My last blog was titled, “The Prodigal Backpacker Returns” and the title got me thinking about prodigal sons and what that term really means. References to prodigal sons are often used, but I never fully realized how much the parable of the prodigal son applies to me as a returning global traveler, and how much it applies to backpackers everywhere.
Now if any of you are getting freaked out by the religious references, fear not! I’m still the sinful atheist you’ve grown to love – I just like this story.
The word prodigal means reckless and wasteful spending – basically a synonym for lavish. The Parable of the Prodigal Son is about a kid who asks his father for his inheritance early and ends up blowing it all by “waste[ing] his substance with riotous living.” I’m sure Jesus wanted people to be shocked by the prodigal son’s outrageous and irresponsible lifestyle, but I read this, and I think: fuck yeah.
Prodigal sounds like my kind of lifestyle – “riotous living” could easily describe the last 10 years of my life – and I’ve loved nearly every minute of it. I’ve cherished every misspent dollar and every reckless decision. I’ve wallowed in the degeneracy of other people’s wealth and squandered my own with unfaltering whimsy. I’m a lifeaholic and with my friends around the world, I’ve really, really loved life.
The only moments of my life that I look back on with regret are almost always the moments that immediately followed a sensible decision.
In the parable, the son spends all his money and ends up working as a pig herder, apparently the most embarrassing job around at the time (I can think of worse these days… just ask Mike Rowe), and he runs home to his father to ask for financial support. His father welcomes him home with open arms and kills a fat calf for a celebratory feast, but his brother resents him for his irresponsible life and easy return home. The father says that since the prodigal son was lost and now is found, they should celebrate his return to the family.
Jesus probably meant for us to take home some moral about keeping the family together or about forgiveness, even for prodigal sinners.
My moral? Live prodigal.
Live free and live wild. Do what you want, when you want. Be a little bit selfish and a little bit foolish and go out into the world and explore and learn. Make all the right mistakes for all the wrong reasons and all the wrong mistakes for all the right reasons. Sure, some times you’ll have to herd pigs for a living but just know that when if you get really stuck, you can always run home and dad will slaughter his fattest calf for you. (thanks dad.)
I am the prodigal son.
Broke and homeless and on my way to the pub.