“This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places.” — Edward Abbey
George Lakoff is one of my heroes. Among his many great ideas is the one of strategic initiatives. According to Lakoff, a major problem for progressives is that they want to fix everything, so they spread themselves too thin and lose effectiveness. He suggests that instead they focus on strategic initiatives, those that deliver multiple results in one blow.
As one example (maybe my favorite), a renewable energy initiative can help create jobs, ease global political tensions, and improve the environment, all in one swoop.
The other day, as I was talking to a friend about hiking, I realized that for me it’s akin to a strategic initiative. A hike can be hard to schedule, and it tends to take up a large part of a precious weekend day. So, what makes it worth doing? For me, it satisfies a number of critical needs: beauty, nature, exercise, stress relief, fresh air, time away from computers, and social time with friends.
The first two, like a Venn diagram, overlap but have also have separate aspects. Often, hiking in the gorgeous settings of northern California makes me think of the lines quoted above. The beauty in this area is spectacular. Yet there’s so much more to nature than that. For those of us who live in an urban environment, being around grass and trees and wild creatures is restorative. A park or backyard are nice, but they don’t satisfy me the way a wilder place does.
And the benefits don’t stop there. The exercise you get going up and down the hills in the San Francisco Bay Area is significant, even aerobic. By the end of the day your lungs are full of fresh air, and being off the computer for the day is restful. Spending time with friends is a huge bonus; a chance to gather friends normally spread out around the Bay Area and hang out with them for hours is always welcome. (Hiking alone can also be wonderful, and meditative, so it comes with its own benefits.)
I’m thankful to live in a place that’s close to so many wonderful hiking trails, yet I find myself not always making the time to enjoy them. In our busy modern lives, it’s challenging to allow time for the important things. Like the progressive that I am, I tend to want to do it all—which can lead to getting very little accomplished. So the next time I’m considering whether to go on a hike, I’ll remind myself that it’s a strategic initiative.