Thoughtful Thursday#9: What Does the Outdoors Mean to You?

Thoughtful TH#9: “What does the outdoors mean to you?”

This question was recently posed to me by @humans_of_the_mountains for its portrait-exploration piece on the subject. I thought it'd make an interesting TTH exploration, so here goes!...

“The outdoors” is a social construct: Meanings for “the outdoors” are as vast and wide as the human imagination, including economic, spiritual, sociological, psychological, and myriad other meanings, each as interconnected as the universe itself. Being honest, my primary lens for viewing the outdoors is recreationally, as a place to engage in challenge, to experience self-efficacy, and to share those experiences with others in ways that create meaningful and lasting bonds.

But behind every mountain sunrise lies a shadow. There is risk in this “recreational” approach: The outdoors can simply become a stage for the human drama, a place where I can “get in touch with myself”, “stay in shape”, “unplug from it all”, “challenge myself”, or “forge friendships through challenge.” In other words, all about me. Viewed in that light, the outdoors becomes simply another resource for personal exploitation. This mindset is arguably no less extractive than the average oil driller; the only difference perhaps being the direct long-term impacts. But the long-term impacts of viewing the outdoors as simply a recreation resource ultimately leads to the mindset of an oil driller (And—let's face it—as recreation enthusiasts, we rely heavily on oil drillers. We're addicted and they currently provide the syringe.)

So, insofar as I interact with the outdoors primarily through a recreation lens, it is vital to me to bear in mind that there is a complex structure undergirding that recreational stage, a structure that includes political, spiritual, psychological, sociological, and other dimensions, so that my enjoyment of the outdoors is always founded first on a deep, profound respect and love for the environment “the outdoors” occurs within.

How about you? What does “the outdoors” mean to you?

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TTH is meant as a counterweight (but not a criticism of) the oh-so-popular climbing Tech Tuesday posts. See my Sept 5th post for background.