The call of the not-so wild

People in cities spend a lot of time running needless laps in the rat race. And we, the human race, are getting nowhere fast

The Golan Heights 370 (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
The Golan Heights 370
(photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
A few days ago I started to tell my son what happened when I was in Katzrin recently with a friend who was visiting from Canada.
“I know,” he said. “I was with you.”
Indeed he was. He came with us for our four-day sojourn to the North, only my brain had momentarily deleted that detail. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I’ve always blamed lapses in memory on my age (you know – at 40, you can’t remember where you left something; at 50, you can’t remember what the thing you can’t find is called). But it’s not age; it’s stress. I and everyone around me live very stressful lives. And a good percentage of that stress is self-induced.
But as I toured the true North strong and free, looking at cascading waterfalls and the evergreen forests and inhaling air not packed with tension, it was salubrious – mentally and physically.
For many years now, I have dreamt of living in the North. My friends say I’d be bored (God willing). It is true that since I keep the pace of a squirrel two weeks before hibernation, slowing down would be a little challenging. But I have always been up to a challenge, and anyway it’s not the speed and rhythm of life that make it stressful, it’s the multitasking, the immediacy, the bombardment of the senses that render us all constantly overwhelmed.
There’s a relatively new thing on buses. A computerized voice announces the stops – the stop you just left, the stop coming up, and the stop you’re at.
It’s annoying! I admit it’s helpful to visually impaired people and people taking the bus for the first time (and people multitasking who can’t look out the window), but what happened to talking to people on the bus? Social alienation is another cause of stress. Of course, social interaction is also a form of stress. Especially in Israel.
I came to Israel in 1982. At that time, there were still public phones, which you had to use because there was a dearth of private phones. Office equipment consisted of the typewriter. I wrote letters to my friends using paper and pen at home, and then went to mail them at the post office. And the fax machine was the cutting edge of new technology.
I was at a wedding recently, and everyone at my table had their cellphone on the table and were checking their messages every few minutes. Part of the time, they weren’t present. Being two places at once equals stress! (Unless you’re letting your mind wander during a lecture of something, which is relaxing unless you have to take a test on it.) Do they not have these things up North? They do. You get reception even while looking at the coypus munching grass with their orange teeth at the Hula Lake. You can even take a picture of them and send it to your friends in the city on your cellphone.
But no one is rushing anywhere. The combination of fewer people per square kilometer, the soothing nepenthe of nature and the choice of living at a slower pace lead to the fact that you actually experience life instead of rushing through it in a blur.
I grew up in St. Laurent, a suburb of Montreal, where the most excitement we had was a snowstorm in winter and a hailstorm in summer. I longed for, craved, desired excitement and adventure.
But I got jaded fast. Well, not that fast; I was young. But I would love to return to the pace of my youth, when just sitting on the grass with someone was an activity, and you actually had their full attention. This bombardment of noise, information and activity is eroding our priorities.
City life offers many conveniences and opportunities but it also offers endless things we “must” do at the expense of those things we “should” do. People in cities, especially young people, spend a lot of time running needless laps in the rat race. And we, the human race, are getting nowhere fast (technological advances aside).
I mean, do we really care what people whom we haven’t seen in 30 years are having for lunch? Is it really necessary to eschew spending time with friends to go to the gym? Must we really text while we’re talking to our spouses, children and grandparents? I’m lucky that I’m religious; I get at least one day a week off from this craziness. But 24/6 is still enough to erode my senses. And it does.
All kinds of practical considerations may mean that I get up North only once or twice a year until I retire; but if I want to get to the age of retirement with most of my faculties intact, even though I can’t go back to a simpler time, I can try to simplify my life. And if we all do it, we might actually have a chance at remembering what we did and who we did it with.