A Halloween Ride Through a Field at Night: i.e., Questioning the Value of Distance & Separation

04.10.24 / 13.01.12

Two nights ago, K_____, T_____, and I took a “Haunted” ride through a corn field and some woods at night. The moon was bright and the sky was clear. The air was crisp and there was a light mist over the field. The hills were backdrops of midnight blue framing the fields and woods. It felt wonderful to be out there at night. The environment felt powerful and spiritual. I expected to be very unnerved by the spooky stuff and characters popping out at us with farm tools and power tools – but I wasn’t. No doubt, the environment was spooky. But, it did not make me afraid. It enlivened my senses and my spirit. It made me think, if I were staring out over the scene from within a house, enclosed behind a sheet of glass, I would have been much more frightened.

Somehow, feeling the air, smelling the fields and woods, listening to the sounds of people around me, the wind moving through the forest, the cornstalks and branches rustling, and feeling the proximity of the cornstalks and edge of woods, soothed my total perception of the environment.

How is it that I could be more comfortable in a “haunted” cornfield or woods at night than standing in my warm, locked apartment, glancing out over a well-lit empty parking lot? I speculated that the total engagement of my senses made the difference. All of this led me to ponder that, when I am inside looking out, I rely almost solely on vision and prediction based on those visual cues (or lack thereof). Inside I reduce my perceptual system to one-dimensional. The chore of understanding an environment becomes impossibly difficult without the aid of powerful prediction tools. And what can even the most powerful prediction tools do with a lack of input or only uni-modal input? This experiential isolation places a heavy burden on technology and asks me to rely on it and have great faith in it in order to stimulate my senses and compensate for lack of real engagement. Conversely, taking away all of the technological paraphernalia and giving all of the senses proper exposure to the full sensory complexity and nuance of the situation relieves the perceived threat. Given this, I realized that the threat was actually a manufactured experience in response to an awareness of an event for which I had inadequate sensory information. The perceived threat was the distance which I put between myself and the situation.

This reinforces questions about the value, benefit, and dangers of over-reliance on technologies and organizational procedures which desaturate the richness of experience.

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