The word ramble has no definite antecedents, no clear etymology. It’s as if it stumbled in out of the night, raming and half drunk, rabbling the roused with licentious tales of Dutch husbandry. Most importantly for me, however, it didn’t amble into a bar; it tootled to a temple. In fact, the earliest example in English of the word ramble is from 1443, in The Rule of Christian Religion by Reginald Pecock–technically, the book was The Reule of Crysten Religioun, but I’m not about to run you through the Middle English mill. It was a conduct book, and instructed Christians on such things as the appropriate amount of laughter, and how best to observe Lent. Ramble makes its appearance towards the end, unassumingly: “he shall ramble and wander, searching himself now in one kind, now in another kind, of contemplable matters.”
It’s a wonderful sentiment. The admonition to search for something unknown. It is the most delicate fragment of the religious soul: to question without certainty. To assume the possibility of revision by a higher order. It’s what makes the best scientists more priest than parishioner. They who make the invisible visible are shamans no matter what the nomenclature calls them; scientists are handmaidens of nature, and like the greatest mystics whose truths are hard won, they are ever vulnerable, precarious, ready to discard their truths at nature’s urging. It’s an ideal, of course. Scientists, like spiritual itinerants, are stubborn, and mean, and dogmatic en masse. But the best of them, like the best of the religious menagerie, are so exposed to the world’s raw datum that their measure is our best possibility.
Confronted with such jaw-slackening grandeur, the pilgrim should ramble, the wayfarer wander in search of God’s flavors, in contemplation of Her varieties. I relish the thought. It’s what I hold on to when I glance back over the meander that has brought me this far. 37-years-old. Still searching. Nothing figured out. Indeed, you could fill a thimble with the things I know, and still have enough room left for a good-sized thumb. Of course, I’ve picked up some good friends along the way. A soon-to-be-wife. A son. A few enemies. A handful of regrets, and a bum knee. But of the big questions, the ones that parked Gautama’s keister under a tree for 49 days, and sent Muhammed into the cave on Mount Hira for weeks on end without any of his wives to fondle, I’ve got nothin’.
That’s why I started rambling. Initially, I thought it was to draw some readers, you know, build an audience that could be prostituted to a publisher for book sales. Turn my vocation into coin, and other such noble endeavors. But now that I make a little money at writing, and just to be clear, there is only ever a little money to be made at writing, I understand the need isn’t pecuniary; it’s existential. I’m wandering to survive. Not survive in some kind of bullshit, “Oh, I’ll just die if I don’t write today,” kind of way. But in the way that human beings have always survived, triumphed even: community. One and another, each to each, you to you and me to you and you to each and every other, linked, daisy chained across the dark. We pick out stars and call them “Orion chasing the Pleiades,” not for the homunculus on the throne of our minds, but for each other, so we can lean across the fire and know that we are not alone. This is our story. And even if it is told by an idiot, and full of sound, and a schism of fury, it is far from nothing.
The brief joy that leaps in the breast when we meet, that lurches out of my chest at your dying, that sings and weeps and laps my mouth about your waist, and picks up your scent in the sheets after you’ve gone, all of that is our story. Virgin births and the abiogenesis of amino acids is our story. Gautama under a tree and Einstein at a patent clerk’s desk is our story. Making angels of our biblical drives and slipping our higher natures into an animal wail is our story. Monogamy is our story, and so too its lustful demise. We are these stories and more. And more. And more. And so much more that the gratuitous multiplication of organisms must be the basest expression of a God drunk with love.
Yes, it is a community I seek. A community of the living, and a community of the dead. I count you my friends, and my lovers: all of you living, all of you gone. I wander hear and there. I set up shop and wait. I pull up stakes and follow Polaris. I call out to the anchorites shagging foul balls at Dodger Stadium. I gain weight in the winter and lose it somewhere in the High Sierras.
I stoke up a cigar, pour myself some whiskey, and wait for You.