In Campo Cabuyal, biology students spend 6 months of the year protecting turtles on the northern Pacific coast. While the comfort is pretty minimal, I am grateful for the month I spent there: I learned and experienced a lot with less.
Modern comfort came with the industrial revolution. It made us used to having everything available: light, water, wifi, heating, electricity. We are « wired » at all ends. Despite all the undeniable advantages of this mechanical life, it is taking us away from our aesthetic life, made of raw sensations and simple pleasures.
Here, there is running and even hot water. 3 light bulbs powered by solar energy. Frogs in the shower. And mosquito nets on the walls. There is a gas stove, but no fridge. Instead, a cooler filled with ice packs keeps the food fresh for 2 days at least.
Not telephone signal at all, we are wildly remote. And obviously no internet connexion either. Digital detox, here we go. Lost into nature, the camp and its simple life become my element. I dive into a form of asceticism that amplifies the sensations and supresses the impatience or frustrations caused by digital uses.
The rudimentary means of the camp reflect the meager budgets allocated to on-field scientific research. But in the « Pura Vida »country, nobody seems to complain about this frugal comfort. Having less, but living more.
Do nothing, live to the full
Without any external solicitation, we live at the pace of the sun and the night. Searching for shade, listening to the birds and the smells. It’s almost like in a monastery, the punctual rhythm of the meals frames our days, following the crescendo and decrescendo of the heat. We read books other people left here, we watch the branches dancing, we play board games. We do our laundry in a holed cooler, and our clothe dry in less than two minutes under the blazing sun. We write and draw. We connect with people, with the natural elements, the sounds, the smells and our own biological rhythm.
We listen to the noisy iguanas, there are everywhere. In the dry grass, on the chicken coop, near the organic trash, along the net walls, and under the ceilings. We fully cohabit with them, as with the tarantulas, wasps, scorpions, frogs and parrots living here. Wasps gather water for their nest when we do the dishes and frogs take showers with us.
Every morning, dawn is proclaimed by exuberant rhythmic bird songs. In the evening, the air fills with smell of jasmine. We sway softly in the hammocks, waiting for dinner. Our body swinging in the air, our eyes staring vacantly. We let time go by, heat rise, colors beat, birds sing, insects fly, sea roar.
« Spending time in the natural world seems to be of “vital importance” to “effective cognitive functioning.” – The Shallows, What the internet is doing to our brains, Nicholas Carr, 2011
What internet does to our brains
Once a week, a team goes to the closest city (Liberia) to do the groceries. There are only 4 seats in the pickup. What could seem like a tedious task is highly desired, since the chosen team get the privilege of spending a few hours at Donde Pipe, an air-conditioned restaurant with cold water and wifi, two elements sorely lacking in the camp.
Every 2 weeks, each of us is allowed to reconnect with the online civilization, to binge-post and binge-consume news on social medias. When my turn comes, I realize how much I didn’t miss internet. It is amazing how much of our time get stolen from us. Or rather, how much time we deliberatly waste looking at images, reacting to notifications, and absorbing infinite scrolls.
I think back about the « Time well spent » movement founded by former repented engineers of the Silicon Valley. The reality of the « Economics of Attention » is striking me. After 1:30 answering messages and posting pictures, I go out to breathe and suddenly realize that I am feeling an intense tachycardia … Is this what permanent and simultaneous connection does to our body and our mind? I look forward to going back to the camp and curling up into the soft and slow torpor of disconnected life.
« Our ability to engage in “meditative thinking” which Martin Heidegger saw at the very essence of our humanity, might become a victim of headlong progress. “The frenziedness of technology”, Heidegger wrote, threatens to “entrench itself everywhere.” It may be that we are now entering the final stage of that entrenchment. We are welcoming the frenziedness into our souls. »
– The Shallows, What the internet is doing to our brains, Nicholas Carr, 2011
> Nicholas Carr’s book: « The Shallows, What the internet is doing to our brains”, WW Norton publishers, 2011