“I’ll just walk the earth.”
It may not be very pious (although there is a very memorable apocryphal quote from Ezekiel 25:17), but Pulp Fiction is perhaps my favorite movie.
There’s a scene where Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L. Jackson), two hit men, are in a diner discussing their future.
Jules contends that he and Vincent have just experienced a miracle, and he plans to change his life accordingly. After finishing their current job, Jules says, “I’ll just walk the earth.” Vincent, who does not agree that their lives were miraculously spared, is incredulous: “What’cha mean, ‘walk the earth’?” To this Jules responds, “You know, like Caine in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get into adventures.”
Vincent just can’t understand this. “You’ve decided to be a bum. Just like those pieces of [expletive deleted] who sit out there who beg for change, sleep in garbage bins and eat what I throw away. They got a name for that, Jules. It’s called ‘a bum.’ And without a job, residence, or legal tender, that’s exactly what you’re going to be: a [expletive deleted] bum.”
A recent essay from Peter Berger examines what is often unexplored in social thought: the experiences of those at the margins. I’m referring to those who are not marginalized because they are oppressed; those types get a good deal of attention, although perhaps not of the quantity or the quality that they warrant.
What I’m talking about are those who in some way live at the margins on purpose. In “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum!” Berger takes a look at a few different types: the flea market vendor, the cowboy, the hobo. He writes that these and other types (such as the Roma in Europe) exemplify a kind of practical anarchism, to be distinguished from ideological anarchism. “Anarchism as a political ideology typically begins with senseless murders and ends in tyranny,” he writes, but “there is a root insight, not in anarchist theories, but in what could be called an anarchist sensibility. The insight is that most institutions are based on fictions, often homicidal ones, and that individual freedom is a precious and precarious commodity that must ever again be defended–both against the coercive institutions of modernity and against the more subtle coercion of traditional community.”