wayfarer: a brief character sketch of a misled heroine

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who believed that it was possible to become a warrior-poet, live off the land, and commune with all the creatures and spirits of the forest. 

This would have been a worthy aspiration had she not been born at the tail-end of the twentieth century and come of age in the Dawn Era of Search Engine Optimization or seen the Rise of the Listicle Scribe Order. Let us call our ill-fated heroine Wayfarer for the purposes of this brief and tragic account. 

Our heroine had many excellent qualities, including persistence, ambition, creativity, and frugality. Wayfarer’s love of nobility and truth was superseded only by her love for a clever turn of phrase. However, in this imperfect and unromantic era of human history, these qualities chiefly manifested as an ability to obsessively edit poetry on a laptop into the wee hours of the night while drinking tea she stole from a cheap hotel. She probably also stole this tea while drunk on a ski trip and didn’t tell anyone, not even her friends, because she thought it was funnier if nobody knew about her secret stash of stolen second-rate tea.

In order to staunch the wound that was Not Being a Spiritually Optimized Warrior-Poet, she climbed entirely arbitrary selections of stone or plastic imitation stone, occasionally exercised a form of tyrannical dictatorship in the gardens of friends, and wrote poetry on her laptop which she rarely showed anyone. Years prior, her Starbucks-loving and SUV-driving mother had told her that her poetry was a bit dark, and she struggled to understand why metaphors of burning funeral pyres and imminent doom were anything other than a bit of harmless American fun. 

Wayfarer had the unenviable habit of making lots of “funny jokes” to herself and narrating her life in the third person. To her, this seemed like the most efficient way to deal with the mundane nature of everyday existence. When she was particularly bored or disillusioned with the unoriginal and trivial nature of life, she would either fixate on questions of geological time, or she would escape into a fantasy world of her own creation and ask herself all manner of interesting questions, including but not limited to: 

If a world was not flat but rather shaped like a frisbee, would the points of the compass get all fucked up on continents near the world’s edge due to abnormal gravitational forces? (Her conclusion: it would be far more interesting if the points of the compass got fucked up in that scenario, so the answer is by necessity a yes.)

Is it possible to construct a hypothetical society in which cannibalism is practised in an ethical and conservative manner? (Her conclusion: dubious, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if the answer were yes?) 

Could a blind and albino whale live in a giant underground lake behind a waterfall? (Her answer: absolutely.) 

How long would it take an individual like me, relatively untrained in the art and science of linguistics, to construct a language whose chief constituents were verbs and gendered prepositions? (Her answer: one cannot know the answer until one attempts such a feat.) 

She was, in the words of her father, always thinking the Big Thoughts.

And so our heroine wandered the long and lonely path through the trenches of the 21st century, wondering why wealth and glory had eluded her. Ever distracted by the Big Thoughts, she sometimes came back to earth when a friend or romantic interest asked her to go on an adventure, attend a music festival, or discuss an interesting topic. 

However, if there really was nothing interesting going on, she would either obsess about the sad or tragic features of her life or else imagine Billy Connolly narrating her life in voiceover format–that is, if she had grown weary of her own internal narration for the day. 

Employers were frequently annoyed by her ability to ask questions to which they didn’t know the answer, and even more annoyed when she seemed to take pleasure in discovering the holes in their knowledge. In her mind, she equated these holes with the gaps in knowledge that everyday labor necessitates in order to help the human species operate with maximum efficiency and reduced effort in the long-term, thereby enabling survival (see Jakob Meloe’s work on activity spaces). 

There is evidence to suggest that past employers didn’t see these questions in the same light. 

When she was particularly pissed off at people or just felt like being a Jerk without looking like a Jerk, she would pay compliments with words whose root etymology negated the actual compliment itself. Such as: 

“I’m very impressed; that solution shows sophistication.”

Etymology of sophistication, according to Wayfarer’s favourite online etymological dictionary:

sophistication (n.)

early 15c., “use of sophistry; fallacious argument intended to mislead; adulteration; an adulterated or adulterating substance,” from Medieval Latin sophisticationem (nominative sophisticatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of sophisticare “adulterate, cheat quibble,” from Latin sophisticus “of sophists,” from Greek sophistikos “of or pertaining to a sophist,” from sophistes “a wise man, master, teacher” (see sophist). Greek sophistes came to mean “one who gives intellectual instruction for pay,” and at Athens, contrasted with “philosopher,” it became a term of contempt. 

It was a far more well-rounded and cowardly insult than straight-up calling someone a ho, and the perfectness of it pleased her.

Men often took her jokes, eagerness for adventure, and propensity for staring off into space as a sign of sexual interest or Female Mystery. This always confused her. She was probably just feeling mentally unstimulated and found them to be an interesting character study, and, in all likelihood, she at one point attempted to perform some sort of inept and amateur psychological or character analysis. 

Men, she felt, tended to make more accessible casual study subjects, as, in general, they were not as adept at naming or, therefore, concealing emotions or psychological wounds when compared with typical female subjects. They were very blustery creatures, and whenever you brought up a tender point, they would try to act even more manly and guarded, and it entertained her. However, she tried to make up for this self-interested form of entertainment by being nice to them and offering them help, which tended to further confound rather than ameliorate the situation.  

For these reasons, she often wondered if she was, in fact, a Bitch. Simultaneously, she was aware that she was often pigeon-holed into the Manic Pixie Dream Girl category, but men quickly wisened up when they realised she was indeed manic, and she was also indeed a dream girl, but that her dreams usually involved mountains and cannibalistic fantasy-world cultures. As far as her pixie nature went, she always dreamed of being a fairy or elf as a child, but she currently used skiing at terrifyingly high speeds as a temporary replacement for magic and immortality. 

In the words of a disappointed firefighter, she was Too Much and there were Red Flags everywhere

Most men, upon encountering said Red Flags, decided it was best to stay away. Other men, the foolish ones, thought, in the words of an aspiring secret serviceman and staunch Republican, “It seemed like fun.” 

Speaking of fun, she did very well in school and thought of Knowledge as the Noblest Pursuit–until, of course, she realised that universities were largely money-making industrial complexes constructed to siphon students into soul-sucking but salary-stimulating jobs that perpetuated all the problems of the current economic and social systems. At that point, she decided to make Accessible or, better yet, Free Knowledge a primary love of her life, second only to the foolish welder who decided to fall in love with her after a mere week of making her acquaintance. 

The foolish welder (hereafter Welder), it must be said, was not actually as foolish as one might be led to believe; he was simply just as insane as Wayfarer herself, if not slightly more so. 

In another lifetime, he would have become a highly successful if not amoral caveman and mountain king. In the current unromantic era, he settled for occasionally climbing fifty-foot cliffs without any sort of protection, drinking beer when he felt his life was not adequately stimulating, and sleeping in hammocks on flooded islands in somewhat chilly weather. 

She fell for him almost as quickly as he fell for her. They proceeded to fall intermittently in and out of love and either fight about entirely inconsequential matters of everyday life or find themselves once more nervous and giggling in the presence of another human being just as aspirant and insane as oneself. 

This story, of course, has no basis in reality, but can be used as a cautionary tale for individuals who find themselves foolishly aspiring to the status of warrior-poet in such a gloomy and dour age as our own.

One thought on “wayfarer: a brief character sketch of a misled heroine

  1. […] I’ve personally visited (and sat in) a ruined viking church that was the site of a brother-against-brother blood feud. I’ve also eaten a hummus sandwich in an un-excavated broch in a sheep pasture, which is an Iron Age circular stone tower. It was over 2,000 years old, so it had lots of sheep around it and was covered in grass, but still. Further down the historical timeline, the islands were colonised by the Norse in the 8th and 9th centuries when the vikings decided that settling was, in some cases, a better long-term financial plan than plundering. […]

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