Why Casual & Natural Is So Awesome

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Last week I was playing ping pong with Zander and the topic of conversation (naturally) turned to canal skating in Ottawa.

You see, in Ottawa during the wintertime, the city’s canals freeze over and they turn into  temporary frozen streets.  As you can see above, Ottawans turn to using them for their daily activities, like taking their kids to school.  Imagine taking your kids to school on ice skates!

I was saying that I thought this was so cool, and Zander accused me of “being a hipster who just likes things that are different”.

While I do like things that are different and interesting, this is not an ironic interest in canadian urban ice skating.  What I love so much about this is that it’s doing a fun activity in a totally natural and non-contrived context.  For example:

  • Hockey in a skating rink: contrived.  Hockey on a pond: awesome.  Skating to work: unbelievable.
  • “Going for a bike ride”: lame.  Riding your bike to run errands and get around town: awesome.
  • Taking a boat ride: ok.  Riding a boat to get somewhere (like the Fire Island water taxi, or the “buses” in Venice): amazing.  Driving your own boat to get to work: rockstar (and that doesn’t at all require a fancy boat).
  • I am sure there are lots of others that I’m not thinking of right now.  If I were a gun owner, I’d probably feel the same way about shooting on a gun range vs. hunting in the wild (or packing heat).

There is something about doing an activity in the normal course of your day, and in its natural environment, that makes it so much better.  And there is something about completely fabricated environments that can feel so lame or even sad (and also high pressure because of the dedicated focus).  I suppose I can tie this back to my preference for mixed-use urban environments, vs. more separated, dedicated-use contrived ones.

It’s possible to say that finding and doing such things has been a lifelong interest for me — though I’ve never really articulated it directly.  Maybe it’s some kind of yearning for authenticity, maybe it’s about freedom vs. constraints & control.

Anyway, I think I am onto something here and will be on the lookout for other examples.

// photo from bugbog.com

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