Information Overload

Do you ever feel like a disembodied head? I do. There’s just so much information to know, so much to learn about our planet and how to care for it, and the Internet makes obtaining that information faster and easier than ever. I’m subscribed to a multitude of e-newsletters, all from worthwhile organizations:

350.org
Al Gore
California Product Stewardship Council
Californians Against Waste
Co-op America
Corporate Accountability International
Earth Resource Foundation
Food & Water Watch
Green Sangha
Greenpeace
Ideal Bite
New American Dream
Organic Consumers Association
Population Connection
Save The Bay
Sierra Club

I’m sure I’ve missed a few. Plus I’m subscribed to most of the the blogs that you see on my sidebar, including the Green Mom bloggers (which have embraced me as an honorary member) and the APLS, who are currently debating what the A stands for, as well as the newsletters of companies that sell plastic-free products. I want to be informed. Don’t want to miss anything that might be useful in the quest to educate myself and others. Or to miss an opportunity to contribute to the conversation.

So the reality is that I sit hour after hour after hour staring at the computer screen, absorbed in the world of images and ideas, not so different from the original Star Trek’s Captain Pike whose whole world consisted of mental images… illusions… fed to his brain by the Talosians. (I know. That last sentence was way too geeky even for me. But I’ll bet a few of you know what I’m talking about.)

So what about the body? What about the information from the other four senses? From the natural world? The world that is, after all, what I supposedly love and what I’m allegedly trying to protect. How is it that gardening, composting, cooking or simply walking in the hills or along the beach have taken a back seat to email and blogging and virtual reality?

How is it that most of what I learn about nature comes from a plastic box?

I need to get out more. I realized that this weekend at Vajrapani. What a beautiful, soul-stirring place. But why do I need to go on “retreat” for a dose of nature? Why not just step out my front door? There’s a lot to learn from the dirt in my front yard. The garden could be more than something I water for a few minutes a day and then forget until the next day. The compost could be a classroom and meditation hall unto itself. Why not?

It’s not just kids that suffer from nature deficit disorder. In fact, a few nights ago, I was so desperate for something “real” that I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything for dinner except the tomatoes and basil that I picked myself from my own front yard. I’d grown it. I knew where it came from. And I savored every bite. Did I turn on the computer afterwards? Probably not.

What are your favorite ways of immersing yourself in the real world? Of learning experientially? Directly, hands on, with minimal words? Where do you take yourself or your family to figure out what the world’s made of? I’m actually craving a trip to a feedlot to see where meat comes from: the reality of food before marketers and packagers turn it into the idea of food.

Don’t get me wrong. Language is an amazing tool. And computers take that amazing tool to new levels, allowing us to “see” things we couldn’t otherwise or communicate with people we’d never have met. I have no intention of giving up blogging any time soon. But the world inside our heads is only a sketch of reality. How much more does the earth itself have to teach?
 

12 comments
nollij
nollij

As someone who's been recently disabled (though thankfully not permanently), I've spent an even larger chunk of my time in front of the computer screen, thinking and reading. It's been an escape that I'm thankful for, but I greatly look forward to riding my bicycle and walking again instead of driving, playing outside instead of sitting in front of the computer: your post seems to be rather timely for a lot of folks, so thank you Beth!

Daphne
Daphne

I think this is one of the reasons I garden. During the summer, the mornings were for garden chores though I'm certainly connected then, it is more about getting things done. In the afternoon I would go out and just watch what was happening in the garden. I would see the bees and wasps work the flowers. I would catch the bad bugs at work. Also hiking is fabulous to feel connected with the earth. It's hard this time of year in New England not to feel joy for the beauty all around.

Abbie
Abbie

The outdoors is the reason for my love of the environment and my original environmental education, as I wrote about in my post for the carnival.In this day of so much technology, we sometimes lose the balance of getting out into the natural world. I'm glad to see you're doing it!

Green Bean
Green Bean

So true, Beth. At Slow Food Nation, one panelist posited that we need to pass on any more think tanks. We need a do tank, he said. In many ways, I feel that applying to my life more and more. I spend so much time in front of the computer, learning, that it is hard to put anything into practice in the real world, remember what dirt feels like between my fingers, chat in person with someone feels the same, watch the finches raid the last of the Cosmos seeds. I am trying to turn off the computer a bit more and get out there - find a balance. Great post.

Rosa
Rosa

Because of the fossil fuels used to fly there, I think Cliff's idea of experiencing nature close to home and using media to access farther away is really smart.I really like weeding (I know, weird) and swimming in the lake. Which I didn't get to do at all this summer :(

Veronique
Veronique

by the way Clif why don't you try the real thing and fly to the place you're dreaming of ?I did it last month (I went to NY since I'm living in Europe) and I felt so great in my mind AND my body that it was worth the price !keep fighting everyoneV

Veronique
Veronique

Try hiking ! for me it is the best way to feel 1) my body exercising2) being a part of nature3) that the fight against plastic is worth the sacrifices we made : plastic does not exist in nature ! (I know it's not new but it came as a shock last summer when I went hiking in Corsica)kind regardsV

Clif
Clif

I'm of two minds on reality vs virtual reality. I agree with you that getting out and about is very important on the local level and that we overlook easily the remarkable things that are right in front of our eyes, such as the things you photographed in your last post. Each day we should be able to say what the weather is like from feeling it on our skin. There are times when I am simply walking to the grocery store at night...I smell the air, see the clouds and stars and a marvelous feeling of happiness and peace comes over me...so much so that I stop walking and just watch the branches move in the wind for a few minutes.At the same time I hope to see a decrease in the amount of travel to distant places...that's where virtual reality can help. I would like to see long distance travel (to foreign lands) become so realistic with computers that people won't take that huge environmentally costly step of getting on a plane. Here is an example at the most basic level.I have MS Flight Simulator and I'm using it to travel the world. Since I have never been outside of North America, I'm seeing plenty of new sights and, at the moment, I'm approaching the southern tip of South America...glaciers are becoming more frequent outside the cockpit window. I use Google Earth to confirm the names of mountain peaks or bodies of water. I fly a slow-moving Cessna so there is plenty of time to sight-see. Each morning, I pull up a chair with the NY Times, pick up where I left off the day before on my around-the-world flight and spend an hour reading the paper and viewing the world 5000 feet below me. At about 140 mph, I will be traveling for a long time and each day the scenes are completely new, the sun at a different angle, the clouds in different patterns. I land as needed to fill up with av-gas, though as I approach Tierra del Fuego that's becoming difficult.Now think of the expense and the environmental cost of doing this in reality. Of course Flight Sim is nowhere near the real thing but, amazingly enough, it contains the entire world of mountains, lakes, and cities. I had loads of fun winding my way through the peaks of the Andes mountains to land in Quito, Ecuador and then La Paz, Bolivia...my plane can't get beyond about 16,000 feet up so I have had to seek hidden valleys and swerving around mountaintops I couldn't go over...all in real time.So we can have the best of both worlds and enjoy each for what it is worth while employing both to understand and experience this "sensational" amazing place called Earth.

axelle
axelle

I spend a lot of time in my small kitchen, cooking, rearranging things, coming to terms with what I really don't want-don't use-don't eat, and why I've kept it, by letting it go or actually using it; acknowledging the tofu I thought was a good idea at the store and that is always an impulse buy, and deciding I can deal with it before it goes sour by opening the package and slicing the tofu and suddenly the idea at the store is a good one; and this is a favorite kitchen pasttime: : really looking at every object on my countertop that's waiting to be washed or put away and remembering how I used it and how it contributed to the making of a meal or project and knowing no object was more or less important than another, When I do that, everything falls into place, so that cleaning and clearing up becomes a matter of rearranging objects, moving some things around in water. Just like breathing and sleeping and flossing and changing the sheets and going to the store, it is done again and again and again. Pretty nifty. Fresh and feisty inspired me to go smell the fur on my kittens. It was wonderful. Thanks for this especially inspiring post.

Fresh and Feisty
Fresh and Feisty

I feel that even though I don't get out to hike and kayak as much as I want to, things like riding my bike to work and to run errands, going for my morning walk, watching the squirrels outside my giant living room window (100x73), smelling the fur on my cat when he comes in from the outside, these things keep me connected. I also work for the Dept of Agriculture so I get to speak to a lot of people who work with their hands in the land. It's not perfect but then again, why do we always seek perfection. My best moments have not been perfection. Okay, done rambling for the morning!

Allie
Allie

"Do you ever feel like a disembodied head?"Wow. That's pretty much what I've been feeling like lately. Great great great post!

Joyce
Joyce

Nice post, Beth. I've been thinking this way recently myself. Something I've been enjoying is just taking my camera outside and wandering around and shooting interesting things- anything really, like textures of bark, rippling water, etc. It's just nice to take time to focus on the wonders around us, even in a city setting. I find it so relaxing. Some garden bloggers started me on this by posting Sunday Stroll photos, where we simply walk out our doors and see what's going on in our own gardens. I'm no great shakes at photography, but it's been fun.