I’ve always thought it is more than a bit ironic that I often extoll the virtues of a session at Camp Mishawaka- an experience that separates a person from all things digital- via the very medium that I am saying is all too prevalent in our lives, but there is little doubt it is the most effective way to do so. The story of the value of Camp is not always easy to tell, or perhaps more accurately, easy to hear. In all the noise of our daily lives-and yes, there is even “noise” in the north woods of Minnesota- we turn our attention to the next thing in line, and more often than not, that next thing has little to do with the value of unplugging.
The point was driven home for me recently in an article in the New York Times entitled “The Joy of Quiet”. The author recounts attending a seminar on “Marketing to the Child of Tomorrow” and being struck by Madison Avenue’s interest not in the latest digital technology to sell soap to children, but by the Ad World’s interest in “stillness”.
I had seen the data before, but it is always startling to see it again: The average American spends at least eight and a half hours a day in front of a screen. The average teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day. The average office worker enjoys no more than three minutes at a time at his or her desk without interruption. As quiet and stillness become more scarce, children will begin to crave, the author argues, nothing more than freedom from all the blinking machines and ring tones. Remarkably, and a bit regrettably, that is the best news for the Camping Movement I have read in some time.
Since its founding in 1910 Camp Mishawaka has been all about unplugging, though they did not call it that in 1910. At the start, the Camping Movement arose in response to worry about the Industrial Age, urbanization and modern conveniences undoing the American “Frontier Spirit.” In today’s information age, even with most of our physical frontiers conquered, there is still profound value in a traditional Camp experience. The author points out the, ‘information revolution came without an instruction manual’, and that:
All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images.
The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.
I don’t pretend to know every one of the places one can find such clarity, and I suppose there are many. Faith, family and friendship come right to mind. But I also know that one can find a life-long sense of emotional and moral clarity in the north woods of Minnesota. I’ve seen it happen over and over, and would like to believe that I’ve found my own sense of the same here on the shores of Lake Pokegama.
I’ve also seen it knee-deep in loon goop on a portage trail or in the sunset over a flat Lake Superior, or in any other of a number of Camp Mishawaka wilderness trips I have had the privilege to take or lead. I think this video captures just this feeling from our campers and staff from 2011, and I am pleased to share it with you here.
Tripping at Camp Mishawaka: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCmwg7ufbzE&list=UUtTCC_3aKj12RfL2ylMY6dQ&index=2&feature=plcp
Be sure to select the HD option for full effect!