Being out in nature really puts things into perspective. We are tiny in comparison. We have lived a fraction of the time of ancient trees. As early humans, we would have used nature, grown our own food, made things from it, and generally not destroyed it. Rather, we were one with nature, just a part of the ecosystem.
Now, just about everything is man made and mass produced, so much so that it’s considered revolutionary when shops pop up that sell all natural products and promote environmental wellbeing.
We actually need very little to be happy. We’re still using the monkey brains of our ancestors, yet, in a very short space of time, we cram those monkey brains full of useless information, craving more and more and more. At the same time, we fill our homes with useless crap because this time, it will surely fill the void of deep dissatisfaction and deliver the happiness it promises.
Anxiety is at an all time high, and is now a modern-day pandemic. Since the invention of the internet, expectations in society and the workplace have exploded. Always be on the go, always be achieving, always be available, and do it faster! Oh, and look amazing while doing it!
On top of all that, online shopping has created a world of addicted consumers as it pushes constant ads, comparisons, and sales our way. It has become so convenient that it lets us browse thousands of items, add to our baskets and have them later that day, or the very next (which creates the addictive anticipation of items coming to our door like we’re our own personal Santa).
Nature carries on growing, changing, evolving, and being its peaceful self. Wildlife co-exists, perfectly adapted for the environment they’re born in. Meanwhile, us humans, as Fumio Sasaki who wrote ‘Goodbye Things’ puts it, are ‘like 10,000 year old hardware’ operating a modern operating system and running thousands of apps and processes.
We worry about meaningless things and make countless decisions every day.
Which top do we wear?
What show do we put on?
Which shoes go best with our coat?
Which service do we subscribe to?
What do we eat for breakfast? For lunch? For dinner?
Do we simply like that post or put a heart?
Which words sound best on that email?
Sounds exhausting doesn’t it? We have countless choices we didn’t have just a decade ago. So much choice that we become paralysed.
We load up Netflix and end up just browsing and never actually watching anything. We load up Xbox Gamepass (the equivalent of Netflix for gamers) and never actually play anything. We open up our crammed wardrobes and say we have nothing to wear. Our kids toy boxes are overflowing, yet they cry that they’re bored. Our cupboards are spilling out, yet we feel we don’t have enough. Our schedules are always full, yet we still haven’t made any progress or achieved what we want.
We strive for meaningless, unfulfilling pursuits. We want to have the best job, drive the best car, have the biggest house, own the latest tech, wear the latest trends, have the most money, give our kids the most toys…yet we find ourselves still so unfulfilled that we seek more.
It’s never enough. That ‘one more outfit’ doesn’t make us permanently content, but gives a buzz of newness for all of five minutes before it becomes just another familiar thing in our lives. The same thing goes for a new phone, a new house, a new car, a new job, or the girl/guy we always wanted. No matter what it is, we eventually get used to it, then we seek more. Always grasping, always acquiring, always wanting, always dreaming.
Only by stepping away from it all, by stripping away the excess can we see and appreciate what we have. There’s a reason we feel so healed by nature, so relaxed in hotel rooms, and always long for vacations. There’s a reason that tiny homes, van life, and living out of a backpack are becoming increasingly popular.
Really, we’re longing to be away from all our stuff and the responsibilities that come with it. The demanding job to pay for it all, the time and energy to clean and maintain it all, the lack of space, the stress, the constant feeling of unease that we try to fulfill by seeking more, the nagging feeling that we’re missing something vital.
Really, we’re longing to just be human, to see the wonders of the planet we live on. We’re longing to be free. We’re longing to be live.