Let Us Seek To Know | 10.17.21
The Sunday Edition
I know, I know, we’re all on screens far too much, for far too many reasons. I know our eyes are glued to our devices for more hours a day than is even a little bit excusable, I know we lose so many moments locked into some silly nonsense on our iPhones or Androids. I know this. BUT, and this is a rare but important But here, I’m here today to tell you I’ve an app you need to download, an app I’ve been enjoying over the last few months that has actually opened my eyes wider to the world around me than they’ve been in years. That’s right, I actually discovered a reason to be on our devices that actually connects us deeper to the natural world, and gives us more appreciation for it than we ever thought possible. The app, my friends, is called Seek by iNaturalist, and essentially, the only thing it truly uses on your phone, is the camera.
Here’s the jist: You are an explorer of the world, think Darwin at the point of species discovery. You’re armed with your phone camera, and nothing else. Your job, is to wander through the world you call home, and aim that camera at anything alive. Plants, animals, insects, birds, spiders, mollusks, fish, reptiles, amphibians, hell even moss and fungus. Once you aim it, the camera begins identifying the Kingdom, the Phylum, the Class, Order, Family, and finally the Genus and Species. Here’s the rub, you’re not allowed to take the photo until it fills all the bubbles, and actually identifies the species. This means you must move the camera around, zoom in, change the angle, until it can properly identify it. (Pro Tip: In Settings, turn it so the camera AUTO takes the photo once it reaches Species!) As you “collect” these species, it teaches you their names, and allows you to dive into them and learn all about them, much more than just their name. I have found myself, over the last 2 months, discovering worlds and worlds right before my nose, the names of all the little critters and plants that grow, the differences between birds I long wondered if they were all the same.
In short, this little app has pushed me Outside more than anything has in years. It gets me curious, it gets me excited, and it makes me look with my eyes closer to all things than ever before. I see movement in places I never noticed, I stop and appreciate (even more than I already did) every tiny creature, every different shape of leaf, every bit of moss on every rock. Once I find them, I learn. So much I learn. Then, the strangest bit, is that I have that knowledge to share whenever anyone else with me wishes to know. I remember.
Sure, there are badges to collect, monthly challenges to complete, species to keep an eye out for and all that fun jazz, but the true joy for me, is just the curiosity it has planted. I feel like Darwin, I feel like Wallace finding birds of paradise, even if all they are is hummingbirds that won’t stay still long enough to be identified. I feel the whole world before me, humming, buzzing, slowly reaching for light, a world I always knew was there but appreciate in a much deeper and richer fashion. All from a silly app on a silly iPhone. This, I cannot help but think, is what technology should have Always been used for, this type of curiosity, this type of fascination, this is how education should ensnare their students. I think we demonize technology in a hundred different ways, and if I’m honest, probably deserves 99 of them. BUT, again that triumphant But, sometimes, some sweet and gentle times, a silly bit of computer code can reinvigorate a love for the natural world in an amazing and surprising way.
I won’t pressure you to download it, but what I will do is this: Beg you, implore you, to go through the world with or without the little app, as an explorer, as a collector, as a person desperate to learn, to know, to yes, Seek. There is a reason I have this word tattooed on my right hand, always there to see, there’s a word it’s the last bit of advice in my book Miracle in the Mundane, and it’s this. If we’re always seeking, we’re always finding, even if we don’t realize it. To seek is to live, my friends, and I hope you do precisely that.
*Also, if I spoke in the podcast about needing, but not having, Intro music or a "theme song” please note, I recorded the audio before I figured out the theme music :) Sorry for the confusion.*
Let us seek to know,
to find the life around us
and learn all their names.
Song of the Week
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