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A group of students at Benedictine College in Kansas, where I work, did something simple, even primitive, and we made a video about it. The video, to our surprise, received thousands of views on Facebook and many shares and comments.
What they did was create a camping club.
“That’s inspired!” said Lesle Knop at the Arcdiocese of Kansas City. “People are so immersed in technology that a bit of fresh air, prickly discomfort underfoot, and star shine is just what we need.”
Lesle started a good list of what you will find outside. I thought of some others ….
1: Outside, you will find silence.
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness,” said St. Teresa of Kolkata, better known as Mother Teresa. “God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence … we need silence to be able to touch souls.”
In fact …
2: You will find real relationships outside.
Monica Loesel founded the new club after camping in Colorado because she was struck by the authentic relationships she made in the mountains.
That’s because …
3: You will find no cellular signal on a hike (if you’re lucky).
Cell phone addiction affects far more of us than will admit it, and its mental health consequences are real, including severe depression.
4: You will get a break from your dopamine loops.
Social media, and even texting and emailing, is addictive because it gives our brains little shots of dopamine, a feel-good chemical. Once we receive a little hit, your brain demands another. And another. And another.
We begin to behave very literally like a rat in an experiment that can’t stop doing the same useless thing over and over to get meaningless little rewards — likes, replies, retweets.
5: You will find danger outside.
Penn State recently curtailed its own outdoors club because hiking can be dangerous.
I understand that. I can guarantee that if you hear about my death it won’t be described as “a mountain-climbing accident.” But experiencing a modicum of danger can be healthy — in fact, it’s probably the lack of healthy risk in our lives that makes us turn to dopamine loops in the first place.
6: You will discover new species. (New to you anyway).
It happens all the time on hikes with my family. We come across a strange creature — a green beetle shaped like a banana peel, or a giant yellow moth — that I have never seen before. If I put them in a book with the caption, “Rare insect found only in the Bolivian rain forest” you would totally believe it. But they are right here, in Kansas. Who knew?
7: You will discover that God is an artist.
Have you ever had a situation where you had to look through someone’s belongings — a lost purse, an office desk you inherited, or an attic that wasn’t cleaned out before you bought it?
You get a fascinating window into who this person is. The same thing happens in nature. You discover who God is — and who he is, is an artist. He has made everything beautiful — even dead trees.
As Pope Francis put it, “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.”
8: You will find peace.
I recently got to show off one of the “dad tricks” I learned raising nine children. My daughter was helping watch a neighbor’s infant and he wouldn’t stop crying.
“Take him outside,” I said. She did. He was quiet instantly.
Like children who spend too much time in the basement playing video games, I’m convinced we suffer from Nature Deficit Disorder — but we know the cure.
9: You will find yourself.
Finding yourself is an old cliche. But it’s really true. If you disconnect from the images bombarding you, and all the messages and notifications from people who want your money, you are left with just you.
There, in awe and wonder, in silent ruminations and in quiet contemplation, you will find yourself.
“Become who you are,” said Pope John Paul II. That somehow seems easier on a hike.
10: You will find God.
“From my early days as a young priest,I have spent many hours talking with students on university campuses or while hiking along lakes or in the mountains and hills,” said St. John Paul. “God continues to speak to young people on the banks of the Mississippi River and on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains … and across the rolling hills and plains. God continues to speak to every human person.”
We just need to stop and listen.
Image: JPII Outfitters by Claire Wright, Flickr. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
This article appeared at Aleteia.