One week, two coasts, a 20-hour travel day, and numerous medical incidences that don’t merit going into detail about… I’m back and blogging. In my last post I commented on Last Child in the Woods and reflected on the importance of prioritizing the natural world in our parenting. Here I simply want to follow up with two quotes included in the book about experience that struck me, one from 100 years ago and one current.
This from novelist D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930):
“Superficially, the world has become small and known. Poor little globe of earth, the tourists trot round you as easily as they trot round Central Park. There is no mystery left, we’ve been there, we’ve seen it, we know all about it. We’ve done the globe and the globe is done.
This is quite true, superficially. On the superficies, horizontally, we’ve been everywhere and done everything, we know all about it. Yet the more we know, superficially, the less we penetrate, vertically. It’s all very well skimming across the surface of the ocean and saying you know all about the sea…
Our great-grandfathers, who never went anywhere, in actuality had more experience of the world than we have, who have seen everything. When they listened to a lecture with lantern-slides, they really held their breath before the unknown, as they sat in the village school-room. We, bowling along in a rickshaw in Ceylon, say to ourselves: ‘It’s very much what you’d expect.’ We really know it all.
We are mistaken. The know-it-all state of mind is just the result of being outside the mucous-paper wrapping of civilization. Underneath is everything we don’t know and are afraid of knowing.”
This from Edward Reed’s, The Necessity of Experience (1996):
“There is something wrong with a society that spends so much money as well as countless hours of human effort to make the least dregs of processed information available to everyone everywhere, and yet does little or nothing to help us explore the world for ourselves… We are beginning to lose the ability to experience our world directly. What we have come to mean by the term experience is impoverished; what we have of experience in daily life is impoverished as well.”
These quotes contain so much truth. With Google and YouTube at my fingertips, I feel I can figure out whatever I need to, whenever. The mystery, majesty, and vastness of the earth and our life here become lost. We don’t even realize how smug we’ve bedcome, how impoverished (as Reed said) our perspective may be. Reflecting on these quotes calls me to awareness of the need to continue to push myself to unplug and get out there. And I need to model this for my kids and help lead our families in these ways.
About his imbibing of Scotch on a daily basis, Winston Churchill famously said in his old age: “I got more out of alcohol than it ever get out of me.” I want to be able to say the same thing at the end of my life about my interaction with “processed information” in all its forms. With discipline, and by the grace of God, may I avoid the “know it all state of mind” that Lawrence observed, even decades ago, that comes with the loss of wonder about the universe into which God has planted us.