Updated: Dec 10, 2019
published by "Once Is Never" (Dec. 2019)
So what stops me from going outside?
My baggy pants are still in the wash.
It’s almost lunch time and I’ve spent my entire morning on Facebook.
If I go out now, I will be too hungry to move but if I eat my usual meal, I will feel heavy and won’t be able to move for a while.
I have to meet some tight deadlines.
The weather forecast looks iffy today.
New episodes of “Big Little Lies” are out.
Living in a modern setting made us safer, drier, and warmer, but it divided our lives into tight rectangular blocks of space and time. We’re squeezing our slimy and misshapen brains into the neatly organized cells of spreadsheets and calendars like a ‘wrong’ piece of the puzzle that needs some brute strength of a hammer to fit in.
We stare into rectangles, walk on and in between rectangles, sleep on rectangles, move around in mostly-rectangular tin cans, work in rectangular cubicles only to collect as many rectangular pieces of paper as we can. Then we get buried in a rectangular box.
The blocks of time devoted to spontaneous activities are light years away from those devoted to family life, work, entertainment, cultural appreciation, and rest. They all occupy their separate cells and can’t be connected in any way. If a conundrum on steroids ever existed, it’s this: spontaneous activities have to be carefully planned out and scheduled. All liability waivers must be signed! With all its unquestionable benefits, the spontaneous play is a luxurious bonus and gets shoved to the side for a ‘later’ that never comes. No chance in combining all elements of life into one glorious experience of being.
“Quit playing around!”, “Grow up!”, “Buckle down!” are what we’ve been hearing since we were too young to understand what these commands even meant.
For centuries now, children have been forced to sit still indoors for hours and were punished for the slightest signs of bottled up energy spills. But it’s not natural and not healthy for humans of any age to always sit still and never play. Only a few hundred years of the rectangular tyranny is not enough to cancel out the old and simple evolutionary truth: we are meant to be outside, solve problems, and play together.
How could we break from the rectangles?
One way that works to a degree is camping trips. In the simple natural setting of camping, it’s rather impossible to divide life into strictly defined sectors. There is the outdoors and there is… Exactly! There is just the outdoors!
At home, having to punch in the anti burglar alarm code, lock the door, walk down a hallway, press the elevator button, and ride down to the garage to ride out in a car makes this accessibility of the outdoors much harder and only contributes to the feeling of entrapment and alienation. To tell you the truth I lost my will to live in the elevator.
One can also break from the rectangles by trying to build life around the outdoors, despite mental blocks.
Bad weather, the ultimate mental block that stops us from going outside, can be overcome with adequate clothing and just enough movement to keep us warm. Even if the weather is bad, though, sheltered public spaces should be available.
And what would happen if we went outdoors more?
There would be other people out there to connect and to solve problems with!
However, that cannot happen on a large scale without a systematic mentality shift. Urban outdoor spaces are not fit to just BE in; simply being outdoors is known as loitering. LOITERING (also known in the past as “vagrancy” or “vagabondage”) is a buzzword invented by corporations and authorities to prevent people from avoiding and rebelling against mindless jobs. They cast the simple act of enjoying the outdoors as a crime by designating most urban outdoor spaces as THEIRS, making it illegal to "trespass.” God forbid people connecting with each other, problem solving, and thinking too hard!
The commuting infrastructure promotes rush and is meant to act as a quick passage from one box to another. Slowing down, sitting on the pesticide free grass, taking time to “play silly” is not always programmed into our towns and cities. The luxury of taking time has been turned into a capitalist enterprise - The Business Idea:
Do you want to focus for a while? Try our Awesome Work Bar!
Do you want to crank out your workout real quick? Buy a gym membership and get on our giant hamster wheel!
As long as you wear the right clothes for the right game, and you don’t loiter.
I’m still very distracted and a little nervous whenever I try my best to break from the rectangles and shift my mind to a ‘camp’ setting: take my time, read, sketch, think, just sit still, talk to strangers, or just wander around and jump on stuff. When I’m outside, my walking pace quickens, my patience grows thin, anxiety levels peak, and I long for my safe comfy nest. I rush down the sidewalks because of the noise, because I’m late, because if I stop I will be interrupted by a stranger in need.
We could morph our villages, towns and cities into our own self sustaining natural habitats if only we would switch our mindsets to the outdoor mode. It would make us stronger and wiser as individuals and societies, and it wouldn’t be that hard since we know deep down that it is what we really crave.
So what stops us from going outside?