On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, our family spent the day on the beach. It was the perfect Southern California day: over 80 degrees to compensate for the cold Pacific water.
The kids spent hours on the beach and in the ocean, riding wave after wave after wave like a Disney ride with no end and – more importantly- no line.
I was out in the water for quite a while myself, helping our firstborn ride the “big waves.” There was location and timing involved, which really meant waiting until the second the wave was breaking, giving him a push on his way, and trying to avoid being upended in the aftermath while he harnessed the rolling power of the ocean and rode it to its conclusion.
Toward the end, he said something like this to me: “Dad, can you believe some people think being on their iPad is better than this?”
My response was something like, “Yeah, Buddy, this is real life.” In the interlude between waves, I went on to tell him about surfers like Laird Hamilton, whose quest was to ride the biggest waves in the world, and how they would ride waves 90 feet tall. Later, we watched a few surfing videos on YouTube, and he was blown away that someone would ride a surfboard down the face of a monster with so much fury.
You can’t get this from a screen. I wish that were our national motto.
Yet, almost all of us have voluntarily surrendered our freedoms to be enslaved by machines. It’s the stuff of science fiction, only the robots are smaller.
It’s not just our sense of adventure that is threatened.
It’s our relationships. It’s our intimacy. It’s our ability to speak, listen, read and write. It’s our imagination and sense of awe.
I’m a slave of technology. I don’t own it; it owns me. And unless I admit that, I have no chance of seeing that there is something so much better, so much more real waiting out there for me.
The smell of salt in the air. The sound of our children laughing. The glow of a sunset, so beautiful no camera can do it justice. The feel of sand in all the right – or wrong – places.
The buzz of a crowd and the smell of grass. The tug of a fish on a line. The electricity of the first time I held my future wife’s hand or kissed her lips.
You can’t get that from a screen. Not even in HD with surround sound.
There’s an old word – seldom used now – that I love. Wanderlust: the strong desire to explore.
I believe wanderlust is designed into us as participants in an infinitely intricate creation. It’s a sense of curiosity in the things you need a microscope to see…or a telescope.
There’s an ad campaign I love by the outdoor company REI, with the hashtag #optoutside.
That’s right. Opt outside. Opt for what is real and authentic. Opt for life, not a virtual one.
Because you can’t get those things from a screen. (And, yes, I know you just read this on a screen.)