Flow

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With the stress of school starting up again weighing heavily on my shoulders, my biggest worry is that I will not find the time to do the things I love. Given that schooling occurs inside (where I am an outdoorsman) it gives me pause to think about how many people love the outdoors and just don’t know it yet. Schools and much of society do not put much emphasis on outdoor education whether in the realms of conservation or recreation.

The culmination of this negligence, whether intended or not, is the fact that much of today’s generation will not understand what is available to them. School sports include the stereotypical soccer, track, football, baseball, etc. and clubs may include skiing, fishing, and climbing but the latter set are oftentimes overshadowed by more traditional clubs. If perhaps schools made more focus on accommodating lesser known pastimes, more students who sit on the bench or stands during conventional sports will find something that they enjoy and could pursue.

I believe that much of youth’s obsession with electronic pastimes and their ilk stem from the lack of other options they feel they have. The importance of beneficial outlets especially among young men and women has been supported by a diverse range of studies. Simplest among them are comparisons in grade averages between athletes and non-athletes. The athletes, especially those that are in their sport season, generally tend to have higher grade average than that of their peers. Unsurprisingly in my own school sports career, I vividly recollect conversations with my coach who reminded me of this fact when I informed him I would not be competing that year.

“Just be careful because remember that athletes grades tend to drop when not in a sport.”

Thanks coach. I have a life.

This phrase can be taken as disrespectful, but it’s an important thing to note that it does imply I have no life outside of my sports to suggest grades require too much focus for me if I am not focused on my athleticism.

I don’t advise, nay, I strongly advise against turning to a T.V. or computer or phone as an alternative to your daily activities. Replacing these things for a sport only will lead to negative results. It is certainly easy to feel as if lounging in a chair playing video games is the epitome of relaxation; however, this act in actuality will stimulate the brain at levels far from true relaxation.

Even watching T.V. offers the brain enough stimulation to deaden the body and be enveloped into an addict’s state of attention. The problem with television in all its forms is that it takes little to no effort to enjoy. The feeling of sluggishness and apathy in everyday life can be attributed to overstimulation. That in turn will cause problems in attentiveness and overall mood.

Now, in particular, high school are given a fallacy known as bifurcation or “either/or” which is an argument that mislabels information to appear as if there are only two options to choose from when in reality there are more. From my own experience most high school students are given only these two choices; television or sports. Many are unaware of the vast amount of choices they actually have because no longer are they necessary nor important to modern day life. I will procure a list of hobbies that remain mostly obsolete only in the context of necessity but are still viable hobbies:

Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, running, walking (without the phone), bird-watching, sewing, metal-detecting, rock-climbing, leatherworking, programming, writing, reading, model building, archery, bushcraft, gardening, cooking, photography, model rockets, martial arts, and innumerable others.

Now, after you saw the class for music appreciation (which can be a hobby in and of itself), where was the merits of outdoor recreation class you wanted? Huh. Maybe it’s next to “leisure sports”? Nope. But who cares right? Wrong.

There are a plethora of alternatives to well-known sports and the vast majorities don’t know what they offer. Perhaps heard of them, but never tried or really understood them.

Interestingly enough, my grades are fine without sports and somehow I survive not plugging in a TV as if I were mainlining drugs into my body.

The definition of outlet as I use it is a beneficial medium in order to relieve stress through deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is different from conventional practice because it is more purely focused and will put a person into a state of focus that relaxes the body and mind. It is a state of “flow” almost to be described as actively meditating. Flow can also be described as a state of complete immersion in an activity. This state is an important precursor to stress relief. With today’s social interaction and technology connectivity, the amounts of possible distractions are distressingly large. It’s too easy to be distracted.

Flow as achieved by video games is negative overstimulation.

See a pattern?

My point is this: It cannot be overstated enough that you and I need alternative hobbies to work or sports in order to have a healthy and wholesome state-of-mind.

On one side, I’m worried about how busy I’ll be, on the other, I sleep soundly knowing that I have my outlets for dealing with it.

Most of them, the best of them, just happen to be outside.

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The Walls That Blind Us

 

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Proponents of Pokemon Go, that fabulous real world Pokemon game, will say that it is a marvelous opportunity to go outside and get exercise while at the same time offering a fun gaming experience. How beautiful that young men and women will now take to the streets to become Pokemon Masters and put their best foot forward towards this endeavor. Now, I beg the question, is taking a walk with eyes glued to the screen the same as taking a walk with eyes aware to the sights around you? I hazard it is not.

Chiefly among the reasons for my standing lies the fact that this video game, like most any, will have no real world application. Short of getting exercise (for both feet and thumb) there is an extremely small amount of productive information learned from this game. One point I have heard argued is that since each game landmark represents a real world memorial, sculpture, or building, it stands to reason that game player’s attention will be directed to their local geography. This argument only stands upon solid ground if the player looks up from the video game representation of the landmark to see where they actually stand. The fact of the matter is that the gamer will only have geographical knowledge of the video game location. They may remember where the fallen soldier memorial stands, but only in the context that the monument has Pikachu nearby. It is too easy to get lost in the video game world and not pay attention to our real one.

Briefly, I mentioned that “productive information” cannot be learned from a video game. This point works in part with that real world hobbies require a great deal more patience, focus, and other constructive traits that could easily be labeled some of life’s virtues. Its simple-video games are too easy. They, including this game, cater to much of today’s younger generation by feeding their addiction to instant gratification. Just recently I heard that there are websites that show exactly where Pokemon are at on a map. Instead of wandering about to find them, which is supposed to be the point, players now have explicit information on where or what they seek. More recently I listened to some players complaints when the original creators took down the new sites. It got a little hard and now the masses are complaining. Most real world hobbies that do not include Netflix, YouTube, or a T.V. will require the cultivation of certain skills that can transfer into a person’s life. An extremely simplified example is how a knitter can create a scarf or hat to be used in cold weather or sold for profit. Knitting is his hobby that yields tangible results. Even deeper and we see the patience and knowledge that entails making a hat. Creativity is sparked and the body and mind is healthily challenged.

A gardener has his garden, a fisherman his fish, a blogger his writing, a reader his vocabulary, a runner his health, and the gamer has his hours spent on a couch reaping the rewards that mostly translate into negative results. In the case of Pokemon Go, a player has their Pokemon. Is that productive? Looking around and experiencing real things will reign above playing a game and it cannot be argued that it is okay because it gets people outside. If a person understands that going outside is healthy for them, then they should go outside of their own accord and not need the video game to coerce them into doing so.

Furthermore, I dislike how this game can captivate the attention of children. Kids love Pokemon and are introduced to the world of video games through this inlet at such a young age that the results are that they become engrossed with this game and inevitably, others will follow in its wake.

At the end of it all, this does not mean to quit playing. IT DOES NOT mean to forsake movies and video games and social media in pursuit of ultimately unplugging from the technological engine. The take from this that must be acknowledged is there has to be a balance between hobbies’s that are constructive and those that simply eat time. Pokemon Go is a game under the guise that people can become “real-life” Pokemon masters. However realistic it may seem, this game is just that-a game. It should not be perceived as anything but.

Please note that this does not come from a person who has not experienced the wonders of video games. I played heavily for many years. So much so, without exaggeration, that it was closer to an addiction. This essay comes from a person who explicitly knows both sides of the equation and has found that life > video games; no matter what a person decides to do.

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Video Games are walls that lull us into feeling safe at the expense of us never seeing beyond them.