the stranger in their midst. Many will still probe you for a story. If you are on a journey, you must have a destination, or a reason for going. Perhaps you are running from something. And how could you possibly be happy on your own?

When you wander, you are in a heightened relationship with fate. Your closest companion is God, who speaks to you through chance encounters, through twists of fate and through the inner feeling of expansiveness itself. When you walk without a purpose or destination, it can be easy to feel unstuck from space or time. When you never know what is coming next, you must either trust in God or return to what is familiar and offers the feeling of safety.

As you wander through places you never knew existed and meet people with lives very different from your own, you may feel a sudden and spontaneous reverence for humanity, the diversity of the world, and the infinite creative power of God. You may be moved by the inexplicable kindness of those you meet, and also humbled and broken down by the indifference and sometimes cruelty of others. You cannot wander and be proud, because, as a wanderer, you depend too much on others and the road. Instead, you meet every situation and experience as a lesson from the road.

Once upon a time, this type of pilgrimage was commonplace, and perhaps, when freed from an overbearing religious context, it could become that way again. It could be accepted, respected even, for spiritual seekers to hit pause on the flow of life and take to the road, living the life of a wanderer for however long it suits them.

Wandering makes you appreciate many of the things we take for granted. Even something as simple as a glass of water can become a godsend. Not to mention food and shelter. We become more aware of the cycles of the natural world, and our place in them. We learn to bear small discomforts without complaint. We learn surrender.

Surrender sounds like death. There is a place where life and death meet, where movement meets the unmoving, where presence and absence are two words signifying the same thing.

Homeless, homeless

Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake

Paul Simon and Joseph Shabalala

Spirit is homeless, wandering from life to life, from body to body, restlessly seeking happiness through the senses, hoping to secure a permanent rest through possessions and relationships which are inevitably ephemeral.

I’m a leaf on a windy day

Pretty soon I’ll be blown away

How long will the wind blow,

How long will the wind blow?

Until I die, until I die

These things I’ll be until I die

Brian Wilson (Beach Boys)

There is a bittersweet beauty in the ephemerality of things. All things are wandering from birth to death, and out of death comes new birth. Wandering from form to formlessness. From ignorance to experience and wisdom. 

The shape of things can be lost, but their essence remains.

The millstone of life goes on moving, Kabir weeps

Between the layers of truth and untruth, no one is spared

The millstone of life goes on moving, Kabir observes

He who holds the anchor of His name, will always remain unhurt!

Don’t leave me now, O Breath, I am a wanderer!

Still have to travel to faraway lands

O the one who is asleep, awake!

Our Master has made this body like a palace

And He played the instrument of breath within!

Our Master has made this body like a garden,

And how He’s filled it with a bowl of flowers!

Says Kabir, he who follows the truth

Will attain the kingdom of immortality!

Kabir (sung in ‘Banjara’ by Maati Baani)

What is the kingdom of immortality?

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 

Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

Luke 17:20 (King James Bible)

The wanderer may start to see all the external places as equal and ephemeral, each holding their own joys and sorrows, but passing from time and eventually from memory. Such a realisation cannot help but drive us to seek some refuge in this ‘within-ness.’ Is there something within us which does not pass, does not change, and provides a refuge from the twists and turns of fate, of the road of life? Is there a home which is not an external place, but our own inner Self?

Through prayer and meditation, we may seek to discover the treasures of this ‘within-ness.’ Like seeds planted in the soil of our heart, they bear eternal fruits which are ever-sweeter.

The playlist at the top of this post includes the songs quoted here and some other songs which carry this feeling of wandering freedom, bittersweet beauty of the ephemerality of life, and mysticism of the eternal spirit.

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