Thursday, June 19, 2008

Darwin Rules; or, The Demise of the Terminally Out-to-Lunch

In my varied lines of work throughout my lifetime (outdoor guide, editor, camp counselor, restaurant server, temp worker, program director, horse groom, among many others—the usual laundry list of a writer!), I've had the opportunity to encounter an equally varied sampling of humans. Many of those brief interactions have been quite interesting, even fascinating. Recently, I was able to spend the better part of a day ferrying around a client for a hiking trip who hails from Jerusalem. His grandson's bar mitzvah is coming up, and he and his wife had inquired as to the soon-to-be-a-young-man's interests so they could provide an appropriate gift. He likes animals. I imagined they might plan to get him a dog. Nah. Way too simple. Instead, they are taking him on safari to Africa later this year. Lots of animals out on the savanna.

At any rate, this particular man impressed me with his world view and life acumen—that is, his eat-or-be-eaten outlook (though I put that a little more savagely than this man seems to actually be). This guy is a survivor. If the climate tries to do us in or the world order as we know it implodes, he'll make it.

Then consider the sweet family I took riding yesterday evening. We went later in the day so as to avoid the blasting summer heat (90s all week). It was a gorgeous ride, with the slowly sinking sun painting the rocks even redder than they truly are, a snake gracing us by hurriedly crossing our path, and the cool air a relief. The couple was older, and their young son was alternately interested by his surroundings and apparently quite superior to his parents' inane utterings. (Oh, to be 13 again. No thanks!) But I did have to agree that the folks, who seemed kind and well-intentioned, are the sort who just Will. Not. Make It. if the world suddenly tilts on its axis, startling the hell out of the population living upon its whirlingness. They were kind—and they were just not alert, if that makes sense.

Is this the sort of complacency, the cluelessness, born of a people who have little to fear or worry about in the greater scheme of things? Of course there are many who struggle in this country. But there are many who don't—at least not on the basic survival level. To keep it all in perspective, I often marvel at the comforts of my own life. Clean running water whenever I want it. Electricity that works 99% of the time, give or take the occasional power outage, which is then quickly corrected. Good food, easily accessible and affordable. A roof over my head, and spacious living quarters that I share with no one (except a very cute little dog named Pippin and, soon, two cats). And, I must say, some of the most scenery in the world literally just outside my door—really. (See photo!)

It takes some effort, I think, and perhaps a dose of reality to realize what we have. Those who don't are the ones I fear for, in a sort of detached way, if the crap really hits the fan someday.

This all seems a bit maudlin and Chicken Little-ish. But every possibility must be considered when contemplating this world. We live in a bizarre place, we have a bizarre history, and never say never. You just don't know. Anything can happen. Wah-hoo!

I'm not sure why my thoughts turned to this today. It's lovely out, already quite warm (ah, I am also blessed by my very cool apartment, which since it is surrounded by the earth stays beautifully temperate!), and I am well-rested, despite running around the house like mad with my active little pup at about 6:15 this morning before collapsing into bed again to beg another hour or so of sleep. (Pippin did not approve of that at all. My purpose in life right now, it seems, is to play with him. All the time.)

Off I go to seize the day. I wonder what sort of people I will encounter on today's journey...



chris said...

Ah...Survival. One of my favorite topics to chew on and share with my fellow humans.

In my day to day wanderings I come across a wide spectrum of folks, those who border on the extreme right (I got guns and a Bible therefore I will survive) and those on the left who are equally extreme.

I welcome their thoughts as to how they think the end of the civilized world will occur. Will it be a terrorist act or will it be because the environment (good ol' Mother Earth) has finally had enough of us humans.

Either way, the time will come for either us, or our descendants to figure out a way to survive. I don't believe that the entire planet will implode all at once, I see it as a localized destruction happening "here" and "there".

For an example of that, reference Katrina and the recent floods in the Midwest. The question becomes one of why do certain people survive and others perish?

I really believe it has to do with ones connection to nature and whether or not they believe they can do without her.

My personal belief is that Mother Nature has us (humans) on probation and likes to revoke it every once in a while to remind us that "we cannot live without nature, even though nature would do JUST FINE without us."

How do we feel when we're outdoors? How do we feel when we're out of our element and without computers and (gasp) our technological gadgets?

I love getting out. I love "doing without" from time to time just to remind myself of how it "can" be when Mother Nature decides to throw a major earthquake in my direction.

From talking to various friends of mine and trying to explain to them the JOYS! of being at a camp without any computers or electricity, only the crackle of a campfire and simple foods, I have found that I am in the minority of folks who actually enjoy doing without.

I heard over and over again, "But what did you DO for an entire week without a television?" My answer? Well, I rode a horse (my boy Ely), enjoyed camp food and good conversation with folks who understood me. I had maybe a few too many beers, but what the Hell, beer cans are lighter empty right? I'm just thinking about fuel economy here.

I challenge folks (to looks of utter astonishment) to go outside and plant a tomato or squash and taste what fresh veggies taste like (ok technically fruit, but you get my drift.)

I challenge them to go outside and take a walk without their iPOD and hear the sounds of birds, and take an apple or orange off of a wild growing tree.

To turn the TV off ONE night a week and actually talk to their spouse. To feel the cold of the Little Sur River, to feel the patter of rain on their face, to feel the coldness of a wind and the blackness of the night sky at midnight...

We deserve this!

Julie K. Trevelyan said...


Well said. It surprises me too, at times, when some people look at me as if I have three heads and purple polka-dotted skin if I mention thatI enjoy, even crave, sleeping on the ground under the stars, don't need a mirror to look into every morning, and can happily go without showering for days if the mood strikes me (sorry for any out there who'd prefer I shower!).

I find the nature angle interesting, and I agree. We as humans have in many ways lost our connection to our planet, to ourselves--and we've lost that connection so quickly, in the greater scheme of things. I'm still a happy technology girl (just got a wireless aircard! Very cool!) and am quite thrilled to live in the age of pain killers when I sit in my dentist's chair.

However. Knowing how to find the north star, how to tell time by the sun, and whether or not I can survive if the shit hits the fan in our citified world is equally cool. Even essential.

And besides, riding horses in the great outdoors is way, way fun. And having nothing more to worry about at night than how many steps is it from the campfire to the tent flap, are the horses watered and secured, and will I fall asleep in my camp chair from a full belly and the warmth from the fire--well, that's a pretty nice night, in my opinion. The simple life.

chris said...


I think you hit the nail squarely on the head. Moderation is essential in todays world.

Technology has its place, so long as we don't forget how to disconnect....