Information is intoxicating. Due to the proliferation of mass media, we’re exposed to more data than ever before, and thanks to the internet, we’re all contributors to it. We can now follow Hillary and Obama’s every word, get a full breakdown from a dozen different sources, and within an hour, post an opinion for the world to see, adding our own small voice to the cultural conversation.
But as the amount of information at our fingertips explodes, a curious thing is happening: we’ve become more desperate for knowledge than ever. It might be fascinating to scour iTunes for obscure Latin Jazz. It might be modestly informative – and massively entertaining – to watch last night’s Colbert Report on YouTube or Tivo. But every hour we spend plugged in to popular culture is an hour we’re not connecting with what’s actually, physically around us: our neighbors. The birds. Plants. The (highly erratic) weather.
Quick: Where does the wind usually come from this time of year? Who lives four doors down the street? What are five trees native to your town? Where was your breakfast grown? Amongst our flashy gadgets, RSS feeds, and spring styles, this stuff seem might seem quaint, irrelevant. Even if you’re committed to a sustainable lifestyle, it’s deceptively easy to get sucked into following the latest developments in the carbon offsets debate, while spending your money on skinny organic denim and bamboo cutting boards.
I would argue that that kind of approach is missing the point. If we’re to halt our antagonistic behavior towards each other and our planet, we’ve got to listen – and that means unplugging from the hypnotic hum of manufactured culture. It’s crucial that we rediscover a sense of place, and with it, renew our connections to the people, resources and species that are right under our noses.
In the spirit of unplugging, I’ve chosen not to link to any other sites in this post like I’m supposed to. Rather than pointing you to other websites with something to say about the subject, each one as distant and virtual as this one, I’d much rather have you experience it yourself. So go ahead, turn off your screen for a minute. Listen to your breath. If you can, look out the window. There’s a world out there. It needs you.