I ran across a news release so shocking I had to read it twice. It didn’t make the front page but it should have: the average person now spends 93 percent of their life indoors (this includes your transportation time in car, bus, or metro). Ninety-three percent—such a staggering piece of information. We should pause for a moment and let the tragedy sink in.
That means if you live to be 100, you will have spent 93 of those years in a little compartment and only 7 outside in the dazzling, living world. If we live to the more usual 75, we will spend 69 and three-fourths of our years indoors, and only five and one-fourth outside. This includes our childhood; how does a child be a child when they only venture outside a few months of their entire childhood?
This is a catastrophe, the final nail in the coffin for the human soul. You live nearly all your life in a fake world: artificial lighting instead of the warmth of sunlight or the cool of moonlight or the darkness of night itself. Artificial climate rather than the wild beauty of real weather; your world is always 68 degrees. All the surfaces you touch are things like plastic, nylon, and faux leather instead of meadow, wood, and stream. Fake fireplaces; wax fruit. The atmosphere you inhabit is now asphyxiating with artificial smells—mostly chemicals and “air fresheners”—instead of cut grass, wood smoke, and salt air (is anyone weeping yet?).
This is a life for people in a science fiction novel. You live a bodily existence. The physical life, with all the glories of senses, appetites, and passions—this is the life God meant for us. It’s through our senses we learn most every important lesson. Even in spiritual acts of worship and prayer we are standing or kneeling, engaging bodily. God put your soul in this amazing body and then put you in a world perfectly designed for that experience.
Which is why the rescue of the soul takes place through our engagement with the real world. Thus the quote—variously attributed to Churchill, Will Rogers, and Reagan—that “The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.” Because when we encounter an actual horse—not online, not through Instagram, not the little horse emoji on your phone, but a living, breathing, thousand-pound animal, we are thrust into a dynamic encounter with the real. It calls things out of us, not only fears, anger, and impatience to be overcome, but intuition and presence and a sort of firm kindness that no video game can ever replicate. There’s no switch you can flip; you must engage. Reality shapes us.