The average person now spends 93 percent of their life indoors…This is a catastrophe, the final nail in the coffin for the human soul. You live nearly all your life in a fake world: artificial lighting instead of the warmth of sunlight or the cool of moonlight or the darkness of night itself. Artificial climate rather than the wild beauty of real weather…All the surfaces you touch are things like plastic, nylon, and faux leather instead of meadow, wood, and stream. Fake fireplaces; wax fruit. The atmosphere you inhabit is now asphyxiating with artificial smells — mostly chemicals…instead of cut grass, wood smoke, and salt air…In place of the cry of the hawk, the thunder of a waterfall, and the comfort of crickets, your world spews out artificial sounds…Dear God, even the plants in your little bubble are fake. They give no oxygen; instead the plastic off-gases toxins…This is a life for people in a science fiction novel…Living in an artificial world is like spending your life wrapped in plastic wrap. – John Eldredge writing in Get Your Life Back.
Posts Tagged With: Outdoors
Be an Explorer. Yes You.
A few posts ago, I mentioned some of the activities you should be engaging in before summer vanishes and you start complaining about the cold. They revolved around activities outside. That’s right, outside, as in not in a buiilding.
Even in the great outdoors, we can’t seem to leave our electronics home. It wasn’t that long ago where if you said you were going camping for the week, that’s the last anyone heard from you for a couple days. Now you’re expected to blog, text, tweet, call and face time every step of the way. There is hope for us.
Richard Louv expertly argued in his books Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle the importance of nature in our lives. While technology has often improved our lives, it can be an impediment, especially through the “entertainment” it brings with it. So it’s with certain irony that geocaching has brought tech to the woods and let millions become explorers again.
In the old days, you would use a compass and map to engage in the sport of orienteering. Find hidden caches or capture the opponent’s flag, it could be quite the weekend adventure. Then came GPS and someone said, “Let’s hide stuff in the woods and others can try to find it with their GPS.” Years – and millions of hides and finds later – geocaching continues to grow. In spite of that, it lives a strange existence of many still not knowing about it, to being almost a secret society to others.
Paul and Dana Gillin chronicle the sport in their book The Joy of Geocaching. They write how it dovetails with many other outdoor hobbies, is an inexpensive way to spend time with friends and family, brings enthusiasts together from all walks of life, among other points. Perhaps most importantly, geocaching appeals to the “restless and inquisitive” and as one geocacher wrote that he found, “most caches were placed in these out-of-the-way places. It’s not what the tourism office thinks you should see; it’s what people in the community think you should see.”
Indeed, many parks and communities have embraced geocaching, while some government entities (no surprise here) have seen it has something to ban or regulate. I once had a cache in a very scenic, but oft forgotten, corner of a state park. Over the years, many of the cache finders commented on how they didn’t know about the place so close to home or had forgotten it. But apparently increased business on tax-payer funded lands didn’t sit well with the parks and they made it harder for caches to be put in place. Most were pulled out.
Regardless of such irrationality, geocaching still a perfect way to ignite the explorer in all of us. You can armchair it all you want in front of the tube, but that will never be the same as putting on your Indy hat, lacing up your boots and heading out the door. Even if it’s just discovering what you have been missing in your own community, it’s like discovering a lost world.
The Space Age has put the power to explore in your hands. What are you waiting for?
Summer is Here, Grab it and Don’t Let Go
Last year I wrote how Dandelion Wine is a classic book setting the tone of summer. This year, let me suggest five goals for your summer:
1. Catch fireflies (or lightning bugs, as we call them). If nature didn’t have enough lifeforms whose complexity defies chance, here’s one that no kid, or adult, should go the summer months without catching.
2. Look at the stars. Why spend a cool, summer night in front of the television? It doesn’t take an expensive telescope or pair of binoculars to explore the night sky or the Moon. Be connected to our ancestors who studied the heavens for many millennia. Rediscover Earth’s paradox: A speck among the vast cosmos — a cosmos that conspired to allow it to exist against all odds.
3. Visit an old-fashioned amusement park. One that has been around for decades and in some ways has retained some of the original atmosphere. Sure, we have enough amusement, but the rides, sounds, lights and people from all walks makes for an experience all too rare. Hopefully, they are not a dying breed.
4. Build a campfire. Forget the stove or the grill. Build it from scratch and cook over hardwoods like mankind has done since the dawn. Maybe it’s the dancing flames or the aromatic smoke that brings us back to simpler times. Or perhaps the bringing of people together is a reminder of what we have lost.
5. Notice all these activities are outside? Here are some more: Geocaching, Hiking, Exploring (Waymarking).
Summer is a time to stop the busyness and replace it with life. The good life.
We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks – anywhere that we may be placed – with the necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for the dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left.
So wrote George W. Sears – better known as Nessmuk – in his 1884 book Woodcraft. It has been in print ever since.
His words apply today just as they did over hundred years ago. We like to think we are better off than our ancestors in all ways, but clearly we are not. We still immerse ourselves in busyness and then complain we are exhausted and have no time. Nessmuk’s book was directed to such average folks – not the “man of millions” – in hopes they would find “at least once a year…a season of rest and relaxation” that they “well deserve.” He mentions those who succumbed to the “temptation to buy this or that bit of indispensable camp-kit.” If only he could see the outdoor industry now. He recommended we “go light; the lighter the better, so that the simplest material for health, comfort and enjoyment.” That’s something, I suppose, we can all consider in all parts of our lives.
The wild still calls to people as it has for generations. We’re almost aliens on this world, yet are uniquely designed to enjoy what John Eldredge calls the “extravagant beauty” that is all around us. We can’t raise nature to be a god and put it over the lives of humankind, but it is certainly there for those who wish to find it. Nessmuk ends his book with these words:
Wherefore, let us be thankful that there are still thousands of cool, green nooks besides crystal springs, where the weary soul may hide for a time, away from debts, duns and deviltries…
Free yourself from being busy. Eden awaits.
How Did People Survive Before the Internet?
Unfortunately, they weren’t reading this website. They were, however, just as capable of us of finding something to do. Kids weren’t wondering aimlessly without their tablets and phones. In fact, we aren’t all that far removed from the days when kids played outside all day and had to practically be forced back home for meals and bedtime. Nor did folks pull up the internet every time they needed to learn how to make, fix or craft something. Someone at sometime taught them in person.
The books below embody some of that old time knowledge and know-how for outdoor projects, skills and survival. Many of these books have been in print, in one form another, for decades. They are for collectors of nostalgia, those who would like to get their hands dirty or people who want to learn their way through the woods without a GPS and survive without a grocery store.
Someday we may all wish we had taken the time to preserve the wisdom of those who came before us.