I have been spending a good amount of my time walking backwards. It began a few weeks ago when I was watching a program on television about habits. The show talked about humans as creatures of habit. We are carved from habits that have been conditioned into us since a very young age. These habits are what allow governments, corporations, parents, bosses and various other institutional constructs to control us, manipulate us and influence us. This idea sent chills down my spine. I had to open a bottle of wine to calm my nerves. So this is what is going on, I thought to myself. I learned that there are huge organizations created to study human habits and how to create and control these habits. Immediately I stood up, turned off my television and put it into the closet. I took a deep breath. Was I having an Orwellian nightmare or was I awake? I went outside and took some more deep breaths. I turned off my iphone. I sat down on my front door step and stared into the nights sky. All I could do was sit there.
Over the course of the next few days I thought about starting a revolution. But who would it be against? I wanted my autonomy back but I have never been much of a revolutionary. I am not the kind of guy who throws stones for political reasons. I want to be but political causes just do not interest me that much. So what could I do to combat the forces that have created my habits and now manipulate and control me? I could drink, have fun, be silly and act out in ways that are not considered normal. I do this already and it only gets me so far. I could spend my days in silent meditation but I can barley concentrate long enough to sit in meditation for fifteen minutes straight. I thought and thought about what I could do to oppose the forces of habit and then it happened. One day on a walk I just started to walk backwards.
It was not a preconceived idea. I was walking forwards and as quickly as wind changes directions- I started to walk backwards. Immediately I felt a shower of relief pour over me. For the first ten minutes of walking backwards I tripped and felt the muscles in the back of my legs tightened up. I had no experience in walking backwards and the only way that I could learn to do it was to continue moving backwards despite how many times I almost fell. After the first ten minutes of walking backwards- it felt more natural. I was less clumsy, tripped less and the muscles in the back of my legs calmed down. I was simply able to enjoy the pleasure of creating a new habit. An abnormal habit. A habit that no one else would be able to control but me.
When we reverse habits we re-wire the mechanisms in our brain. It is like charting out new neural pathways that have not been traversed before. We actually end up rewriting the brain, expanding it beyond the daily, conditioned pathways that we are so used to walking down. I assumed that the more I walked backwards the more I would create new pathways in my brain that had not be preconceived or designed by parents, schools, corporations, governments. Maybe, I thought, the more I walked backwards- the more autonomy I would get back. So for the past two weeks I have been walking backwards as much as I can. I walk backwards almost everywhere I go. At the market, the gas station, restaurants, bars and even at work (when I can). People stare at me and call me a freak, which is only natural since I am stepping out of the conditioned societal way of doing things. My boss has become frustrated by my need to walk backwards, my wife has trouble being in public with me (although we are starting to walk backwards more and more together) and it is difficult to drink my daily bottle of red wine and then walk backwards without falling- but these are minor bumps in the road. What I believe I will obtain as a result of my walking backwards far out weighs what I will lose.
I have learned to enjoy seeing things as I walk away from them rather than always walking towards things. Walking backwards gives one a new psychological framework through which to perceive reality. I value the things that I have more now whereas I used to think more about things that I needed to get, places I needed to go. Walking forwards keeps one stuck in the future, always moving along with the forces of entropy. Walking backwards opposes the forces of entropy, slows time down and allows me to focus more on enjoying the things I have without needing to go forwards and get more. I would not be exaggerating if I said that when I walk backwards I feel liberated.
My boss has threatened to fire me if I keep walking backwards at work. I do not have much money in my savings and I do not know what I would do if I lost my job- but I am not going to stop walking backwards. It is more important to me that I live my life and discover my own autonomy. I need to feel like I have distinguished myself from the self that has been programmed and conditioned by an apparatus that is beyond my control. Advertisers, politicians, teachers, bosses, bureaucrats, police officers are all apart of a societal nexus that has been set in place to keep us in our habitual ways of being and thinking. They keep us preprogrammed and detached from who we really are. If it means that I have to walk backwards for the rest of my life to find out who it is I really am- then I am willing to do this, one step at a time.