I spoke with a friend the other day and asked her if she would participate in an outdoors trip in college to learn some survival skills. “What? You mean like building fires with one match and all that? I don’t need to learn that, I can just watch a YouTube video about it,” she replied. This struck me as odd. How could she be so confident about learning from a video?
As a ski racer, I have watched many videos of winning Olympic runs, yet I couldn’t just enter a racecourse without practice and think, “I watched that video. Now, I’m going to do the same exact thing.” I decided to show her the difficulty of the real thing. I brought her down to my backyard fire pit, gave her a box of matches and asked her to start a fire. I won’t go into all the gory details, but when darkness came we weren’t roasting any marshmallows.
With the instant gratification that you can receive from computers and the Internet these days, I’m scared about the future. I don’t want to live in a future America where most people’s experiences don’t stretch beyond their comfortable plugged in bubble. These future adults won’t know why they should conserve resources because they have never experienced a situation where they couldn’t just fill their water bottle out of the tap. They won’t know how to make healthy food choices at the supermarket because they have never planted a garden. They won’t know why they shouldn’t bulldoze a wildlife habitat for a new development because they have never hiked through an acre of untouched wilderness beauty. These adults won’t understand the importance of national parks because they had never visited them. A long hike or a daunting challenge will never humble them. They will never relate to poetry by Robert Frost or have gone out of their comfort zone. Ever.
Like John Stienbeck perceptively wrote in his novel “East of Eden,” America’s innovation is rooted in passion. This passion to innovate is created from doubt. America was founded by a large group of people who were essentially booted from their country, and who questioned whether they could survive, but promised themselves and their families that they would create a better life in America. If youth are only spoon fed information and never have experiences outside their comfort zone they may never have to answer the questions that often cause us to develop the passion to excel, leading to what could be come a passionless America. No one will strive to solve our larger problems or innovate the next big thing.
I don’t want to live in a passionless America that looses its place as being a leader among the international community, so I brought a friend to a fire pit and let her experience how to build a fire and you know what? She joined me on my next trip outdoors.
Lorin Paley is an avid telemark skier from Colorado and holds a position as the head ambassador for Outdoor Nation. She is a member of Dartmouth College’s class of 2015 and gets writing inspiration from Thomas Friedman. You can contact Lorin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.