We talk too much.
You don’t realize it until you get away for an extended period of time from the incessant click-driven egos, rating wars, and those who place value in hollow hoarding of “likes” and “hits.”
During a seven-day stretch I uttered less than a hundred words to another human being save for words said during a short daily call to check in with a pre-designated contact to assure them I didn’t get lost hiking cross-country, wandering through remote canyons or on the way back from desert peaks.
I did not access the Internet, watch TV news or the know-it-all bullies on cable “news” and current events “interview” shows, listen to radio news, or even pick up a newspaper.
I did not hear one person speak the names of Trump, Biden, Pelosi, McConnell, of any politician we either elevate to idol status or view as evil incarnate depending on one’s jaded political views or blindness and/or deafness to seeing and listening to others that are different in either appearance or values.
Nor did I have the pleasure of yet another know-it-all social media sensation in their own mind who believes the world needs to be reminded at least 100 times a day how this country is the most divided it’s ever been which probably would come as a shock to the 750,000 people that lost their lives during the Civil War that ended 156 years ago.
And believe it or not I did not hear a single word about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Death Valley — where I spent six blissful days of hiking during which time I encountered only three other people while traipsing alluvial fans, washes, peaks, ridge lines, and canyons — is a prime example of how sensationalizing everyday life distorts reality.
It was named Death Valley after the San Joaquin Company wagon train composed of 49ers who opted to use the Old Spanish Trail in a bid to take what ended up being a fictitious shortcut to the gold mines of California by lopping off supposedly 500 miles.
One man died in the valley after the wagon train split up near present-day Furnace Creek where part of one group was stranded while two young men set off on foot on a 300-mile trek to Mission San Fernando to return with a rescue party. An allegedly off-the-cuff remark by one of the party’s members of saying “good-bye Death Valley” as they finally made their way farther west gave the place its name. The existence of an American valley of death is pure hyperbole spread by the penny press which was the Internet of the mid-19th century.
If you put more stock in sensationalism Death Valley likely strikes you as a barren and foreboding place.
But within the 5,240 square miles that constitute the national park there are more than 1,000 plant species including bristlecone pines that are the oldest living things on earth averaging 1,000 years, 440 animal species, 307 bird species, 36 reptile species, and 5 fish species.
Strip away the hyperbole that the Internet creates on how most of us perceive the world today and you will find this world and this country overflowing with a lot of positive signs of life.
Just like you don’t see what Death Valley really is by speeding through it at 60 mph in an air conditioned car on an asphalt highway and only hitting the tourist sites, you don’t really get a good feel for the real state of the world by 144 letter tweets, Instagram postings, or even YouTube snippets.
The world is not silent when you do not talk.
It is filled with sounds. You can hear birds flapping their wings hundreds of feet away atop 700-foot sand dunes in the Panamint Valley, hear a lizard scurrying over rocks as you walk up a wash or hear wind movement on an otherwise still day in the narrows of a canyon with towering walls of 100 feet or more or atop a mountain ridge.
There is a lot going on in the world that we don’t hear because we are too busy talking and not listening.
And there is nothing to put one’s life — or the world — in perspective as hiking 7 miles with a 3,093 foot elevation gain to stand atop the 5,804-foot pinnacle of a mountain that has a summit area smaller than the footprint of the vehicle you drove to Death Valley. It is a feeling crowned by standing there and taking in an unobstructed 360-degree view where you literally see points on the horizon more than 100 miles away with only a few signs of civilization.
Below in the canyons, on other mountains, and on the valley floor there were times when literally thousands upon thousands of people making a living mining enduring hardships and paying exorbitant prices for goods that make what challenges we face today seem like child’s play.
While the skies may seem endless and the sun unrelenting during the day, venture out at night on the desert floor, spread a blanket, and then lay down and look towards the darkened heavens you see realize just how much light there is shining down on the world.
The sight makes even the most festive Christmas tree adorned with clear lights seem drab in comparison as your eyes register light that was generated in many cases before the rise of civilization on earth.
Setting aside the source of our obsessions on social media or how we’ve come to package what surrounds us in our own personal lives provides a way to see things differently and to value the abundance of good things in the world that gets drowned out in the Internet echo chambers we created to supposedly entertain, enlighten, and communicate.
You can’t see the world for what it is by zooming along the information highway at 5G speed.
At the same time talking is not the only key to sorting out differences and to understand other viewpoints.
It requires listening to do that.
And that includes listening to ourselves.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation.