Written by: Eric Hagen
We’re all guilty of it. Part of the comfort of the civilized world is our adherence to routines. I wake up when the alarm goes off, hit snooze, lay there waiting for the alarm again, hit snooze again, spend a few minutes thinking about what I need to do that day, finally getting out of bed before it goes off a third time. I’d hate to be accused of being lazy, after all. Shave, shower, dress, breakfast, wake the kids up for school, brush my teeth, wake them up two more times because they’ve learned my routine.
When I leave for work, it is clockwork. There is the line of drivers twenty minutes late from wherever they’re going, weaving like NASCAR through our two-lane highway. There is the guy falling asleep at the wheel because two hours of sleep sounded like a good idea the night before. The woman yelling at her kids to stop fighting in the back seat, the young twenty-somethings prepping makeup in their mirrors, the texters.
We come home eight to ten hours later, drained and disheveled, waiting for the time we must repeat our cycles. Family dinner, for those who still have it, is spent processing and decompressing. Our brief moments of reprieve inching closer one day at a time as Monday turns to Tuesday and so on. We pay a cost for our civilized lives, but rarely ever do we know how much. Not until we become so spread thin, so openly hostile to our own routines that we begin to find means to escape them.
I will be the first to admit I love central air. I love the fact that I can turn my office into the Arctic Circle in mid-July. Indoor plumbing, hot showers on a whim, cold water filtered from the fridge, my $2,500 memory foam mattress with the cooling gel and the Gore-tex liner. I worked for it, saved up and bought them for no other reason than I love being comfortable. Still, I often trade it all for cold ground and hard nights in places far removed from anything remotely automated or electric. Why?
We are creatures of Nature. No matter how many times we may forget it, our bodies never do. You can feel it in the release of tension when you roll the windows down and take the long way home over rolling hills and green fields and forests. The smell of decaying leaves in Autumn and the warmth of bonfires, the soft prickling of Spruce trees at Christmas. Something inside of us in indelibly drawn toward the natural world. Even the most routine-driven among us feels release in sitting around a backyard fire with friends.
To unplug from the emails, cell phone and comforts of “Civilized” is something we all need, whether we accept it or not. When I am miles away from my car, somewhere distant in the tree-line where no sound of traffic can reach, there is peace. When all the bars have vanished from my kids’ I-products, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because they are so transfixed on the swaying canopy or the random critter on the path ahead, there is peace. Nature gives us back our wonder, it makes us young again. The loss of comfort gives us back our understanding that our responsibility to ourselves precedes our responsibilities to the world. It makes us whole again.
We owe it to ourselves to unplug so that we can really connect.