S – Sensory Experience

26 Reasons to Take Your Family Outside - Sensory Exposure

Happy Earth Day!

I read a book a couple of years ago titled Room by Emma Donoghue. If you haven’t read the book, perhaps you’ve seen the movie version that came out this year. Either way, the narrator of the story is a five-year-old boy named Jack who has spent his entire life trapped inside a small room with his mother. I won’t get into the details of the story itself, but for just a moment, try to put yourself into Jack’s position.

Imagine what it would be like to be born and raised entirely inside—with your only experiences of nature coming from TV and books (poor Jack doesn’t even have video games). What would it be like to then walk outside for the first time? Shocking, right? But why? Why aren’t those depictions of nature on TV and in books comparable to the real thing?

I wrote about how incredible video game and movie depictions of nature are earlier this month, but this idea has stuck in my head. As beautiful as the world in Avatar is, I’d rather take a swim in a real lake and tug gently on a real willow tree’s branches any day.

But again, I’m back to that question of WHY?

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that no author’s description or computer rendition of nature is truly multi-sensory. Sure, movies engage our senses of sight and hearing. Video games try to go one better by adding in a touch component (although I’ll argue that hard plastic controller isn’t in the same tactile category as petting a rabbit or scooping up pebbles). And I know throughout the years, attempts have been made at creating smell-a-vision, but I can’t imagine a puff of artificially scented air will make me feel like I’m walking through a field of wildflowers. I don’t even want to think about how they’d recreate taste in artificial reality.

The point is, being outside is a 3-D multi-sensory experience that is often copied but can’t be replicated. Perhaps instead of spending time trying to perfect synthetic nature, we should just get outside and experience it firsthand. Remember, poor little Jack from the book Room was trapped indoors. What’s our excuse?

13 thoughts on “S – Sensory Experience

  1. It’s funny. I think I get lazy…especially in winter. Once I get outside, I love it…but it is so hard to get motivated some days. There’s nothing like walking along the beach, or down a rocky trail, or on a mountain ridge…why is it that I forget that?


    • I know the feeling. I think I get caught up in “inside inertia” where getting outside seems difficult. I’m also not very good at just standing around. If I have a task in mind, I’m much more motivated to get outside.


  2. It is so gorgeous outside…but there are places where outside is less pretty, less enjoyable, less delightful, so perhaps that’s why they create artificial versions. To help those who can’t experience anything but desert? (Personally, I can’t imagine living in such a place, though, and I know some desert-dwellers actually feel like their surroundings are beautiful.)
    Thanks for sharing, and Happy A to Zing!


    • That’s an interesting point, Andrea. I’m sure there are some pretty miserable places. I think I’ve become an outdoors optimist, though, in that even those ugly places sometimes are beautiful–like at night when the sky is full of stars maybe. I probably fall in love with setting too easily, though! 🙂


      • That’s very true. We may like a place at a certain time, or season even, rather than always. (Though, if you don’t love a place all the time, in every season, do you truly love it? It makes me think of “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I prefer a pure sensory experience too. I smelled the best honey suckle the other day. You can’t get that at the movies, or from television. Even a honey suckle song can’t give you the feeling that we are in fact on a planet made up of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings about everything around us. We are blessed!


  4. When I first moved to Los Angeles I had a hard time staying inside – every day was a beautiful day. I had to train myself to stay in so I could get things done. Seems like all of our devices have encouraged us to stay indoors and close to wifi, engaging with the world in a virtual way.

    (Possible spoiler alert: in the movie version of Room, I thought the young actor who plays Jack was wonderful in the moment when the character experiences the outside world for the first time; the camera is just on his face, it’s all about his reactions.)

    Nice post!

    Ellen Smucker


    • I definitely need to see the movie version of Room, but it’s one that I know will be tough to watch so I’ve avoided it thus far! I’m glad to hear they filmed that “first” moment well. It’s hard to imagine being closed off from outside. I entirely understand having to make yourself stay inside. I have that problem every summer when I have to work but want to get out and enjoy our fleeting Michigan summer. I luckily work from home, so I move my office to the back porch most days–best of both worlds! Thanks for the visit!


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