Social Distancing with Randonauting
Religious institutions cloistered the mystical experiences that connect us to our environment. The priest swings incense, and the Buddhists use their traditional Ohm vocal melody.
These images are familiar and remind us that sacred spaces are practically proprietary and for only the selected divine.
Well, no longer.
A new digital method offers anyone free access to finding liminal space. At a time when everyone is urged to seclude themselves from Coronavirus, I went exploring — albeit alone for social-distancing. I tried Randonauting, it moved me on a deep level, and this is a report of my first try.
When facing the unknown, ask the unknown
Randonauting is a growing Internet subculture that is summoning people to explore their environments in new, more mindful ways, and pick up trash at the same time. There’s a great beginner’s guide, which I am not going to repeat.
Here’s the brief:
Sparked by a blend of scientific reasoning and spirituality, the simple idea behind Randonauting is to venture outside of the predictable places we visit every day. The Fantom-bot, a Telegram chat channel, finds a position within a radius of your location based on quantum randomness. It invites you to travel to places outside of your usual spots. Thousands of people are doing it, and having insightful experiences are contagious.
I recently settled in Westport Ireland to be equidistant from friends and family and ground myself in a new community. So, I booted up the Telegram app and messaged the bot to receive a random location within walking distance (~1000 meters) and awaited its response while marinating in my intention: “home.” (They now have a proper application, so it is easier than ever.)
The point was just off the narrow country road about a 30-minute walk. It dropped only within the property of a gated house. No, I didn’t investigate the premises without consent. In fact, I didn’t have to.
As I approached the red pin on my phone, a white work van for a local wood-flooring company barreled through the gate and caught me off guard. Aware, or paranoid, that I looked a bit suspicious, I kept walking but noticed a number sequence on their license plate: 222. Numerologists will know the more specific spiritual significance of such a number, but, for me, it reminded me to take note of my surroundings and find the beauty of that moment.
The repeating numbers were synchronicity that spread a smile upon my face, but it got weirder. Surrounding the house were identically shaped ornamental trees — topiaries. I counted them quickly along the perimeter as I waved nervously to the man exiting the truck.
I counted 27 — my age.
Sure, an oddly specific number of decorative trees, but they didn’t burst into flames at my arrival. So, maybe not divine…but weird, to say the least.
The Fantom-Bot directed me to a spot just inside the fence and through a narrow gap in the stone wall that is quite familiar to Irish properties. Usually, these gaps are large enough for a human to enter and shelter sacred spaces from roaming livestock.
A narrow dirt path led to a tree stump with a small mail slot attached to it. Big enough to fit a large envelope but not a bulky package. This mailbox about ankle height above the ground made my belly buckle with laughter as I walked away from the house. It wasn’t the primary letterbox of the home. So the questions remained:
What the hell is a mailbox doing attached to a tree stump at the random point found spit out by my phone?
Better still, why am I not knee-deep in a bog or making odd eye-contact with the sheep or cows in a random, meaningless field?
Not the case. Instead, mysteriously, a random geo-locater placed me next to a mailbox attached to a tree trunk in a country of sacred stone circles and fairies.
Let’s call it: Odd.
Sadly I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t want to invade the privacy of the homeowner.
Finding beauty in the ordinary
As other Randonauters report, this new method of divination leads to more questions than answers. But that’s life. My simple afternoon walk turned into an adventure, and I found something unexplainably special that felt heart-centered and meaningful.
Walking back from the anomaly point, I felt a renewed sense of inspiration and awe at my collective surroundings. The two crows sitting in a tree, making eyes at me, struck me as friendly and meaningful to an extent. Why not? Before I entertained the Randonaut “delusion,” if that’s what a skeptic calls it, those birds were just ornamental and insignificant. Now, they brought me pleasure and peace by grounding me into the path for just a few moments of observation. (Birds in the crow family, in fact, are archaic signs of Odin and the Celtic Morrigan.)
Skepticism is warranted but empty
Cynics and buzzkills may call this behavior strange or simply validates confirmation bias. Wandering around in unknown neighborhoods paying attention to signs, trash, and numbers is what crazy people do.
I’ll remind you that — in the grand human narrative in which we are all actors — millions of people assembled around invisible creatures and flicked on their phones to capture them.
That episode of culturally enriching behavior was called Pokémon Go. Millions of people laughed went on adventures with their children, and some died exploring locations populated by a faceless multinational corporation.
All we have is our own experience
Across the globe, people are connected by common struggles: health and isolation. The future is uncertain, but, rather than sink into despair or escapism, we can find hope by connecting to each other and ourselves. The relationship we have with ourselves and our internal dialogues can make us stronger, braver, and help guide the weak and vulnerable. Our own mind can be our most avid ally or an internal enemy. Solitude can be stressful, but now is the time to cultivate new habits and broaden perspectives to bring reflection and new growth as old paradigms fade.
Reframing our mindset will come from a variety of avenues, and most come naturally. My experience with Randonauting took me outside for an overdue walk and much-needed hopeful contemplation.
Randonauting and the Fantom-bot is a vehicle into the strange and mysterious — to create some novelty in one’s existence. Give it a chance. It may be a 21st Century form of divination. At the very least, it’s a way to explore the mundane with childlike wonder.
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” — Hunter S. Thompson