We are looking for ways to live in an era in which the wealthy and powerful—working in a modernist, capitalist, big business, big government, imperialist system—have extracted obscene riches, killed millions, and wreaked havoc on the environment (#Anthropocene). And yes, an era of amazing technological progress, economic prosperity, strident nationalism and xenophobia, pathologically narcissistic leaders, and so on. We launch from the here and now, from what might be seen as a dilapidated dock on a muddy, polluted river, unsure of where exactly we are going except that it is downstream. We begin in a room full of boats and paddles and life jackets and tents and raincoats, in the ongoing attempt at systems change, while still having to work within that system.
We are at the headquarters of Wilderness Inquiry, an outfitter that started with the premise that the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness could be accessed by people in wheelchairs without having to pave paths, build docks, or allow motor boats into that small remnant of relatively undisturbed nature. Two pieces of federal legislation–one to preserve wilderness, the other to make public spaces accessible–seemingly clashed, and a scrappy group of Minnesotans were determined to show how you could do both. The result was an organization with the mission of making wilderness experiences available to anyone. An iconic image for their work is a photo of a person in a wheelchair repelling down a sheer rock cliff.
We have a long journey to take, and we are all differently abled, all fallen, all falling. We lack the wisdom to be able to see clearly what lies ahead, we are short-sighted and selfish and often can do hurtful things. But we are also powerful and thoughtful and caring and hard-working, all in our own ways. So we will enter into the wilderness, into the fog, and work on finding our way to camp.