During a recent camping trip, a bolt of lightning struck a nearby mountain and the resulting thunder was the loudest and most severe crack I think I’ve ever heard. Immediately, those at camp looked at each other in shock and the ones out gathering fire wood came running back in a half panic lacking any of the wood they had gathered. I was laughing in the way you’d laugh after getting off an intense roller coaster while some of my group wished for that sound to never again happen in their lifetime. Then, if that weren’t enough, the following downpour was so heavy that we were sitting on the table portion of our picnic table and huddled under the canopy above us. To make things even worse, the smoke from our sputtering fire started to push under the canopy after we had lowered it and so it was a cold, wet, burning lung mess as we were truly caught between two terrible options, pouring rain or choking smoke.
After the rain, bleary eyed and coughing, we emerged from under the canopy, raised it back up, and continued the evening preparations. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that at this point we had to use flashlights to see anything.
It was a heck of a way to spend the evening.
But, I absolutely loved every second of it and have decided that it is among my favorite camping memories.
It was scary like a roller coaster ride.
The moment was riveting as a car chase.
And it was as difficult as the final boss in a video game.
But, and the reason why I used simple examples, is that these things I compared lightning to are manufactured examples of organic thoughts and emotions. The video games and theme parks are just attractions that monetize the exact same feelings that we can have in the outdoors for free.
Theme parks sell fear and adrenaline when the ear-splitting roar of a thunder crack and flashing lightning will inspire in the mind and body the same fight or flight response.
Television and movies sell excitement and edge-of-your-seat anticipation when the first few seconds after a lightning strike will do the same thing as you wait for the thunder to follow.
The whole situation itself was time consuming to work around and difficult to deal with as there were elements outside of my control that I had to deal with.
In every single aspect of the outdoors there are things that will show you the beauty and danger and magic in the world but we insist on receiving those feelings manufactured and reconfigured for us on TV screens and attractions.
Fear is fear as excitement is excitement, there is no chemical difference from fear adrenaline and excited adrenaline except for your own frame of reference for that situation.
When we experience something, see and taste and feel and hear, that thing becomes a memory of something we did, not a memory of someone else’s life. For this reason, I find it hard to play video games or watch TV anymore as those actions are so empty that many times they cease to perform any function at all but a way to kill time. As humans, our lifespans are short and precious yet within that time there is so much that we could actually do.
Yet a book CAN become an experience to be paired with getting outside our house and car and reading in a hammock on a mountaintop. Books travel with you and thus become essential to you in a way that transcends videos and movies. It’s an effort to read a book, to pick it up and flip the pages instead of turning it on and passively laying and vegetating on a couch or chair. Books tell you “Take me on an adventure” and urge you to have a journey on two fronts.
Manufactured goods are nothing new and we grow up with a plethora of options before us, manufactured foods, emotions, and experiences all fall under the same title. Yet when we dig deeper and see what happens when we gorge on the easy way out, we all dissolve hopelessly into decadence.
The outdoors is one path towards real life. But, put simply, we will discover who we are in the process of pursuing things that are natural and true and honest to character building.
That is why I fight for what‘s real.
That is what I believe to be the natural way of life.