Sunday, April 17, 2005
The Sensuous Life at CRI
One of the things that seems clear about modern life is how complicated the experience has become. For just about everyone, the world is increasingly frantic, filled with advertising, electronic entertainment, packaged and processed commodities. We’re surrounded by influences convincing us that comfort, convenience, and novelty is what we need more than anything, and that we should work hard to create and maintain a lifestyle that maximizes these ideals. There seems to be a hypnotic spell to modern life, one which we all, at least to some degree, have fallen under its power.
This spell carries with it a serious consequence. With its dependence on technology, its tendency to generalize, and primary concern for the "self" and its comfort, this way of living diminishes how we experience, what David Abram calls, the "more-than-human" world. The sensuous experience —with our ears, skin, or nostrils, for example— we might have, the intimate relationship we might find, the richness and beauty of what’s really out there, is all too easily lost when we’re plugged into an ipod, shuttled in an air-conditioned vehicle, or spaced out in front of a flickering screen. Modern life employs abstraction to achieve its goals, but as a result our senses and feelings are flattened and our appreciation of the broader world suffers.
Spending time away from ordinary college, outside of the typical classroom, at a place like Castle Rock helps remind us of the value of direct experience with nature, and allows us to rekindle our ability to sense the world around us. Icy cold water, colorful sunsets, a rich fragrant forest, pesky gnats— being outdoors offers a flood of sensations. As a break from modern life, it allows us to return to the immediacy of perception, to forge interactive relationships between who we are and the many other realities we ordinarily ignore. Most importantly, this kind of "college beyond college" provides daily doses of true sensuous experience, moments of fun and enjoyment derived from real interaction with nature and others.
Certainly, there are many values of spending time away from one's college campus, but perhaps one of the more important is its ability to remind us of our sensuous selves.