Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul. Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.~ John Muir
To care for their health and well-being, many men carefully watch their diet, take supplements, exercise, and go for regular check-ups at the dentist and the doctor. Some even supplement this routine with visits to a masseuse or a therapist. But many men are skipping out on something essential to their manly vigor-spending time in the great outdoors.
Great men from Theodore Roosevelt to Ralph Waldo Emerson loved to tear out into nature. Yet today men see activities like hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping as hobbies to be enjoyed by some and not by others. They’ve become just another recreational opportunity: you can take it or leave it.
But spending time in the outdoors is essential for every man. It will strip off the stale, sissified patina that civilization has covered you in and renew your soul in 5 crucial ways:
1. Nature gives you a chance for unstructured exploration
Surely all God’s people, however serious or savage, great or small, like to play. ~ John Muir
Most men’s lives are tightly scheduled and routine. Wake up, shower, commute, work, home, sleep. Each day you drive the same route, sit in the same cubicle, and sleep in the same bed. Yet within each man is a strong urge to set out and explore, to start out a day with only the faintest outline of an agenda, and to discover things never seen before. Scrambling over rocks, hiking up mountains, and fording streams will make you feel like a kid again.
2. Nature gets you in touch with the basic elements and your primal self
In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware. ~ John Muir
The modern man is subject to all sorts of rules, expectations, and constraints. Buttoned up and buried in paper work, he must act polite, follow the traffic laws, and refrain from throttling the a-hole who prolongs the company meeting with asinine questions. His spirit his constantly hemmed in. And everything modern man touches, lives in, and uses has been modified from its original form: sanded, molded, and packaged for consumption. Almost every sound he hears, from the car engine to the ringing cell phone, originates from an artificial source. It’s enough to render every man with a mild form of insanity.
Here at AoM, we encourage men to have manners, but the primal side of man should not be completely suffocated. Men must periodically tear themselves away from civilization and interact with things in their natural state. Touch real dirt, sit by a real fire, sharpen real wood, and listen to the pure sounds of running streams and the wind in the trees. Surround yourself with matter that doesn’t exist solely for human consumption. Experience things that just are.
3. Nature gives you space to think and puts your problems in perspective
Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. ~ John Muir
In the cities and suburbs, it is easy to lose what is truly important. The world begins to seem as if it really does revolve around your tiny world. And there are few truly quiet moments in this madcap life. In the car you are listening to music or talk radio, at work you’re focused on the task at hand, and when you get home you turn on the TV and zone out. Getting lost in nature allows quiet, unstructured space in which to sort out your problems, think through what’s been going on in your life, and plan goals for the future. Under the stars and beneath the trees, it is easier to see what really matters. Mountain peaks, rolling rivers, and radiant sunsets will make you and your problems seem properly small.
4. Invigorates your body
I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found. ~ John Muir
Every now and again men must tear themselves away from the clogged air of the streets and the recycled air of corporate buildings. Your lungs yearn to breathe the fresh air in the forests and mountains. Hiking will invigorate your body. While all exercise is beneficial in alleviating depression, outdoor exercise is particularly useful. The sunlight, physical activity, and inspiring scenery will combine to rejuvenate your spirit and leave you ready to once more take on the world.
Wander a whole summer if you can. Thousands of God’s blessings will search you and soak you as if you were a sponge, and the big days will go by uncounted. If you are business-tangled and so burdened by duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy laden year, give a month at least. The time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. ~ John Muir