Into The Outdoors

Written By: Henry Fleischacker

Only in modern times is the question asked: what benefit does it bring to be outdoors as opposed to the alternative? The late nineteen-nineties and early two-thousands kids exemplified a generational change between all those who before had experienced the world un-virtually (for the most part) and all those who afterwards now experience virtual worlds and creative stories in high-dopamine stimulating video games. Such environments have only increased in themselves their capacities to entertain their audiences each generation since the 90s. One of the classic conflicts of any modern household is that between parent and child on the topic of leaving the inside for the out. How persuasive can the outdoors be in order that kids are convinced in their own minds of the beneficial nature of putting their game controller down and perhaps taking a walk? Here are three fruits of experiencing the sun and the wind and the sky.

  • Proper Boredom

Life contains both man-made, artificial technology as well as that which no man or woman could ever claim as having invented. Technology serves to ease the lives of those who possess it. Most technology is therefore good. But some technology pleases in such a way that is obnoxious compared to the non-artificial world that is reality. If Emma, for example, spends more time on her video games than in nature, she might find the latter sluggish, boring, ridiculous, a waste of time, and perhaps meaningless. She will probably try to create the real world like how it is in a video game, only to sow her own disappointment. Being exposed to the outdoors counters this inevitable disappointment by showing kids that they can work with the real world, sometimes crafting it, and other times letting it be as it is. They will become exposed to how when all seems boring, then is not the time to complain or miss video games or blame others but to recognize that life is meant to be full of downtime, of leisure, of boredom when kids simply be. Some technology, played endlessly, prevents kids from ever being exposed to what it’s like to simply be, to experience the world outside as it is and to be in it as they are, to be properly bored or without a constant need of instant gratification. Meaning does not always emerge instantly and with a need to occupy every second with the same spike of dopamine in every gratifying object of the digital world. Adulthood finds moments of flourishing when the adult has had ample time to handle the world in a way that he or she may not be used to if they are only accustomed to the virtual worlds that interlay the shelves at game stores. The outdoors provides real world living where the child can observe and enjoy what it means to be natural in a natural world.

  • Doing Danger Carefully

One may have picked up on this phrase from YouTube, perhaps from Dr. Jordan Peterson or others who have echoed the same thought. Kids learn their own independence in large part when they are allowed to do danger carefully. A young gymnast learns balance by first carefully holding a position on a balance beam when the risk entails broken bones, concussions, and the like. Life is full of danger. And encountering it carefully is the skill of the independent person (adult or child). This person is the one who is trustworthy. And this principle applies to inside activities just as much as the outdoor ones. Since the angle taken here entails what is often pitted against the outdoors, i.e., virtual environments, it is safe to say the principle applies to virtual worlds as well. However, a benefit of allowing kids to explore the physical world carefully (and when they have chosen the carefulness themselves) is that the exploration builds a foundation for their adulthood where they are capable of methodically mapping out physical reality (and building memory in the process). The outdoors gives a physical landscape wherein kids can use their natural energy to tackle the dangers of nature so as to be confident in tackling harder dangers that might emerge in education, common home tasks, their psychology as they grow into adulthood, and so forth. In turn, they may certainly explore digital atmospheres, hopefully after having spent more time experiencing reality first. That way, appreciation for both is neither lost nor forgotten.

  • Community - Interaction

The prefix “inter-” means ‘between, among’. Interaction is action, notably that which is mentioned in categories one and two, which is then shared betwixt others. In other words, the properly bored, cautious boy or girl is not alone in their danger. Sure, they may have online or inside communities, and in no way should the outdoors be in sacrifice of those, except that an outdoor community, say at a sports game, yields a better-apt child in exploring the real world where they have spent too much time in a digital space. A third benefit of going outside on top of 1) simply being and 2) encountering risky situations tactfully is that kids will learn how to be tactful in in-person, social scenarios where risks can increase in weight and meaning. The world outside of virtual reality demands responsible human beings. And responsibility is another topic to tackle tactfully. Kids are given a head start (especially these days) when they are invited to the outdoors to play in social activities, to be around others, and to face danger as a responsible community, be it in the lighthearted competition of sports, or the more serious encounter of life-threatening peril. Virtual worlds can result in responsible human beings; however, the difference is that the responsibility covers different objects – one a digital type, and another a non-digital set of duties and interests. The latter type provides a means of being in an actual community where dire problems require sociable participants who have been learning the ways of the world from a young age.

These three benefits - proper boredom, doing danger carefully, and interaction with a community - are readily accessible from the outdoors. Take some time to consider each of these observations and make use of their information when regarding activities for family, friends, sports teams, and other events outside.

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