Well, Sean and the kids have finally left town, heading back to Massachusetts. Sean listening to audio downloads, kids on their iphone screens. The kids play a game called something like “FARM.” Not sure that’s the real name, but then nothing about this game is real. It’s part of the simulated world they have inherited and have jumped into, full throttle. Are privileged white urban American kids all acting like these two, on screens most of the time, unless forcefully pulled off? It bothers me. It really bothers me; my own internet habit bothers me, and son Sean’s, and just about everybody else I know. But at least we who are conscious of our addiction pull ourselves off screen for at least a few hours a day, to talk face to face with others, to bike around or do yoga, to go out into our glorious gardens, to sit around doing nothing happily with others, eating, cooking, cleaning up, and so on. But these kids? Especially Drew. The 11-year-old. I swear, he thinks he’s more alive on screen than off (and is, says Kiera, “Number two in the world” in some game).
As we were pulling out of my driveway a few days ago, the driveway that borders the GANG garden —
once again, I mentioned how they were addicted to their screens, and asked them what they were doing, as they sat there, in the back seat, eagerly holding, peering and moving one finger minute distances. The game called FARM, they said. Wow, I countered, how about learning how to farm? Look at the garden!
“Oh that,” said Drew, sarcastically, dismissing my remark. As if the actual act of farming, of working with the Earth to grow food was inferior to the world he and his mind “lived” in.
Needless to say, I was deeply disturbed by his comment.
We were on our way to this year’s ziplining adventure. Kiera wasn’t with us for last year’s adventure, so she wanted to do it. Okay. I had both my and Sean’s iphones on my lap. We were going to follow both google maps and mapquest to get to the place we had chosen for this year (thinking it was the same place as last year; it was not). Can’t remember the address now, but it was in Brown County, notorious for countless back roads upon which I have gotten lost over the years. Google maps immediately led us to a dead-end, a cul-de-sac way too close to Bloomington, so we knew that one wasn’t real. Okay, well then mapquest. We had given ourselves 45 minutes to get there, in order to be 15 minutes early, as per their request. We’re already 15 minutes into the drive and it’s getting hairy. Okay, map quest puts the Rawhide Ranch (where “Hoppin’ Holler Ziplines is supplosedly located) closer to Nashville (Indiana) than Bloomington. That sounds more likely. Go out SR 46, towards Columbus. Turn right at SR 135, then follow it for miles, except the numbers were going in the wrong direction?!?. On and on, yada yada, we kept going anyway; it got hairier and hairier, especially when Sean requested a third phone from the back seat which caused a huge outburst from the owner of the phone who wanted, of course, to stay on the FARM game and not help us at all, in our quest to do something for the kids that they apparently wanted. Or did they? Did they want to do anything in the “real world”?
Suffice it to say that we finally arrived at the Rawhide Ranch, not because mapquest helped (it did not, instead leading to where the highway was closed for the next five miles), but because on our way out that lonely road
we happened to see a sign that said “Rawhide Ranch.” However, it wasn’t where mapquest put it, so we — BELIEVE IT OR NOT! — followed the map rather than recognize the territory. So just who’s into simulations rather than reality, eh?
Suffice it to say that we finally arrived, only 20 minutes after projected; they had waited for us. Whew! We suited up.
That evening we had a feast over here with Uncle Colin (my younger son, who lives in Bloomington) and others who live in our little urban farmstead compound and a few of their friends. Colin and I waxed forth with personal stories of how reality sometimes “liquifies” when we are just about to die so that we are somehow, miraculously, saved, for further death-defying adventures. I do believe both Kiera and Drew may have looked up a couple of times from their screens, especially when Uncle Colin talked. Drew tells him he should write a book.
The next day we took off for Oakwood Retreat Center, where I had a purely fanciful, it turned out, idea that they would leave their screens behind and just freely leave the adult world behind to explore the 20 acres of woods and fields for an entire day. Well, no.
They did come to my astrology talk — a big surprise to me, and were actually quiet, leaning on their Dad as I spoke gobbeldy-gook. No screens to distract them, so they actually relaxed.
(And the next day, a further surprise, they did come to an early morning yoga class that a wonderful yoga teacher gave gratis for me and Sean and two young men. And then of course, as kids do, had to make fun of the class afterwards.)
And, that first day, they were VERY glad to see a pool, and jumped in before dinner. After dinner, they did agree to leave screens behind and join Sean and me on a walk to the north woods.
On the way, they posed with puppy Shadow.
Walking through the woods, they did their usual foolin’ around, teasing, grappling, holding on . . .
and on the way back Sean and I both tried to capture the glorious sunset on our screens.
The next day, more of the same, with kids agreeing to unplug from screens for the woods or fields, or river, only if Sean and I insisted and went with them. Pool afterwards.
Friday afternoon, home. Wow! I was deleriously happy to see that while we were gone a beautiful new GANG volunteer, Tom, had begun to work on our long-standing, and much delayed, water catchment projects (three places on two houses). Thanks, Tom!
That very afternoon afternoon, we geared up again, this time to ride our bikes downtown,
first to a park,
then to a shop (where Kiera would get some tiny beads for her creative projects), then to the IU Art Museum.
After that, Kiera wanted to “train” (coerce) Shadow once more, this time setting up a jumps course in the front yard. He actually went over the entire set of jumps, she claims, when we were not filming him.
We met Colin and Greta at an Indian place on 4th Street for dinner. Then, the next morning, yesterday, met for one final breakfast meal with Uncle Colin —
This morning, given my increasing concern about the new generation, I received a very synchronous email by my old Idaho activist friend, Bill Chisholm. I wrote him back. He wrote me back. Here’s the the entire flow of our email conversation, plus the url that he pointed me to.
Bill, to me:
12:07 AM (13 hours ago)
Yo Ann… just finished reading this interview with Jack Turner in the August issue of The Sun… thought if most valuable in terms of framing “the question”
I Pray Life Be Good,
I responded (with later annotation in red):
Yes, I did know Jack Turner when I lived there. An irascible character, my age, ego-ridden (aren’t we all?) and definitely a force of nature himself. He had not yet married when I knew him, so perhaps that marriage softened him a bit! That you would send this interview to me now is timely, since I have been grieving the loss of intimacy with nature that my grandchildren choose, having been (just about) COMPLETELY seduced by their tiny screens. So sad. I’m at a loss as to how to blog about this, since they are my grandchildren and it feels a bit too intimate to “judge” them in public. Anyway, thanks for this, Bill. I think Turner is absolutely dead-on. It’s as if we are evolving/devolving into two entirely different species, those who immerse themselves in the ongoing unfolding miracle of the life force as it courses through Nature, and those of us who would actually sign up to have their brains exchanged for robotics, so much has simulation replaced the throbbing ground under our feet.
To which Bill replied:
Aho Ann… it is terribly said… the technology that is supposed to “connect us” is disconnecting us from that which is most important to be connected to and which takes no device to connect with but our mere presence. I don’t even own a cellphone, nor do I utilize electronic noise makers in my house or even in my vehicles. I like to hear the world around me, take cues from what is going on. A number of years back.. it was to be a lunar eclipse.. it was an overcast night, but you could see the change of the light as the eclipse took place. While I was outside the birds were chirping away. A little later as I was sitting reading I sensed this incredible quiet. The next morning it still persisted. I walked down to the hot springs to swim and as I walked along the creek, the ducks, which would normally quack quack and fly away made very little noise and only flapped their wings and fluttered about, but didn’t fly off. After my swim I sat again in my chair reading the paper when I felt the earth begin to shake. Those birds knew what was coming about nine hours before it happened.
This past year and a half have been what I call my ‘shaman journey”, I am working hard to get out of my head and more into my belly… developing my limbic system.. communicating with what David Abrams calls the “beyond human”. The other day I was over moving water on the little ranch I run down near the river. I have an old mule over there that hangs rather close with a horse that lives there. I couldn’t find the mule anywhere. I walked all over the place, there are a number of hills and valleys where she could have been, so I had let go and jus
t said in my mind to her that I hoped all was well. Walking back to the barn to stash my shovel, I heard her call out. She was back in under an old shed. When it’s time for the cows to move from one pasture to the other… I open the gate and then tell them that the gate is open. Before I started telling them… it might take a couple of days for them to move to the other pasture, now it happens over night.
I think it is Robert Louv that coined the term “nature deficit disorder”, not only how sad, but how scary it is to think that there are so many young folks coming along that don’t have a clue as to the source of their sustenance. Truly a brave new world, but not a particularly healthy one.
Towards De Light,