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?