-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyl in is national bestseller, Flow: the psychology of optimal experience.
I know we’re all in a minority, but I think I speak for all of us who love to get out there on adventures when I say that I refuse to believe that we have to live life at the manic, breakneck pack the world around us seems to be pushing us towards.
I’m sorry I’m not sorry that I like to cook my own food, that I think my coffee tastes better when ground by hand immediately before brewing, and that I enjoy reading an honest-to-God physical book every once in a while - one with no screens or electricity involved.
I like my days to feel like they went by too quickly, but the memories to appear to be long and slow. Drawn out, as if somehow in that space, that moment, time has elongated itself and slowed down, each scene lingering in my mind before meandering on to the next, marinating and bringing out each vivid detail and aroma of the place. The kind of thing you just don’t get in an office, when the days seem excruciatingly slow, but the number of moments you remember at the end of the week are virtually non-existent.
I have been traveling a lot lately. When I’m not traveling, I just sit there in the city wanting to get away. I don’t dream at night, I just look out over the city skyline, listening to horns and looking at the headlights all bunched together like pearls on a string. And then I go: I find myself watching as the mountains pass by, and the semi’s roll on like stainless steel stallions to the horizon. I find myself wondering... what makes me always want to go, to get away from it all?
What makes me sing along to Zac Brown, “this road’s been putting miles on my heart, sweetheart,” and wonder why my heart’s odometer seems to roll in reverse, making me feel younger and less wise so long as the miles are ticking by. Why when I finally reach those places I’ve been going do I act less mature, jumping out of the car and dancing with my stuffed animals - I mean spirit animals - and running around trying to climb on everything in sight? And if the odometer doesn’t work right, does that necessarily mean the car is broken?
The answer, of course, to what always makes me want to go is that breakneck pace our society promotes. It seems that to be ‘successful’ - a socialized definition - you have to be breakneck. There’s a reason for it, too: our forefathers had one task - to make a positive change in the world by improving human welfare through economic gain. The faster they could move, they reasoned, the more economic growth could occur, which should lead to higher levels of human welfare and happiness. But that’s where it seems to me that their reasoning failed.
In rushing around at a breakneck pace, they didn’t enjoy life as much. There was always just one more business transaction to make or email to send before relaxing with the people you love, or finally achieving something you always dreamed of doing. The extra money, then, doesn’t continue to boost happiness levels forever. Just consult any happiness to wealth study out there - the curve for happiness levels off after our basic needs have been met.
This socially unacceptable condition, this disease of getting younger and having too much fun in the great outdoors, whether you call it dirtbagging or just plain ‘ole adventuring, seems to be a revolt against society’s breakneck pace. And my question is, are adventurers like us doing good for society? Can any good come of this revolt?
I think the answer is yes. I think why not? I think slowing down our lives, asking what really makes us tick, and getting outside our comfort zones can empower us. It can help us to live environmentally connected, to live connected to ourselves and the roots of our own power. I think we should be teaching our kids to slow down, to kick off their shoes and walk barefoot. To analyze risks and make a decision on when to take positive ones and when to not take them. To dance with stuffed representations of spirit animals often. I guess that last one is optional.
The challenge for me is living connected to myself and what drives me, and also trying to do the same thing our forefathers did - create a positive change in the world - while still making a living and avoiding sacrificing happiness OR contributing to the loss of our environmental resources.
In choosing a graduate school to attend, I faced a conundrum. I want to make a big impact on the world by studying things that will truly influence the future of society, yet, I also don’t want to feed into the pervasive culture of work until you drop. I think - no I know - I am more productive when I can passionately engage in a problem, but also disengage from it to recharge.
This is the classic conundrum faced by pretty much all adventurers. How do we find purpose AND balance in our lives. How do we teach our kids to slow down and actually see and want to protect the natural world around them in a consumer-driven, concrete world full of insidious subliminal economically-inspired messages telling them to literally buy into the current society? And lastly, how do we create resilience to change amongst ourselves rather than simply creating risk-management (sustainability) protocols.
Well, I think the answers might constitute a PhD dissertation in itself. But here are a few tips. Actually, 5. Listen in here.