There are times when interacting with the mutants and the alien organisms gets a little too much to put up with. I’m all for the carnival of beings on this planet earth, but steering my cart clear of undead ghouls in the supermarket and jostling with humaniform robots for a parking space? It gets on my nerves. I love that the critters come to pay me visits, but sometimes I feel bad they have to go all the way into the hungry sprawl of the Wump World just to talk to a human being. Too much posse!

It’s at times like these I pack a lunch recharger and a water refueler into my pack, punch in the coordinates for a nature node, and hit the road Jack. Now, unfortunately most nature nodes are also crawling with apprentice-humans, so it’s a bit of a wheel of fortune these days. Too many carbon based units infesting Enterpris…I mean Earth and interfereing with her surface functions. You don’t always get to achieve escape velocity and dodge the psychic gnats of horde sprawl, particularly when it’s a daytrip from your local star system. To get away you have to go way out there, but those sorts of events take planning, lest you end up with a package of gummi bears between you and hunger in a ravine somewhere.

But the forces of nature exert their own pushback, and the ani-mani-mals have means of diverting the humans away from the important places. The struggle to achieve civilization tends to leave psychic scars that make one susceptible to natural misdirection. Fine with me! I’m just here to get away from the freaks and geeks, and enjoy the sensation of less noise. The critters and the growy things are always happy to show you what they got if you will stop thinking for ten seconds and listen. There’s something to be said for the contentment of munching a ketchup and baloney sandwich on a boulder by the riverside while a dragonfly skirts the surface of the water chowing down on mini-flies.

So, one day K and I are doing our duties, when the inhumanoids make an all out attack on our sanity and our patience. We pack up the required allotment of iron rations and hit the nearest Level 1 nature node we can think of for the experience points. We need some cheap level-up, right away! We decide on a river trail park we know that is close enough to be immediately feasible and hit “warp”.

The strip of public land is accessible via a warp trail that goes through some really pricey real estate, where the chronically afflicted with money are wisely separated from the general population as a matter of health. It’s a convoluted road, and easy to get lost in, but people find it just the same. Once you reach the designated de-warp slowdown and landing cycle, the trees envelop your conveyance and the mansions and ranches of the well-to-don’t fade from sight like the recovery of a sick patient under the care of a miracle cure. Park, spin the wheel, and see how infested the grounds are with humans.

Today, the latino fishermen are out in force. These individuals dive into the river and swim towards rocks in the thick of the current. They climb aboard and lay out a simple line and hook, no rod, and catch fish. It’s dangerous, and their disregard of the safety warnings extends towards litter awareness. The rocks along the shore are often littered with empty beer cans and tangled fishing wire. Throw in a steady trickle of generic dweeb family units from whitesville, complete with yowling brats in stroller transports along mud paths, and loud voices proclaiming their fear of not talking which is known to lead to thinking.

K and I hit the trail and reach the broken terrain border, which slows the crowd down and increases the distance between them. Soon, we’re in rocky, dense overgrowth and putting the noise behind us. There always seems to be a point at which the human contamination factor comes up against the power of nature, and you cross over into the “wild zone”. We spot a darkly colored salamander and know we’ve arrived. K examines the growy things while I take in the ambiance and consider what’s on my meditative table for reflection today. Now that I’ve got extra brain power not being tied down by jibber-jabber and personal space violations, I may actually be able to have a thought! Totally awesome.

We find a nice, isolated stretch of boulders enshrouded by trees and plop down to watch the water go by. Time to break out the lunch and bask in the separation from the people. This is what is known in some esoteric circles as honoring the hermit. A lot of emphasis gets placed on how important it is not to be “unmutual”. A lack of social contact is taken as a sign of mental illness. People who want to be by themselves are seen as not being right in the head. Well, taking it to the Carl Jung level, I’d say the same could be said for people who want to always be hanging around other people. Isolation and aversion to people can lead to madness, but it can also lead to intelligence. It’s unhealthy to interact with people all the time.

Grover of Sesame Street sings a song about this (“What Do I Do When I’m Alone?”), which errs on the side of social contact. But it also makes the point you can be alone and it’s okay. As the population of the planet of the apes swells, it becomes more difficult to retreat from the pressure of the collective with all it’s impersonal demands and complications. You can’t have a chit chat with the hermit if you aren’t listening at the door for this elusive person’s knock. If you are willing to retreat from people, you are willing to let people retreat from you. Too often, people turn into psychic cannibals because they start turning towards their fellow people for sustenance. They are so used to being around people all the time, they start becoming pathologically dependent on them for solitude. That’s when the brain-eating happens, and it ain’t pretty.

Go climb a tree is not just a witty saying. It’s a piece of genuine real world advice. Get lost! Bug off. Go away. Leave the tribe and get your head back in gear. Remove yourself from the collective and go to your room. Your sanity depends upon it. Only when you are ready should you go back to the hopper. Judging from the need for people to form unconscious groups even in a park setting, I’d say the vast majority of apprentice humans on this planet still need to work on it.

Back on an even keel, K and I rejoin the horde and slug it out again. Who knows what kind of plot we’ve advanced by taking time out to refresh the health points?