Seeking the stillness

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No one can dispute the fact that technology and sociology—life itself—is changing at a constantly accelerating rate of speed.

For years we have heard talk of a “Singularity.” Mathematician and physicist John von Neumann coined the term in the 1950s. “The accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life,” he said, “give the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” 

That used to sound like crazy talk, but not so much now. Go to any public place and watch people with their cell phones. We can all agree that daily life is fundamentally different than it was 20 years ago. Ten years ago.

It can be disorienting. We’ve seen the wildest imaginings of science-fiction writers become our day-to-day reality. Perhaps some of the darker responses to change—a turning away from reason—can be explained by the insecurity and fear this state of constant change can generate. “Reality” seems to be an amorphous concept, constantly shifting, being updated regularly. What comes next? Who’s in charge? Who knows?

To deal with this—to reclaim some sense of perspective—it’s essential for me to go into the woods. A few hours on Stewart Mountain listening to the bird concertos makes all the difference. The birdsong hasn’t changed. Its familiarity is welcome. I sit on a comfortable rock and watch the cloud shadows dance as they always have. I am entertained.

I recently had the good fortune to co-lead a photography workshop in Glacier Bay, Alaska aboard a small boat; no cell or internet and completely, mercifully disconnected from daily crises and tragedies.

We made a pact as we left the dock in Juneau that not only would we not hear any news, but we’d also not discuss current events. While we were there, we’d make Glacier Bay our all-encompassing reality.

It was blissful. Two weeks away from the puppet show surrounded by wild, exalted beauty really put things into perspective for me. I saw how elusive perspective had become. And stillness.

Obviously, this malaise is insidious. You need to step outside of it to see it. In our regular routines we are constantly interrupted and bombarded with a steady stream of alerts and urgent, nerve-jangling special bulletins from all sides. Our devices have rendered contemplation quaint.

In the woods, the wind ruffles the trees and the berries are ripening—as they always have. Footsteps seem loud in the hushed understory.

Sure, we need to be active. We need to pay attention. We need to stand for what we believe. But we’ve also got to find ways to stay positive. We’ve got to take care of ourselves, to tend to our mental health. It’s a big job.

It’s become ever more vital to unplug sometimes. Often. No strings attached. To stop and smell the skunk cabbage. To regain our bearings, to welcome the invigorating wind and remember who we are. To breathe.

More Outdoors...
The Roost
It’s all in the details

The details of the Roost are what catch you.

A broad nautilus made of smooth and rough stones in the backyard, set inside of a living patio, is framed by reclaimed steel. Herbs and other plants grow joyfully in the end-caps. The handle, a piece from an old espresso machine, sits perfectly…

more »
No sun, no problem

If you’re considering a trip to the Seattle area before summer hits, plan for wet weather so in the event the sun does decide to shine, it will be a welcome surprise. There are tons of activities if great weather is forecast, but keeping busy when it’s wet out can be more of a…

more »
Take a Hike
Help make America sane again

For how much I enjoy using trails, I’ve learned to appreciate getting to build and maintain them even more.

Hiking, mountain biking and skiing on a regular basis are essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But when push comes to shove, there’s nothing more physically or…

more »
Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Village Books
Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

12:00pm|Highway 20

GPS Navigation and Tour Planning

7:30pm|Backcountry Essentials

Lester and Hyldahl Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

12:00pm|Highway 20

Wild Things

9:30am|Marine Park

Plover Ferry Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Sin & Gin Tours

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Telescopes in the Park

6:30pm|Boulevard Park

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Northwood Steak and Crab Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Lester and Hyldahl Bellingham Farmer’s Market Trove