Yesterday I went to hear Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, speak in Vancouver. I picked up a few gems of information, and also picked up his new book, The Nature Principle. I’m sure his talk would have been even more inspiring had the event website given me the correct time (I did arrive in time to hear the last half).
Last Child in the Woods is a fantastic book about the way our children are missing out on critical experiences of nature. It changed and enlightened the way I want to parent my children. I am hoping the Nature Principle will further affect the way I want to live my life. So far, there is something fascinating on every page.
Like the study that found a 20 percent increase in a person’s attention span and memory after spending just one hour outside? Or the newfound condition called, “continuous partial attention.” Essentially, the effect of trying to do too many things at once – or focus on too many tasks, computer screens, thoughts etc. At least, that’s my interpretation. And I should know, because I’m pretty sure I’m in that state. All the time.
Like, right now. Typing my blog, thinking about what I read yesterday, listening for the alarm on the stove to go off (signalling that my chocolate brownies are ready to eat!), shoulders tight as I carry the tension of spending two hours trying to put my teething child to sleep… etc. My mind often feels like it is going in circles. Round and round and round. Full of ideas, but arrested by lack of time. There I am, listening to my child talking, and at the same time my mind is off, trying to figure out the latest WordPress formatting conundrum. If that isn’t continuous partial attention, I don’t know what is. (Luckily for both of us, my son rarely lets me get away with this. If I drop the ball, and neglect to respond appropriately, he’ll be sure to call me on it).
Louv suggests that the more time we spend with technology, the more time we need to spend in the natural world. To detox and reset. Put ours mind at rest. I, for one, am desperately in need of this.
Finally, he proposes that we need to develop a “hybrid mind” to thrive in today’s world. That is, a mind that is both good at technology (because who can really exist without computers these days? Rhetorical question, but I’m sure some of you can find an answer for that), and, immersed in the natural (substitute: real) world around us. That along with this techo-blitz we must strive to connect with nature in a way humans haven’t prioritized in a long time.
So, nature is the antidote to technology. And, if our minds can surf both waves, we will be uniquely positioned to thrive in this world.
I like these thoughts. They make sense to me. Because, although more than half of me wants to find a woodland hideaway and make it my glorious home, I have a feeling that I’d have to take my computer with me… Is that horrible?