We all know that winter can be rough. Days are short, the night is long and most of us can’t wait to hear the birds chirping this spring. But, if you are like me and are required to be located north of the 49th parallel, you are going to have to deal with it. Most of us make the most of warm months, because life is easier. There is less work to do; Canadian culture reveres summer as a time to relax. Why shouldn’t winter be the same?
Do you remember playing outside as a kid and feeling mentally at ease? Like you never wanted the day to end? I am not surprised if you do. For me, summers were spent with friends riding bikes around town, playing at every park we could find and going to the beaches on Lake Superior. Winters were always busy as we had school but we still went outside and made forts, built snowmen, skied, skated or just enjoyed the scenery.
Now that I have surpassed a quarter century on this tiny blue dot, I look to the parks and the trails and the fields and I don’t see too many of my contemporaries. I have a few friends who still get out of the house but they often are concerned that their friends (in this case, female) don’t want to do anything in their spare time but, watch tv, gossip, eat and shop. I am guilty of enjoying the aforementioned activities but this stuff gets boring fast. I have spoken to friends who are shamed for enjoying leisure time because apparently they should be doing something more “productive”. I understand that we should be focusing on our careers as we are adults, but should we really be ditching the joys of life for so-called productivity and comfort?
As adults, we are in our physical and mental prime. Our parents do not govern our schedule or what we do anymore. Even if we are fortunate enough to find gainful employment in this tumultuous economy, most people work 40 hours a week on average. If you get 8 hours of sleep per night, you are still left with an average of 10 hours of free time per day. Each week. What are we doing with these hours?
Most people in their twenties and older have to take care of pets, children and household chores. This is a reality that I understand, but I strongly believe that an insidious force is stealing the remainder of my generation’s time, and that is electronic media.
The irony of this is that you are reading this on electronic media right now. I created this using a smartphone. You found this by search engine, Facebook or a friend may have shared this with you. It is easy to get on a creeping binge, but at what point will it take over your life?
I’m going to go on a bit of a tangent here but I just want to illustrate that we, the techno addicts are a minority. The vast majority of people will never read this because of lack of exposure, interest or access to technology. Many people who watch TV for all of their spare time may never even dive into the wonderful world of Internet crack. Perhaps this is a good thing. But is it? Passive viewing of ad-laden stereotypical film production may have deleterious effects on our collective soul, but is the active surfing of the Internet any better? Perhaps it is as at least there are more content creators on the web than there are on TV, which opens the mind to endless possibilities in terms of opinion, thought and theory.
Not all of the ideas on the Internet are valid, but what if this is important to our survival? What if the Internet is allowing people to make up their own minds? Yes, there could be massive attempts to brainwash people floating all around the net, but there is usually a pretty strong voice to criticise ridiculous theories. Scepticism is alive and well on the web, but it doesn’t seem to make its way to network television. I guess I am justifying our addiction right now. Sorry…
Okay, but seriously, what if the access to endless streams of digital consciousness has reached a tipping point? Personal info-crack machines have only been introduced to the mainstream in the last 25 years. Have our brains adapted that quickly to the never ending stimuli? I doubt it.
Writing this is a struggle because I am tempted to check Instagram, Facebook, email, the news, texts and read tweets every twenty minutes. I am an internet addict. But I strongly believe that the cure to this addiction is exercise in the form of play.
We need to play. It is basic instinct to celebrate our vitality by moving, singing, dancing and doing nothing productive. We developed pleasure centers in our brains for a reason. If we stop playing, we start dying.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t work. Work is just as important as play, like Yin and Yang you must balance both. Work or play too much and you will suffer. Our great civilization was built by the labor of men and women, and I am grateful. However, we now live in an era of unprecedented societal and technological assistance. Most human beings can go a whole day without doing anything remotely productive and still survive. This can drive us mad if we are not living with purpose. While many people have already found their purpose, there are still many who are lost. Perhaps the lost may find their purpose if they are allowed to relax and Be free from the chains of their mind. This is where the importance of play comes in.
I have yet to find a human being that has ever played too much. This is in reference to relatively sober people, as people on hard drugs are not to be included in this statement. You know those people that are always having fun? People can and will look down on them all you want, but their existence on this planet will most likely be a lot more free, enjoyable and fulfilling than the person that voluntarily chooses to self-impose a prison of asceticism on their consciousness and body.
Yes, I speak about this from multiple dimensions of privilege. Most people on this planet do not have the opportunity to live this way, and I strongly believe it is keeping our species back from major innovation. If you are reading this blog, you most likely have equal if not more privilege than me. Therefore, you have the power to take complete control of your free time, your health and your sanity.
I know you have a long week at work ahead of you and the last thing you want to do is expend any more energy. I know that Netflix is calling for you, that Facebook is an endless mine of info-crack and that despite its slow and painful death, network TV is still something to watch. The shopping mall is an endless loop of stimulation and gratification. Each new shiny name brand is a symbol of your labor. Each new gadget shows that you worked hard. You deserve to be comfortable.
As high of a standard that we have in our nation of consumer pleasures, some of our luxuries are beginning to enslave us. Human beings are getting larger and more sedentary than ever before. Depression and anxiety are rampant, heart disease will be the most likely cause of your death next to equally terrifying ailments such as diabetes and cancer. We have more refined medicinal practices than ever, but people are still sick.
It seems to be a popular opinion these days that sitting for hours on end is not the best thing for your body, mind and spirit. Your bodily processes are impeded by a lack of movement. Emotionally, a state of constant idleness can take its toll. Picture a dog that never gets walked. It is restless, nervous, attention seeking and most likely a bit sad. You are no different. Your brain will go crazy if you’re not moving, exploring and stimulating your senses. Even if you work hard on your feet all day, you are not doing yourself any favours by spending every moment you have free from your employer in front of a screen.
Death is one of the only certainties in our lives but it doesn’t mean that you have to take the quickest way there. Recognize this reality and remember that your time is short. Do what you want as much as you can.
You may be getting tired. When you were a kid you had boundless energy and could play all day. Im not saying it’s easy to find the energy to get off your arse but if you think it’s okay to sit around all weekend because everyone else does, you’re wrong. You’re not “getting old” if you take care of yourself and have fun. You don’t have to suffer to be an adult. Age is just a construct that we impose upon ourselves. Yes, our cells get damaged by the constant bombardment of radiation we receive each day but this means we need to be kind to ourselves. We believe that we should be sore, that sickness is normal, that our brains should deteriorate, that we are over the hill. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I am not old, but I have had the blessing of knowing people in their seventies and eighties that make me look like a total couch potato. One of my best friends is 78 and he cross country skis 10k per day and is constantly wielding multiple tools, making hundreds of carvings. He can open a beer with a chainsaw. He skis faster than most people in the mountain. Just. Because. He wants to. He eats hemp seed, fish, olive oil and bread. It’s a very simple lifestyle, but it’s effective nonetheless. His physique resembles that of a collegiate athlete. We can all learn something from him; he’s pretty much always moving.
As a skier, I meet a lot of people of different ages in a recreational setting. The one thing that seems to stand out to me is that nobody at the ski hill seems old. There are women in their eighties still ripping up the groomers, partying until the wee hours of the night and always with a smile on their face. Some of the men in their seventies who I have met on the ski hill have physical fitness equal if not better than that of college students. This week I had the pleasure of receiving a ski lesson from a man in his sixties. He has been Telemark skiing for many years and you wouldn’t even think he was a day over fifty. He danced his way down the hill like you wouldn’t believe. He skis and climbs mountains as much as he can and lives in the woods with his wife, who is also an excellent skier and joins him on many adventures despite knee pains. They always are kind, gentle and wonderful to be around. Would I be crazy to suggest that they might be this way because they go outside?
I know it’s cold right now but If you don’t get outside, you might regret it. Mental and physical health can take a beating when the sun don’t shine, so please do yourself a favour by getting off your couch this weekend. I strongly recommend putting your Mukluks on and getting your keister to a ski hill, skating rink, park or trail.
If you are from within 50 km of Sault Ste. Marie, here are a few spots you might want to check out:
1. Searchmont Resort
2. Stokely Creek Lodge
3. Bellevue Park
4. Art Jennings Skating Oval
5. Hiawatha Highlands
6. John Roswell Hub Trail
7. Gros Cap Bluffs
8. Wishart Park
9. Fort Creek Conservation Area
10. Central Park Skating Rink