Sunday, August 05, 2007

Amazing Discovery

Here it is! The stone that didn't roll. It is hidden in a quiet nook of a lazy stream near Tillamook, Or; the very stone that gave rise to the famous proverb. And its true what they say--The stone that did not roll gathered a heap of moss. It is rich in hoary moss.

The proverb suggest that it is a good thing not to roll--to sit and gather moss.

Well judge for yourself! This stone, rich as it is in moss is BORING. It has lived a boring life. It is self absorbed, fat, unloved. It is dying and doesn't know it. It has been nowhere, seen nothing, risk nothing. We can only pity it. We are not impressed by its load of moss.

So half the quest is over. I'll now go find and photograph the ROLLING stone; the one that gathers no moss.

No, not that rolling stone.

Nor these, though they are sliding stones in Death Valley, but that's not it either. When I find the origional "rolling stone", I expect it to be lovely, smoothe, charming, wise for all its travels, but moss poor. If you find it before I do, e-mail a photo to me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Foreclosed? Losing your home? Look on the bright side!

To begin with, it never was your house. A mortgage is a way to collect rent from you and make you responsible for maintainance. Face it, you’ve allowed yourself to be scammed by shallow values, real estators, mortgagers and property tax collectors– a life-draining combo.

Take responsibility for your situation, learn the lesson and look on the bright side. You are now unchained and free to move about the country.

Being “houseless” does not necessarily mean homeless. It is an opportunity for values clarification, creativity and new directions. Almost no house is worth what you were paying for it; on average 45% of your take home pay–for 30years. It was an assault on your future. As Thoreau pointed out, the true cost of a thing is how much “life” must be surrendered to possess it.

Consider the dwellings of the plains Indians. One could be built in a month and would serve a lifetime. It was as good as the neighbors and was movable.

Anyway, looking on the bright side, here’s a chance for your creativity to kick in. Renting a room is a good first option. In a worse case, living in your car is viable for awhile. It can be done with considerable comfort if you are imaginative. (remove 3 seats and platform in a bed) I once did this for months while traveling.

Another benefit of being houseless is that you will be forced to winnow your possessions, most of which you could well do without. Too much stuff is clogging the flow of our lives. Mobile folks become experts at appropriate collections of stuff.

A good intermediate solution is a small Toyota Dolphin type camper. Good ones can be had for $5000 or less. Then if you continue working, savings will quickly pile up now that you have the mortgage monkey off your back. You will learn the ropes of stealthy living very fast. (Where you can and cannot spend the night; where water and dumps are available etc)

Soon, with lots of spare money you will begin to hone your art; perfect a new lifestyle. Solar panels are a logical next step. $700 will buy you functional solar power for a lifetime. I spent $1700 on my system and I now have virtually free power for a lifetime.

Very soon you may begin to connect with the Million of us who are also “houseless.” We are among Americas’ most self reliant people–a joy to have as friends.

Assorted organizations have formed to link us up and accentuate our adventures. I’ve chosen the WINS (Wandering Individuals Network–www as my associates, enjoying 10 years of mobile companionship. These are very smart folks who willingly share their smarts and fill my social needs.

So cheer up, you forclosed people! There are other paths to walk; paths that lead away from mundane stresses of conventionality toward a new life of lightweight adventurism.

Monday, June 04, 2007


We who have won our freedom;
Moved away from the hectic;
Created space for ourselves
Traveled open roads to empty places;
Dared to face empty moments;
Courted solitude.

We now accept the deeper challenge
of unstructured time.
Having thrust aside a great weight
of "must do" things,
We are free to create "will do" things.

We boldly accept the challenge
to make meaning out of nothingness.
We will learn to fill our days
with games of our own making.
This is an art and a skill.

What is Meaning?

Meaning is a feeling of aliveness, purposefulness and connection that exist between the beginning and end of a game.

What is a game?

A "game" is a situation where "what is not" is declared to be more important than "what is"---and acted upon! Today we played the Moab game. We declared that being in Moab, UT was more important to us than being in Monticello, UT. So we moved through lovely countryside to Moab. Game over! Note that Moab may not really be more important than Monticello, but we pretend that it is in order to get movement.

Why play "games?"

To get ourselves in "motion." Note that motion does not mean physical motion alone but includes such things as reading or thinking. It is intentional progression from a beginning to an end that is key.

Why is motion so important?

(and all you ever wanted to do was contribute)
Movement through experience is like a boat moving through water; it makes waves and so do we. Waves (the effects of our actions) are our contribution to the world.

IT IS BENEVOLENT IRONY THAT PLAYING GAMES TO AMUSE OURSELVES IS THE BEST WAY TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE WORLD. Thoreau, in living his life selfishly for himself inspired millions to follow their dreams.

Kodgers, perhaps uniquely, understand that movement is more important than location–for the same reason that acquiring is more fun than possessing; getting rich than being rich. Life is a journey not destination---movement not stasis.


Imagine your head is a light bulb. Your brain is the filament. Experience is electricity and when it flows through you or you through it, you light up. Meaning is Glow! Sometimes we glow brightly and sometimes dimly. The games we create range from tiny to lifelong, and often overlap. Scratching an itch is a tiny game that generates a flicker of meaning. To be brilliantly lit is what we all want. We can know that we are "lit up," alive and on purpose, when what we are doing is so interesting that we lose track of time. Psychologists call this experience “Flow.”

A happy individual is a lit up individual. We could say that the winners in life are not those with the most toys but those with the most joys–the brightest glow.


Meaning is artificially generated by playing games. All of us can generate meaning whatever our circumstance. In the movie One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, the main character is a meaning generator even in an insane asylum.


The space we have won for ourselves is also our challenge: How to meaningfully fill it. We do this by letting the space “speak to us” of our real “fascinations”; out of which we create “games” to get us moving through experience; which lights us up with meaning; radiating our contribution “out there.”

A Question to Ponder:

Whose games are you playing? Your own or someone else's?

This essay is copyrighted by Randy Vining 2007

Recommended reading:

The Psychology of Optimal Experience
by Czikszentmihalyi

Saturday, May 05, 2007

How To Die a Hero's Death

Trevor Sheehy died a hero’s death. Faced with inoperable cancer, he passed on Nov 22 of last year.

He died with as much courage as he lived. He had wandered the whole earth in a career of pure adventuring that spanned three decades. In the last year of his life he lived on the exotic island of Zanzibar and in the Australian back country of Kakkidu.

When colon cancer metastasised, he returned to Oregon to die at a time and place of his choosing. Utilizing that state’s assisted suicide law he acquired a killing dose of barbiturates. He continued to enjoy his life and friends until he decided his moment had come. Assembling family and friends he said "its been great. but its time to go." As he ate the fatal applesauce, he joked that this desert would not likely catch on. In just moments he lay down and died. That’s how a hero dies. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered on Moro Bay, Ca.

I had the pleasure of Trevor’s company for a few years as we traveled and camped in the West. He confronted the mystery of existence with faith and not belief, rejecting the onerous doctrines of conventional religion. In a final conversation with me he said he didn’t know what, if anything lay on the "other side," but he was going there willingly and without fear. That’s a hero’s death!

No one ever described it better than William Cullan Bryant in the final words of "Thanatopsis."

"So live–that when thy summons comes to join the innumerable caravan that moves to that mysterious realm where each shall take his chamber in the silent halls of death—that thou go not like a quarry slave at night, scourged to his dungeon, but soothed and sustained and with an unfaltering trust approach thy grave—as one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies down to pleasant dreams."

The picture is of Trevor, Diana and I hiking in Zion in May 2000.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Henry David Thoreau: The World's Most Famous Kodger

Here is a reproduction of his famous cabin and a statue of him on the shores of the pond he loved.

His classic book Walden, published in 1854 is probably in every major library in the world. It was the big influence in my path to freedom. I was never the same after reading the first chapter entitled “Economy.”

Living in a time when people literally worked themselves to death, he refused! He built himself a small cabin in the woods by Walden pond and embarked on a grand experiment: to see how little a man could work and still earn a living. The answer: six weeks of work a year would do it. By living simply and efficiently, he could enjoy himself the remainder of the year. He declared that he wanted a wide margin to his life, spending his free time writing, fishing, walking, talking etc. He floated down the Merrimack River in a small boat just for fun. He once walked to Maine and later to Minnesota.

Leisure allows and perhaps stimulates creativity. He wrote an essay that changed the world: “ On Civil disobedience.” Ghandi and Martin Luther King gave credit to Thoreau for their strategy.

I believe that all of us can learn to live more efficiently, clearing enough space in our lives to follow our dreams.

An unintended side effect of doing so will be to inspire others to follow their dreams. Here’s a few quotes from his marvelous book:

“I should not talk so much about myself if there were anyone else I knew as well.”

“Everywhere, in shops and offices and fields people appear to me to be doing pennance in a thousand remarkable ways.”

“How many a poor immortal soul have I met well-nigh crushed and smothered under its load, creeping down the road of life pushing before it a barn seventy five feet by forty.”

“Who made them serfs of the soil? Why should they begin digging their graves as soon as they are born?”

“Men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon plowed in the soil for compost.”

“It is a fools life as they will find when they get to the end of it.”

“Most men are so occupied with the fractious cares and superfluously course labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by them.”

“The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly.”

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

“We carefully set our traps to catch the good life, then turn around and find ourselves caught in our own traps.”

“Things are more easily gotten than gotten rid of.”

“I count a man rich, not by how much he can afford to own, but by how much he can afford to leave alone.”

“I count the cost of a thing not in dollars and cents, but in how much of my life I must give up to own it.”

“Life is best viewed from the vantage point of voluntary poverty.

“What mean and sneaking lives many of you live, always on the limits, trying to get into business and trying to get out of debt, a very ancient slough, making yourself sick that you may lay up something against a sick day.”

“It is hard to have a southern overseer; It is worse to have a northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave driver of yourself.

“Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of
himself’ that it is that determines his fate.”

“Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams and you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

“Let the night overtake you everywhere at home.”

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it, do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The faultfinders will find fault even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours even in a poorhouse.”

“I left the woods for as good a reason as I came. I had several more lives to lead and could not spare any more time for this one.”

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The King of Kodgers Remembers Whitman

As your elected king for a time, I decree that we henceforth spell kodgers with a "K" to distinguish ourselves from mobile codgers who move to escape. Mobile Kodgers move to generate meaning. I will flesh out this theory later.

Pictured is your king on the open road, humbled by the beauty of Monument Valley, quoting to himself the immortal words of that greatest Kodger poet Walt Whitman:

Each man and woman of you I lead upon a knoll;
My left hand hooks you round the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes of continents, and a plain public road.
Not I, not anyone else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it for yourself.

It is not is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born and did not know,
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

Shoulder your duds and I will mine, and let us hasten forth;
Wonderful cities and free nations we shall fetch as we go.
If you tire, give me both burdens, and rest your hand on my hip,
And in due time you shall repay the same service for me;
For after we start, we never lie by again.

Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams.
Now I wash the gum from your eyes;
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and
of every moment of your life.

Long have you waded timidly by the shore, holding on to a plank.
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again and
nod to me and shout, and laughingly dash with your hair.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Useful Kodger Secret---Free Storage

Don't want to carry it around? Might want it later? Box it or wrap it and bury it out in the desert on public land. Here we are retrieving a box we buried 6 years ago. Be sure to write down directions--memories are fallible.

I have stuff buried all around the country!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The King of Kodgers Tells His Story

Since many of you have asked, here’s the short version:

Forty or so years ago, I was in a miserable job in New Orleans, LA, yearning for freedom, with pictures from Arizona Highways magazine taped all over my office. Then I read Walden by Thoreau and saw how I could be free. Simplicity, frugality and savings could liberate me. I managed to save $5,000, quit my job, and enjoyed splendid leisure for 2 years, wandering the
country on a motorcycle.

I was hooked! The joy of rising each morning, doing only what charmed me, became a benevolent obsession. So I determined to win my permanent freedom.

I bought a large, burned, abandoned house with borrowed money, moved in, and slowly renovated it by renting out rooms as I completed them. In five years, I sold it with a profit of $50,000. I did a similar thing for the next five years, and called it quits. Most people vastly overestimate how much money they need to retire. Becoming a mobile codger cuts your expected amount at least in half. Here’s my financial story expressed poetically.

A Bucketful of Freedom

Wealth is like a leaky bucket
Beneath a water spout.
Running water is our income;
Expense is leakage out.

And the measure of our wealth
Is how long we could hold out
If some sad misfortune
Turned off the water spout.

Most folks focus on the spigot,
Seeking increase of the flow.
I’ve focused my attention
On the leakage down below.

I’ve sought to plug my bucket
By reducing my expenses,
Holding in my savings
Like a cowboy mending fences.

With patience I waited for bargains,
Didn’t count on Lady Luck,
Lived well below my means,
Getting bang for every buck.

When water rising in my bucket
Reached that calculated mark,
I left behind my drudgery
And flew off like a lark.

So I think my wealth is great
Because my needs are small,
And I won’t have to work again
With any luck at all.

Money can purchase freedom
If you have the guts to buy it.
I know folks with beaucoup bucks
Too afraid to try it.

I am buying freedom
With the savings in my pail,
‘Cross highway seas of adventure
In my land yacht I will sail.

I guard my nest egg with the care of a mother crocodile. It produces enough to live well if I live simply. Indeed, I find that a slight surplus builds up over time, so that when a new vehicle is needed, no damage is done to the nest egg.

Most Americans, I think, at some point in their lives will receive a chunk of money, perhaps an inheritance, a settlement, or a windfall of some sort. Most will fritter it away because they cannot quantify life (calibrate cost/benefit), and therefore, pay the terrible price of enslavement and drudgery. Over the years, I’ve heard many sad tales of windfalls squandered.

I have my system down to a fine science, and will share all my techniques with anyone. Almost everything I know, I absorbed from others. Indeed, I have found that anyone I engage even moderately has something to teach me. I willingly learn. It is one of my finest qualities.