John Eldredge encourages people to ‘engage with real life’

Popular Christian author and podcaster John Eldgredge encouraged his followers this week to engage with real life instead of embracing artificial reality.

He cited news reports showing the average person spends 93% of his or her time indoors, which includes transportation in cars, planes, busses and trains. The implication is staggering.

John explained the average 75-year-old man or women will spend 69 years and nine months living in a little compartment, but only five years and three months outside in the dazzling, living world.

“This includes our childhood. How does a child be a child when they only venture outside a few months of their entire childhood?” John asked.

He described the situation as a a catastrophe, the final nail in the coffin for the human soul.

“You live nearly all your life in a fake world: artificial lighting instead of the warmth of sunlight or the cool of moonlight or the darkness of night itself. Artificial climate rather than the wild beauty of real weather; your world is always 68 degrees,” he wrote.

“All the surfaces you touch are things like plastic, nylon, and faux leather instead of meadow, wood, and stream. Fake fireplaces; and wax fruit,” he added. “The atmosphere you inhabit is now asphyxiating with artificial smells — mostly chemicals and “air fresheners” — instead of cut grass, wood smoke, and salt air.”

He compared our artificial life to what is depicted in science fiction novels. Compared to what was considered “science fiction” when I was a child and teenager, John’s not wrong.

“God put your soul in this amazing body and then put you in a world perfectly designed for that experience,” he wrote. “Which is why the rescue of the soul takes place through our engagement with the real world.”

People sometimes refer to being outside as being “grounded” in that they are actually walking on earth and breathing fresh air, not air continuously recirculated by a machine.

Be truthful. When was the last time you slipped off your shoes and walked barefoot on grass?

There was a scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Robert’s character, Vivian Ward, removes the shoes and socks of her “client,” Edward Lewis, who was portrayed by Richard Gere. Then she forces him to walk in the grass, which was way, way, way out of the man’s comfort zone.

But, later in the film, as he is contemplating the direction his life is headed, Edward is seen walking barefoot on the grass all by himself. It’s a poignant moment because through the process of escaping his artificial life to embrace the outdoors, Edward came to realize what mattered most in life — and it wasn’t just closing deals and raking in more money.

Several people have said, “The best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.”

John noted that when we encounter an actual horse — not online, not through Instagram, not the little horse emoji on your phone, but a living, breathing, thousand-pound animal — we are thrust into a dynamic encounter with the real.

“It calls things out of us, not only fears, anger, and impatience to be overcome, but intuition and presence and a sort of firm kindness that no video game can ever replicate. There’s no switch you can flip; you must engage,” he explained.

Our hyper-sheltered children are bearing the brunt of the move indoors. When I was a child, my parents would tell us to go outside and not come back until the streetlights were on.

We explored and played. We fought, but made up. We used our imaginations and studied the beauty of nature in its natural habitat. We discovered another dimension to life that was wild, unpredictable and inviting, and we were better off from the encounter.

So, do yourself a favor, go outdoors and walk barefoot on the beach or on the grass. Stop and look at the beauty of a flower or the majesty of a sunset. Breathe and think as stress melts away.

While you’re at it, pry a child’s hands away from the death grip on an electronic device and take him or her with you. Help them to engage in nature, too. Find fun shapes in the clouds. Collect pine cones or feathers. Then, when you get home, look them up in a real book to find out which species they belong to.

Not only will you be grounding the child with earth, but you will be grounding them into another, much better world.