Brooke and I walked to the store this evening. She needed olive oil and we were out; now she’s downstairs making dinner and I’m salivating. We try to walk when we can, especially since we live within walking distance of 2 grocery stores, Target, Blockbuster, our bank, Chipotle, a nice sushi place, a good and cheap Thai restaurant, Subway, Quiznos, and Coldstone. And, when I say walking distance I don’t mean an hour; I mean ten minutes max one way. I mean half-an-hour round trips to these places.
Tonight when we got home I turned the NBA Finals on. The game was at a commercial. At the end of the commercial was a 5-second spot about the weather: the meteorologist came on and announced what the temperature was right now. That was all. I’ve seen television stations do this sometimes, and the meteorologist comes on and says, essentially, “It’s a nice evening out there,” or “It’s rainy and cold … see more tonight at 10.” I suppose a lot of this is to bring people back at 10, but doesn’t it communicate something more?
This stood out starkly as I had just come inside: I knew what the weather was. I’d just been outside for the last 20 minutes. Yet, it seemed a perfectly normal occurrence for the meteorologist to come on and announce what the weather was outside.
Are we this far removed from our environment?
It makes me sad to think of the lack of connection with the created world — the natural world — that we experience in America today. This is because spending time in creation, away from conveniences and cars and clocks, helps us re-orient ourselves. Or, it re-orients us. The ancient Hebrews understood this, and the command to take a Sabbath was rooted in their creation account: they were commanded to stop to worship their Creator. And, while watching a movie can be a stop-activity, even more is taking a walk or a hike or a bike ride or a run or a … I’ll stop. This is because television and internet entertain and divert us; spending time in creation either alone or with a spouse (which I highly recommend) or friends, this spending of time focuses us. It gives clarity, it connects us to ourselves and the world around us. A movie — the most powerful medium that humanity has so far come up with — cannot offer the same connective experience. It is, at its core, vicarious: it may give clarity through the stories of others; it does not give clarity and connection to ourselves, others, and our Creator.
There is a reason why spending time in leisure, often outside, without the worries and deadlines of the day, is called re-creation. It is time to create ourselves again, to be created again, to be renewed. I believe that we as a culture need more of this time. I believe that we need time to connect with the natural and created world, not time of diversion but of conversion: a turning around, a recreation. I believe that even a 20 minute walk can, in small ways, offer an experience of conversion and recreation. I want to be a person who takes a lot of 20 minute walks. And a person who stops and connects with the created world, alone and with others, a person who doesn’t need an update to know that the evening is warm and calm.