ditch the lolcats, find the stoke


(Originally published in The Sewanee Mountain Messenger. Reprinted by permission.)

Right now, as I write this, I am feeling grateful for the internet.

That’s right, I have nothing in my heart except gratitude for websites, email, Facebook.

I know, I know. You can’t swing a metaphorical cat in cyberspace these days without reading about the dangers of over-connectedness. Hip new-economy magazines feature the idea of unplugging in their articles.

Perhaps all those warnings have a point. Like television, the internet can be a massive time-waster. Like the chips aisle in the Piggly-Wiggly, surfing the worldwide web can leave you sated on cheap flavors and feeling a little queasy.

But here’s what I know: I have never had so many sources of inspiration as close at hand as I do right this minute. Never before has it been as easy to plug into the amazing things that are being done and created around the world.

In the early-morning darkness, big coffee by my side, I can click on a video by Camp Four Collective of breathtaking climbing in the Grand Tetons. I can read an article from Outside magazine about Adventure Ethiopia, an example of what’s called adventure philanthropy, in which surgeons and world-class ultradistance runners team up to provide cataract surgery for Ethiopians while donors get to put in miles side-by-side with famous athletes from Ethiopia and around the world.

Nor is the inspiration solely derived from the world of outdoor athletes. Any interest I have, from environmentally-mindful living to creating stronger communities to making homemade pasta, can be nurtured and given new fire with a little poking around. 

Try it for yourself. Google ‘best bicycle nonprofits’: you might find 88Bikes, a charity which “endows bicycles to girls throughout the world, especially the heroic survivors of human trafficking.” Or ‘best websites’. Or ‘best local food trucks.’ Type in your interest and find encouragement and amazing human spirit.

Change your Facebook feed. Hide those posts from not-really-friends whose politics put your teeth on edge, and replace them by liking and linking to pages that nurture your dreams. Every morning, I’m gifted with at least one article or video of someone doing something amazing, with grit and soul and determination.

And don’t forget your friends. Don’t you know someone right where you live, who’s showing us all how it should be done? Who’s out there at the leading edge of creativity, or persistence, or mastery? Make sure they show up when you’re checking Facebook, too. Subscribe to their blog.

A website named Feedly lets you choose websites whose stories you want to keep up with. Any time new material is posted, Feedly posts it for you to read at your convenience. Mine includes treehugger.com (surprise) and Patagonia’s blog, The Cleanest Line.  Personally-curated inspiration, waiting for you any time you want it.

Doing these things transforms a notoriously passive medium, the internet, into a launching pad for insanely-great active things in our lives. We all need examples and reminders of what we can do and be in our daily lives, and what we can strive for. I’m grateful to have such an easy way to tap into mine.