I missed out on Supertramp in the 70’s and 80’s, being slightly too young and with rock and roll fans for parents. But there’s one song that resonated with me then that still does today.
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It typifies the problem with education, the squishing (it’s a real word!) of an adventurous, exploring, enquiring mind into the confines of our modern society. I’ve felt the anger from the song in my own heart; the frustration at the relentlessness of the cynicism we were being trained into; the fear of the machine that was about to capture us.
I’ve lay in bed at night questioning who I am in a bid to break free of this destruction, not only occuring to me but to every single thing around me.
I got into recycling thinking this would help, but it was only a marker post. A place inside the machine to let me know I was on the way out. It represented the point of realisation that if we need recycling we are too much of a wasteful society. I wasn’t out of the tunnel yet.
The frustation grew. The need for something more – that I discovered was a whole lot less.
The answer lay outdoors. If I was going to escape this infernal machine, this vegetable existence that is handed to us from birth and we maintain until the day we die, I must get outside.
I went outdoors.
I gardened, getting nature deep under my fingernails. I walked in the woods (slept in them too) and ran along the beach, hugged trees of all shapes and sizes, and rediscovered the delicious aroma of roses and buddleia.
I picked earthworms off the concrete and put them on the grass, sat and listened to birds and watched ants and spiders before crawling after them on my belly to see where they went.
I lay on the grass and followed clouds across the sky, seagulls circling higher and higher on thermals till they all but disappeared. I had conversations with owls to-wit-to-wooing in the dusky trees as foxes screamed at the deepening gloom.
I revelled, and still do, in the miracle that is all around us. The magical world where “birds sing happily, playfully watching me”.
I leapt from the machine and condemn it to its own suicide. That’s not mine, it’s not my life.
My life is in the natural world. A world of glorious earthy smells, pungent pine sap on the tongue, the sharp sweetness of rosehips and wood sorrel. A world without contradiction or games but full of a wild, joyful existence that send shivers and sparks up my spine, tingling the hair on my head.
Experiencing nature in all its vivid glory has helped me to appreciate what I already have; filling the hole that others fill with stuff and more stuff.
Our Relationship with Nature
Bushcrafting has shown me the complexity of the relationship between nature and stuff. If I want a jumper I can feed the vast machine that circles the planet, destroy a little more of the Earth and buy one in a temple to commercialism (a shop!). Simple, convenient, forgettable.
Or I can make friends with someone who has sheep, buy a little wool at shearing time and learn to spin it into strands. I could learn to knit (appalling at this age to not remember how!) use the wool I have spun and create a unique piece of clothing. Lengthy, interesting, unforgettable.
You know which jumper I’d appreciate more.
There is a simple magic in this lengthy process that teaches more than the skills themselves. It puts you into direct contact with that part of nature that is giving itself up for your use. And in that you can’t help but feel a deeply rooted respect for the amazing generosity.
We can change how we educate, we can take our children outside so they don’t get sucked in by the machine. We can encourage their innate wondering, creative minds so they can find solutions for themselves. So they don’t become a part of the problem.
If you’ve not already done it, break out of the machine. Find that tunnel and start walking down it, run if you have to.
The time has come when it is not for the children’s or grandchildren’s sakes, it is for our sake, right now.
I get comments and Twitter replies letting me know that some people are inspired to get outdoors by this blog. It is only this year, 2009, that I’ve started to clamber out of the machine, dirty, dusty and ready for something new.
If you’ve been inspired to get outdoors and re-connect with nature, share your experiences. I’d love to know what you get up to.