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Do-Nothing Culture

Marc Peruzzi fears Orwellian orderliness.


My son Jake reminded me recently that it’s OK to do nothing at all.

We’d just finished an hour-long climb on mountain bikes. The saddle below the summit of Emerald Mountain offered views of northern Routt County, Colorado; a prism of mist scattering the light. I barely saw the verdant splendor as I rolled toward the descent. “Hey, what’s wrong with you?” he called out. “Let’s take a seat.”

“What’s the matter?” I asked, thinking he was hungry. “Nothing,” he said. “You need to learn to chill out.” And he was right.

I spent the first three decades of my youth doing nothing at all very well. As a kid in Massachusetts, I’d walk barefoot 10 miles round-trip to dig clams with friends. I knew every frog pond within five miles. One towering oak a few miles away dropped acorns the size of walnuts to be bucketed for neighborhood wars. And in the pool beneath the dam, a wizened old carp that would never take the potato I floated in front of his head.

Later, in college in New Hampshire, I’d walk our sturdy lab in the woods far from any trail until, in the rain, I’d come upon an old foundation, startle a fisher cat, or forage a century old patch of blackcap berries. I skipped stones. Climbed trees. Tracked moose. Turned over rocks. And when we rode mountain bikes, we sat down on top of climbs.

What’s wrong with me might be what’s wrong with all of us. A collective shift from the benign neglect of all things, to perennial hovering. Kids and dogs no longer wander the streets and no-man’s-land. They don’t talk to hoboes; don’t build forts; don’t bleed without bandages. Everything is structured into camps, teams, activities.

We fear abduction. But what we should fear is Orwellian orderliness. A college kid walking alone in the woods in the rain might now be somebody worthy of surveillance. All children shall be placed in a club. Let’s get them matching shirts and track them with our phones.

Or maybe, we should all take advantage of high summer, and do nothing at all.

Marc Peruzzi, Editorial Director, Mountain

From our High Summer 2016 issue. 

2 Responses to “Do-Nothing Culture”

  1. Chris Burke

    Wow Marc, I grew up in Billerica MA. I would ride my Huffy all day through woods, towns, and beyond with nothing for a flat nor any permission. I never got abducted and would scrape knees and let the scab be the band aide. I’ve always wondered if that childhood freedom made a difference good or bad on what type of person I am now. I am sure that it is sad that kids don’t have the same freedom to adventure and get to have that inner confidence they can be with themselves without us parents hovering and planning every moment. Great article!!


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