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by dylan

Outdoorism Lives

January 8, 2010 in Realization, Weekend Warrior

Greetings! True to my word, I’ve remained quiet but dedicated to outdoorism through 2009. I’ve continued to work toward independence in the Weekend Warrior mode by developing a clientele as a location-independent freelance software developer. I couldn’t have done it without solid support from my wife in her more reliable day job. After a year living in a home office, we’re now back in our camper and making plans to cut loose! The future is foggy but enticing.

I know a few underground outdoorists still make it to this site now and then. I believe we should keep track of each other and our lessons learned. I’ve made it easier to register for this site, and I’m totally open to letting others write and edit the site. As a WordPress developer, I know that the software running here will give us even more ways to collaborate in the coming year.

Happy new year all, from my 4-wheel-drive software laboratory!

by dylan

The Indoor / Outdoor Duality

September 29, 2008 in Realization

Most of us cannot live an entirely outdoor life, even if we like to dream about it. If our passion is strong, perhaps we venture outdoors for months at a time, but in my case at least, this is preceded by many more months of indoor preparation. There is a dynamic interplay between our indoor lives and our outdoor lives. The things we do indoors tend to enhance our outdoor experience in some ways, and degrade it in others. The opposite is also true. I believe this duality lies at the heart of outdoorism. It certainly provides new insights into my life struggles at every turn.

The duality can be seen at almost any level. It’s fun to come up with widely varying examples. Most have both a constructive side and destructive side. Let’s explore a few.

A single outing. The outing is planned indoors. Perhaps maps are used from an organization that supports outdoor conservation. During the trip, an intriguing encounter inspires an idea for another outing. On the destructive side, perhaps a lunch is packed indoors purchased from companies that create pollution. While hiking, a prick from a cactus spine creates a puncture wound that gets infected.

A lifestyle. A person makes her living indoors, but gets her creative energy from outdoor pursuits. Her trade requires the use of non-renewable natural resources, and she sometimes sacrifices good career opportunities to be outdoors more.

A society. Nature provides the resources for an industrial society, which in turn provides citizenry with technology that enables outdoor exploration without the struggles for food and shelter that our ancestors contended with. Meanwhile the industry destroys some of the natural resources that power it, and citizens who have come to value the diversity of nature begin to undermine the industry.

A brain. This perspective is illuminated by the book My Stroke of Insight, a narrative by brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor. She experienced full right-brain consciousness when the left side of her brain was disabled by a stroke. This was a state of bliss – she was completely absorbed in the present, thrilled with life, at one with the universe. I’ve had hints of this state in the outdoors. Blissful presence was not sufficient for survival, though. Without any capacity to speak or understand language, see distinct objects, perceive her body as a solid separate from other solids, or track the passage of time, Jill couldn’t live in our common world. She had to redevelop her left-brain skills to live, even though she had grown to dislike the left brain’s tendency to dominate thought, worry needlessly, fabricate stories, and sow discontent. These are things I do more when I’m indoors … often in association with making a living.

The common patterns in these different perspectives are often described nicely by the yin and yang of Eastern philsophy, the theory of the unity of opposites. One of the laws of yin and yang is that they are usually out of balance, dominance shifting from one side to the other. Outdoorism is my attempt to compensate for the dominance of the Indoors by emphasizing the Outdoors in my life.

by dylan

The Outdoor Grail

August 25, 2008 in Realization

Until I learned what I truly value, my life was essentially dedicated to the values of others. It was in the outdoors that I discovered the values I feel certain are my own.

We talk about our values all the time, treating them as a given. That’s appropriate, because most of the time I think they are given to us like a pair of Emperor’s Trousers. The real reason that I never pointed out the Emperor’s New Clothes was that I had them on myself, and wasn’t about to point out the fact that I was naked.

Of course I resented being dressed up in this bogus clothing. My first step toward discovery of my own clothes was to rebelliously fling off the clothing that had been foisted on me. In public, for real. Once I was discovered nude outside a formal fraternity dance at the liberal arts college I attended. Festivities before the dance had involved a heated plexiglass dunk tank, the kind where you throw a ball at the target to plunge the clown sitting over the water. It was left outside the hall, and when the gowned and tuxedoed couples emerged after the dance they discovered me having a nice soak, my clothes in a pile on the sidewalk. The next day a beefy frat boy approached me in the dining hall, taking off his glasses. I prepared to have my lights knocked out, but the gentleman instead made a public statement declaring me a “moral deviant”. That’s when I knew I had successfully shed the values that weren’t mine to begin with, but I still hadn’t found any clothes of my own to wear. And the next morning, I got dressed in the same old hand-me-downs again before going out.

The truth is, discovering your own values is like unlocking the Secret of Happiness, deciphering the Meaning of Life, or Finding Yourself. Anyone who claims to have the answer ready for you is probably selling some brand of royal fashions. In my case, no clothes fit me until I went on a journey to find them. A few journeys, actually, all outdoors.

So even though I can’t tell you where you’ll find your perfect pajamas, I did get some insights into the reasons why the outdoors worked for me. I suspect these things may apply to the journeys of others as well.

The primary benefit of an extended outdoor journey is that it changes one’s basis of survival. The set of circumstances that provided me with food, shelter, and security changed drastically when I went backpacking or rock climbing. I think this change of perspective was important in that it allowed me to examine my prior circumstances from afar, without having my immediate survival at stake. This provided a clarity of vision that I haven’t found in other endeavors. It also made me cognizant of the fact that there are ways to survive other than those I know. This is incredibly encouraging.

Going a little deeper, I think immersion in the outdoors is beneficial because ultimately, our survival always depends on the natural systems we experience there. My attempts at school and work seemed almost designed to make me forget that the building blocks of my body and everything around it were at some point grown or dug from the earth. Somehow we must relate to the land to survive, but my cultural situation had taught me to relate to organizations, corporations, and various other constructions instead. It didn’t sink in that these entities must be conducting my relationship with the land for me until they were removed from the picture. Sleeping and walking on the earth for a long period of time helped to restore my sense of connection with it, and this in turn helped me to examine those organizations, corporations, and constructions more objectively. When I found things of value from this perspective, those values stuck with me instead of shifting and fluctuating like the Emperor’s clothes.

These are ways the outdoors helped me to find my values. They are part of the reason that one of those values is the outdoors, but that isn’t really my intended point. I think the outdoors can help people to discover their values, even if the outdoors itself doesn’t end up ranking high on the list. It helped me see the relationships and ideas that are most valuable to me in my indoor life, and I believe it can do the same for others. Just go on your own outdoor search for the Holy Grail. You may find you already have it, but it takes a step outdoors to see it in the light.

by dylan

Treat it like a dog

July 3, 2008 in Realization

My first dog taught me something that I hope to apply now to my outdoor life. I’d like to treat the outdoors as a whole the way I learned to treat my first dog.

I dropped out of college after my first semester, hoping to snowboard more. It was really my first attempt at an outdoor life, and not a bad one. Gracious employers allowed me to keep my part time job at the University of Wyoming while I slacked off of school. That gave me a little time, and very little money.

When spring break approached I found myself with no lift ticket money, and not eager to compete with my more responsible peers in the lift lines anyway. I didn’t know Sarah well, but when she argued that mountain biking in Utah was way cheaper than snowboarding, and she would drive, I agreed to go with her for a week. I still had some accounting difficulties, so I moved my belongings from my basement apartment into my van and reapportioned my rent money to mountain biking in Moab.

We started the party in Sarah’s truck about 10 miles out of town. At 30 miles we hit a snowbank, rolled, and totaled her truck. Later that day I found myself sitting in my van with a cold wind blowing outside, facing my first night without heat. I made two decisions while I shivered. First, I would go back to school in the fall and major in something impressive like physics. Second, I would go to the pound and get a dog big enough to warm up the bed in the back of the van.

The dog I chose weighed about a hundred pounds. His former name was Rasta. They thought he might be a Great Dane / Yellow Lab mix. He looked as lonely as I felt. I rechristened him Schrödinger after the famous physicist and loaded him in my van, his sinewy legs shaking with fear and uncertainty. We drove into the hills, and he relaxed. When I ran with him on his leash a little ways, he bounded with glee and licked my face. When I let him off, he ran in joyous circles around me. I took him on a mountain bike ride, and he ran full steam ahead of me. In horror I watched him speed toward a cattle guard with no hint of restraint. He seemed to feel the world had become a perfect place for him, with a new companion and complete freedom. I thought the cattle gaurd would bring his happiness to an abrupt end, but somehow he curled up into a ball and rolled when he hit it. He lay on the ground a moment, then rose, then started running back to me as if to warn me of the danger. This time he cleared the gaurd in one inspired leap.

Dinger was like that every time we went outside together. His enthusiasm was infectious. Of course my renewed academic ambitions didn’t always allow for time outdoors with him, and my own enthusiasm for life waned during these periods as well. Dinger eventually died of cancer in my Dad’s care during a backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains while I was going to school in Chicago. Reflecting on his death, I reached this conclusion: to provide a good life for your dog is to provide a good life for yourself.

I had absorbed a common belief in our culture that caring for something or someone else is always a personal sacrifice. My personal (Schrö)Dinger’s Law is the disproof of that belief: taking care of something or someone you value can be better than trying to just take care of yourself. When the pursuit of my own perceived interests at the time didn’t nourish me, the pursuit of Dinger’s did. My company in the outdoors never failed to make him happy. Why did it take so long to realize that it did the same for me?

As an outdoorist, I’d like to apply Dinger’s Law even more broadly. I suspect that if I act to take better care of the outdoors, my life will improve as a result. I have come to value the outdoors highly, but still I’ve been mostly an outdoor consumer, concerned with what I can get out of it. It may be folly to think that I can give anything back to Nature, but I want to see what happens if I try. Perhaps Dinger’s Law will be a founding principle of Outdoorism.

by dylan

Hello Outdoorists

June 27, 2008 in Realization

Today is my last day of work as a web developer at Colorado State University. For three and a half years I’ve been a Weekend Warrior, spending as many of those precious S-days under the sky as possible. Now I will attempt a new life as an Outdoorist. I have only an idea of what that is, an idea I hope will develop and change. This site will be about that idea, and my search for it, but not about me in particular. Ideally it will be about all Outdoorists, starting with me.

I know that an Outdoorist is someone who has come to value the outdoors very highly in life. I will explore how that happens, despite all the ways our culture discourages it.

The Weekend Warrior is virtually the only culturally sanctioned form of outdoor life, and it has significant limitations. I will explore those limitations and ways around them, but I’m especially interested in the alternative lifestyles that have been discovered by Outdoorists. How do they work? How will mine work?

I’ll do this by finding Outdoorists and talking to them. I’ll find inspiration from the great outdoors itself along the way, and share it. If I realize my vision, I’ll find my own outdoor life along the way.

To begin with, I’ll be leaving Colorado after work today in my truck camper, with one cat and one cargo trailer. Over the New Mexico state line I’ll join my wife for some rock climbing in Sugarite State Park. In the following weeks she will maintain the burden of Weekend Warriorism in Santa Fe so I can explore Outdoorism and report back here.

I have big bag of topics I’m eager to dip into, but what I really want is for this site to generate interest in the outdoors, set that interest on fire, and help us all get outside as much as possible. To do that I will need some help generating momentum. Please take a minute to give Outdoorism a little kick off:

  1. If you don’t have, Digg, or Technorati account please make one and use it here. There will be links at the top of each post. These tools beat the pants off of bookmarks, and are pretty much a necessity to get a grassroots website off the ground.
  2. Rate the posts. Bad ratings are almost more important than good ones – I need to know what you don’t care about or don’t want to see here.
  3. Comments are even better than ratings!
  4. If you have a site, give us a little linky love. It feels good!

Thank you. Welcome. We’re at the trailhead, there’s no map, and I don’t know where the trail goes. Wanna come along?

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