Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Travelling by Thumb

The following is a travelogue, describing a trip I once took from Berlin to Amsterdam. The emphasis is on thumb-travel, aka. hitch-hiking, but, to be fair, I also utilized bus and railway services along the way.

Since ancient times, there's been those who view travel as sacrament - intricate, mystical and semi-chaotic patterns brought forth by the movement of the traveller across the Earth. The reverend geomancy of the Sufi dervish, simultaneously reading and creating patterns in the land and the abstract thought-land of the cartographers - for the mindful traveller, Buckminster Fuller's quip of "there are no straight lines" is self-evident.

Of all forms of travel, hitch-hiking is, perhaps, the most social - progress fuelled solely by Baraka, or Mana, the wholly imaginary yet powerfully real measures of Grace manifest as Luck. The indecipherable magick workings of humanity as an organism open to those who put up their thumbs on the motorways: the bloodflow of traffic is a highly pure manifestation of the entropy principle, where "effort" is a measure for the net energy of transformation. In this context, the hitcher is an anomaly; happenstance with no extraneous energy - gaming the ultimate system, Thermodynamics. By riding a novelty wave that was already in the process of crashing into a lower energy state, the travel becomes a form of surfing - taking advantage of pre-existent conditions, the Dervish moves with a simple fluidity akin to that of a sailboat - covering sometimes vast distances with no wasteful use of energy.

The landscape of service stations is one filled with intrigue: as all environments, it is shaped by the demography that flows through it. On display are the items that are judged essential by the Invisible Hand of the market economy: knives, hubcaps, novelty mudflaps and air fresheners; pocket pussies from the men's room vending machine, for truckers who spend more time in the cabin than anywhere else; gasoline, diesel, food - fuel for man and machine. Slot machines - cheap thrills to stimulate the ten-minute break during a five-hour drive. Coffee to go, in one-size-fits-all-cup-holders thermal foam and spillproof plastic. Cigarettes.

Lane after lane of wet black tarmac on the Autobahn, travelling on the power of Mercy - in a very literal sense, for I am sitting in a Mercedes that speeds me from the midway service station on towards my goal for the journey, Amsterdam. The driver, empathetic, lively and extrovert, with no reservations towards someone he's just met, seems to embody the reciprocity principle whole-heartedly: the thing he drives also drives him. Here's a case for buying the name as a vector of information and meaning, not just an empty slogan or marketing identity. Compassion towards all, and thumbs up to both sides of a hitch-hiking exchange!

The prose owes much to Hakim Bey, whose themes and literary style continue to inspire and delight.

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