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Cam Marston On Camping and Human Evolution

On this week’s Keepin’ It Real, Cam Marston discusses evolution and says maybe we’ve not evolved as much as we think, and that’s a good thing.

My fifteen-year-old twins will have been at camp for nearly a month when I pick them up late next week. It will be wonderful to see them again. All my kids have loved Camp Mac, and my oldest kids, who haven’t been to camp for a few years, still stay in touch with many of the friends they made there.

Listening to parents and teachers and the media talk, Camp Mac is not a place one would think young teenagers would enjoy. It has no air conditioning in the sleeping cabins – just widows with screens. No cell phones are allowed. In fact, no electronics are allowed at all. A few times over their four-week term, they hike into the Talladega National Forest, pitch tents, start fires, and sleep outdoors and at some point on that hike, they skinny-dip under a waterfall. During the days they play games outside, they wait in line to eat in the mess hall, they have girl-boy dance parties where, I’m told, they dance with each other. They attend patriotic flag raisings, and dress in all whites for their weekly Sunday service. According to the stereotypes, none of these things sound anything like “fun” for today’s young teenager. Kids today like comfort and instant gratification. But my kids love Camp Mac, and they’ll quietly cry when I drive them away late next week.

There’s an assumption that kids these days are different, and there certainly are some differences. I remember as a kid blushing any time I even spotted a girlie magazine on a magazine rack, far behind the counter at a service station. There was nothing in that magazine that any child today can’t find in twenty seconds on their cell phone, so there are certainly some differences, But deep down, I don’t think we’ve changed all that much. As people, even as a species, we’re still very much like the way we were way, way back in the past.

I’m betting one hundred years ago when a city kid went camping, they got excited about it. It was fun, and I’m betting it might have been the same two hundred years ago and the same maybe two thousand years ago. We like to think we’ve evolved and advanced as a species, but I don’t think we have. Child or adult, we’re still much the same as we’ve always been. Our tools have changed and by using these tools, we’ve changed our environment, but what made kids happy a long, long, long time ago is what’s making kids happy today. Not what gives them pleasure, mind you, but makes them happy. What made adults happy and sad a long, long time ago is what makes adults like you and me happy and sad today, too.

I don’t know why, but there’s great comfort in knowing that these things are unchanged. Like the happiness I’ll feel seeing my twins this time late next week.

I'm Cam Marston, and I'm just trying to keep it real.

Cam Marston is the Keepin' It Real host for Alabama Public Radio.