I’ll often romanticize about the times of old, where libertines would adjoin in sanctified bouts of passion with other societal rejects. They reveled in their isolation, two spellbound deviants so infatuated with the presence of one another that it was impossible for the rest of humankind to understand. It would be them against the world, which was filled with montagues, capulets, and people that would try to detach them at the hip. So, they fled from it all, not to the release of death, just elsewhere; as the ports that lie over the horizon always seem like they lead into an oasis.
Case in point, “run away with me,” used to be a very legitimate proposal. Two kindred spirits could surreptitiously pack bags and travel far enough otherwhere that their past selves would only exist through memory. They could start a new life together in an unfamiliar place, they could be whoever it is they wanted to be, free from derision. Believe me then, when I say that those intrepid enough to embark on such a journey should be tucked behind a cabinet for safe keeping in history’s attic. It has already been shown there will be less and less of them as time moves forward.
Let me explain.
Say we’re in the Old West, we see an idle young man become smitten with the daughter of the Town Marshall after watching her practice piano in the early mornings before the Saloon became crowded. The crazed lust he feels towards her turns out to be mutual, but the relationship is sacrilege. If it were to ever reach the public ear, he’d be sentenced to the gallows to be hanged on several false accounts. He says to her, “run away with me,” and they can, they don’t even need many resources. He kills the bankteller in the night, and rides with her on horseback to the nearest town that isn’t theirs with a railway track. They take several trains for weeks on end, until they become so lost themselves that someone else tracking them down is an impossibility. They marry, and spend the rest of their days together, purging repressed desire in the bedroom of a quaint cabin, purchased through generosity of their home town’s bank. They live serenely, until they both die of Dysentary within a few short years.
Fast forward to 20th century Missouri, the homestead of Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer. Two vivacious artists of dissent decide they don’t take to Catholicism too fondly, and take a page out Mark Twain’s iconic book. “Run away with me,” they say to one another. They combine what little they have, commandeer a neighbour’s raft, and float down the Mississippi river, taking frequent naps under the clouds along the way. They are Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius floating down the Nile, lying alongside torqued trees, and the crocodiles. They’re quite fond of the idea that they may never see another another human being that isn’t the one lying next to them, unless named Huck or Jim. Hunger pains hit hard once supplies run short, but it only beckons a pit stop along the way to top up food and water. They float until they hit Mexican regions with delightful tastes and music, whose exoticism is more entrancing than anything they have seen. So they set up shop, as proud gringos, out of sight and mind of the home town that believed them dead long ago.
It all feels plausible even in more recent times. Prior to the internet’s pervasive infection of western civilization, one could pack up Mystery Machine’s to hit country roads and escape their lives. John Denver could take you down the I95, or across Route 66, with a person you loved, safe from the terrors of the outside world, housed inside of a steel shell. New lives could be plucked from the ether, jobs could be gotten whimsically, and though finding runaways then might be easier than before, it remains an arduous task so long as they don’t call or write.
It saddened me recently, to hear a young, coeval casanova suggest that wanting to run away with someone has become almost obsolete. The earth as we know it currently, doesn’t leave much room to sever ties like it used to. Globalization enforces planetary interconnectivity, technological advancements make distance into an erroneous concept. It is easier to find people than ever, as the societal collective has seeped fangs deep into our planet’s neck – everyone wants to be a part of everyone. The final straw was the world wide web, willfully woven into what we wear, where we wander, and when we wake. Say “run away with me,” to a concubine in the modern day, and your old life can claw at you from afar with the ease of sending a facebook message, or a text. They’ll sniff you out like a bloodhound if you’ve moved to Rhode Island, in the time it takes to conduct a google search.
In truth, the world has become a smaller place, and continues to, the longer that mankind inhabits it. The illusion of our planet being massive has dissipated into phantasmal nothingness with every waking day that new innovation occurs. Good for us I suppose, but by the same token, all that we know is being robbed of its mysticism the more knowledge we unveil. I remember Sherlock Holmes once saying, “Omne Ignotum Pro Magnifico,” roughly translating from Latin into “That which is explained seems less magnificent.” I can’t say that I disagree with him. As much as I enjoy the human pursuit of omniscience, any success in that endeavour leaves less room for the fantasists to romp. The enigmatic feeling of elsewhere was sustenance to the soul of adventurers, there is nothing enchanting about being able to unravel Cambodia through the push of a button.
Perhaps, the Cosmos will eventually offer the expansive mystery to us that Gaia’s globe once did, if our progression allows us to traverse it. Romantics will again be like the runaways of old, escaping together into the outer reach of alien planets, seeking shelter in celestial taverns with inebriate beverages that offer highs that make ayahuasca feel like a cup of coffee. Promise me you’ll relish this time, and won’t take that blissful ignorance for granted. As large as space may seem to us today, tomorrow, and in the next aeon; there could come a time when it too, becomes too small for runaways.