The World Is Not Small When You Walk and Grow

We are able to get to the other side of the world in just a few days of flying, we have images and ideas – let alone products – from all corners of the globe easily available in our shopping malls and supermarkets, online and on TV, and the verdict is clear: The world has become small. A village.

We revel in the speed and the possibilities, cover ever greater distances, hunt from one relaxing tropical paradise to the next wonder of nature, from  exotic experience to comfort of home, trying in vain to find a meaning in status updates from further-away places and headcam videos doing more extreme sports.

Meanwhile, there’s still a lot in the world, and there could be more, if only we filled it with wonder and meaning.

In the most basically human way of getting around, running and walking, the world becomes a bigger place again, the local becomes less well-known and more deeply experienced, and it becomes clear how much we are missing the human scale and the human pace in what we now consider normal, everyday – ironically, “pedestrian” – life.

In the most basically human way of dealing with our need for food, searching where it is to be found and growing it where we are, the world is more diverse, in spite of the simplifications we have allowed to occur all in the name of efficiency, and there is a world of flavors and aromas, colors and tastes awaiting us. There is work to do, too – in which we remember that we are a creating species, cultivating and with cultures.

Waiting for the next marathon, #2 of 5 this year, watching the weather develop, contemplating the clothes to wear, in the middle of a sudden cold spell, with plants I’m cultivating this year past the time they should be planted more properly, these thoughts come to mind.

They were also set in motion with this year’s visit to the annual May 1 plant sale at “Arche Noah” – Noah’s Ark – in Schiltern, Lower Austria. It used to be something of a tradition of mine to help out there, advising the people who came to shop for plants to grow on the best peppers for their intended use and home region, and I was looking to connect back with that now that I am back here again (after the time in China and Latvia).

This year, though, I went by train and on foot, using the distance from the closest train station to my destination for a hike, and a look around the area (which the family used to go to by car, driving past).

Nice impressions they were, too – and good reasons to think about all the ways we rush right past the impressions we seek with and for all our senses, the meaning we seek in moving ever faster, ever more blocked off from the places we actually pass through.

Not only that, we are rushing along so quickly, we don’t even seem to notice where we are going. We feel that the past was either all good, or all bad, and rush, rush, rush to get ahead, to create better – but what are we creating anymore? Reality TV stars, an obesity epidemic, and lives supposedly made rich by shopping? More entertainment, more speed, and ever less sensuality, covered as it is by the increasing onslaught of consumer goods that are really all the same, only louder and marketed more aggressively, hiding the real loss of diversity and purpose?

It’s time to stop that rush. To walk, and run, and enjoy the sunlight reflected off the water, the landscape experienced at our own pace. To grow food and develop breeds for our places, and enjoy the taste of a meal prepared with increasing skill, and growing hunger, and realize that life is simple. Simply rich.

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