The drive to contribute to society and make a difference for the betterment of the world has been a pervasive theme in my life and those around me. It could have started when I joined the Peace Corps as a fresh-faced college grad. It could have roots in childhood when I was surrounded by my parents and their inspiring and idealistic friends, or it could have ties back to the volunteerism stressed by schooling and community groups over the years, but a part of me thinks it came about much more organically.
I believe my greatest foundation comes from a childhood spent climbing trees, building forts in the neighbor’s corn field, and riding bikes to the nearest swimming hole. It was time spent outside. Deep time.
As a child of the 80’s, our generation was blissfully unaware of the future where the masses would be closely tied to the machine in our pockets, where a legion of “online friends” would influence everything from voting to vacation destinations. FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out, is real, and is really impacting modern life. For fear of missing out, the phones are never far from wifi, and the tablets tuned into the 24/7 news cycles. The selfies are often sunny and the posts paint a picture that hide the more boring traces of reality.
I recently became acquainted with the term JOMO, and think it has the potential to flip our modern agnst around to instead embrace the Joy of Missing Out.
Thru-hikers know JOMO. Deep in the folds of mountain ranges where the 4G peters out and the sunlight filters in, we have to engage with the world around us. We watch aspen leaves shudder in the wind, and ants slowly build their kingdom. We know the pace of human breath and rhythmic beat of footsteps on trail.
All this can be experienced on a day hike or weekend excursion, but for true release from the need to be connected to the world of metadata and algorithms, I think we need more deep time.
Deep time: a long time spent in nature. A month is good, two is better, three to four months? Freaking fantastic. Deep time resets our internal clocks, resets our need to be observed and applauded all the time, resets our connections.
By embracing the Joy of Missing Out you are blissfully unaware of the latest movies, political maneuvers, memes and music, but you are blissfully aware of the full moon, the slow move of the seasons, and the transformation of your body that comes from walking every day, all day, through a landscape.
Can deep time in nature help create a better world? Can extended time in nature breed empathetic humans who want to contribute to the health of their communities? The wilderness doesn’t need us. The mountains don’t care if we are hiking or climbing, but this indifference to our comfort demands our respect, and we must rise to the occasion to stay safe, warm, and contented while outside. When spending deep time on a trail, we realize our connection to all around us, we are not separate from the woods, we are part of the woods. That respect has ripple effect. Yes. I do think deep time can change the world. At least it will change us.
RENEE PATRICK * DECEMBER 13, 2018