I never think of myself as an environmentalist or nature lover, but maybe I qualify. When I am out walking or biking, I am always looking and listening and paying attention to what is around me. Sometimes it is traffic which is a danger to life and demands careful attention, but, on the Columbia Canal Trail, for example, it is flowing water, sometimes low and sometimes high, sometimes clear and sometimes muddy, rustling and falling and blowing leaves, plants and creatures of various kinds, all providing interesting sights and sounds, differing through the seasons and even from day to day. And other humans are interesting to observe as well, all shapes and colors and sizes, moving at different speeds and in various manners, some gracefully and some clumsily. Contrary to popular thought, humans also are part of nature.
A disturbing thing to me is the number of those humans who are completely tuned out of their surroundings, ears plugged and eyes downcast, all attention focused on some little hand-held device, sometimes moving slowly and exercising their thumbs more than their legs. On the Canal Trail, they often occupy the middle, probably reducing their chance of stumbling into the river or canal, but making it very difficult for cyclists to get around them. And they have trouble hearing my bicycle bell or even my final desperate shout before a last minute decision about whether to try passing on one side or the other or just grind to a halt. I have a problem with my recumbent bike: when it grinds to a halt, my feet locked in the pedals, it tends to tip over and macerate my elbows and hips. Maybe I should switch to a recumbent trike.
Those tuned out folks seem completely oblivious to their surroundings, and, unless they are reading news and commentary on their hand-held devices, I suspect they may be oblivious also to much of what is going on beyond their immediate presence, in the city, state, nation, and world. Sometimes I see such folks on TV being interrupted by "man in the street" interviewers and being asked and failing to correctly answer such questions as, "Who is the Vice President of the United States?" I fear some may be continuously connected via. Facebook or other social media to people who share and reinforce their own opinions, and that their habit extends to times when they are not out walking. I love the joke (which I read on Facebook) about trying to explain, to someone who died in the 1950's, the most amazing thing about the technology of the early 2000's. The proposed explanation consists of holding up a smart phone and saying, "I have in my hand a device that gives me quick and easy access to much of the knowledge in the world, and I use it to argue with strangers and look at pictures of cats."
I was a big fan of the TV series, Friday Night Lights, and in particular of Coach Eric Taylor of the Dillon Panthers football team. Before games, Coach Taylor always reminded the team of their motto: "Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can't Lose." Now there seems to be a growing cult, the motto of which might be: "Plugged Ears, Downcast Eyes, Don't Know."
Maybe this fad will end up being as short lived as the driver distracting CB Radio fad (in which I participated) of the 1970's. At least the illegality of texting while driving, if not while walking, is expanding rapidly.
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