In listening to NPR a few days ago, an expert was discussing something called “nature deficit disorder.” This is not a diagnosable disorder by any set of medical guidelines. But there is a real movement (and plenty of verifiable research) that links our lack of exposure to the out-of-doors with childhood obesity, attention deficit disorder, and all of the well-known issues that exist all around us.
Both the interviewer and the interviewee were middle-aged or later and both had vivid recollections not just of playing out side as baby baby-boomers, but being forced by their parents to play outside… the “don’t-come-back-in-until-dinner” variety of playing outside. There was a freedom in this that was taken for granted as children, but was dramatically real.
Later the conversation turned to questioning the course of events that have seemed to turn that scenario on its head. We now live inside our homes, parenting our children from the business end of our remote controls, allowing them to soak up the rays of the LCD, without ever guiding them to thrust their hands into dirt, of lying in the grass. We certainly never utter the words, “Go outside and play and don’t come in until dinner.”
Their supposition was that we are afraid. We have a sense that the world outside the protective custody of our homes is a dangerous, perverted, evil place where criminals are lying in wait.
What’s interesting, though, is that year after year, rates of crime against children continue to decrease.
Could it be that the world is just not an interesting enough place to support the 24 hour news cycle? Some days, obviously, there’s enough to saturate the airways, but it’s probably more accurate to say that the world is otherwise pretty boring. So, in an effort to sell advertising space to companies that want evermore viewers, we hear about the same abduction or plane crash or ongoing investigation, over and over and over.
The market has taken this to the extreme now with unrepresentative voices like Beck and Olbermann being the archetypes and leading the pursuit of polarization. More money is made when more of our eyes are glued to our televisions and when our notions of living in safety are irrationally questioned.
Wikipedia says that terrorism is “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” I realize it’s a bit of stretch to call our media outlets terrorists. But, I dare you to watch with an objective mind and simply count the number of references that are meant to induce fear, or question your safety, or make you believe that it’s more likely than not that a cold-war era nuclear missle is en route to your backyard in suburbia…. RIGHT …. NOW.
My advice: go outside. Enjoy it. We’re not meant to live in fear of war or terrorists or socialists or conservatives. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise