Sunday, October 22, 2006

The world is real because we made it

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to
find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a
necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as
fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
- John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)

Muir lived at the beginning of the age when people began to take vacations. Before his time, vacations were something only the rich could afford because people didn't get paid to be away from work.

When off work and still healthy, people wanted to get out of the cities and into the wilderness. House trailers and Recreational Vehicles (RVs) were invented and people left cities in droves each weekend and during their summer vacations.

They tended to go two places, the mountains or to water (lakes, rivers, streams, seaside). Travel to exotic destinations was far too costly and took too much time.

Today, city people also go to mountains and to water. They build second homes in suburban developments on mountainsides and tear down forests to create suburban homes away from home beside water. Second homes (cottages, camps, cabins) destroy more wilderness area and animal habitat than urban sprawl does. A recent study in the US (conducted by a Canadian university team using satellite photos) showed that US cities had expanded very little over the past three decades--mostly they filled in empty land within their boundaries. Second properties are what are making wilderness and farmland disappear.

Some people choose their vacation destinations based on where they can find the best shopping. Large cities love such people because they can target them for tourist income.

Many people decide to visit places where they can take pictures so they can tell their friends later about their experiences in foreign lands. Most expect to be treated, as paying guests, the way they would be treated in their home country rather than the way people live in the countries they visit. They want to see sights, not learn how the natives live.

Some take mini vacations, travelling to lodges beside lakes or to casinos where they can take their minds off their everyday lives for a few days.

Now I will ask you to take a moment and return to the top of this article and reread the quotation from John Muir. Then come back to this point.

Most people miss the message that Muir was trying to make. They don't want to make the mountains their fountains of life, the source of their connection to the real world. They take vacations that give them a bit of time to escape from the city rat race, but without the inconvenience of having to face the fact that there is very little that is natural about their lives. They recreate city environments in the wilderness because it's more familiar to them than nature.

They live in city dormatories, work long hours in city workshops, then convince themselves that what is outside of their cities is quite unimportant. They make themselves believe that there is no civilized life on earth other than in their cities. Nature is to be dominated. They learned that much in church, as children.

They have no concept of what mountains, lakes and trees can do to fulfill their lives.

They become confused about the existence of God because they can't find evidence of God in their man-made cities. No matter, some believe that they can create God in their own image. All they need is a few people who attest that God has spoken to them and has given them His word.

And they gather. They like gathering in the cities. It protects them from the wild and fearful nature that exists outside of their cities, out in the natural world.

In cities, they can build their own gods. Oddly, they don't understand the gods they create there either.

In cities, it's easy to suspect that all gods are false. Cities are artificial worlds in which only what is created by humans is real. If people can buy it, it's real.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to connect people with the real world they miss in their city-worlds.
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