Posts Tagged ‘postmodernism’

The Psychic Nomad Manifesto

April 22, 2009

What is a psychic nomad?

Very simply, the psychic nomad has no fixed frame of reference, no stable identity, no permanent home. Psychic nomadism is drifting across different mental and cultural “landscapes”. Physical nomadism can bring about psychic nomadism and vice versa; they are mutually reinforcing. People who travel extensively tend to become psychic nomads and psychic nomads, in turn, tend to travel extensively.

Psychic nomadism is subversive. From a Romantic perspective, the psychic nomad is a “citizen of the world”; from a Totalitarian perspective, the psychic nomad is a “rootless cosmopolitan” whose loyalty is always suspect.

Some people choose psychic nomadism, others have it thrust upon them by circumstances. Political refugees, who are unable to return to their homes, may find themselves forced into the role of psychic nomad. The state of exile itself becomes a home.

To some extent, all of us are psychic nomads. Psychic nomadism results from the experience of “everything solid melting into thin air.” The postmodern world makes Ulysses of us all, while denying the possibility of an Ithaca.

From one perspective, we might say that home is nowhere; from another, home is everywhere.

Psychic nomadism is ambiguous. It might refer to the mind’s tortured, aimless drift from object to object, commodity to commodity, without ever finding lasting satisfaction; or it might refer to the freedom from all fixed references, static illusions and rigid dogmas. Psychic nomadism can be a compulsive neurosis or a graceful dance. It can be samsara, but it can also be the “free and easy wandering” of Zhuangzi.

Our ancestors were nomads long before we invented agriculture and became sedentary. In some corners of the world, this way of life is still actively preserved, while in others one still finds echoes of a more nomadic time. In a strange way, the postmodern psychic nomad mimics the premodern hunter-gatherer.