Friday, September 3, 2010

The University of Life

Life has a certain few lessons that you MUST learn. The sooner that you learn them the easier the blow.  If the lesson is not hard won then it will soon be forgotten and the next time life rotates that lesson back to you it is a little more destructive. Eventually, it will be learned and the consequence can be great, where it would have been inconsequential if learned the first time around.  Sometimes you must ignore good advise, go out and learn the lesson the hard way.

If you are a five year old on the play ground and you mess with a "big kid" and get knocked on your ass; lesson learned.  Fast foreword 20 years and that same lesson could cost you a hospital visit.

I'm just running around the playground punching big kids in the face to get the lessons out of the way before the consequence is too great. I would hate to learn these lessons when my livelihood depends on my success.  So for those that are too afraid to experience life get out and make some mistakes.  Likewise let your children make their own mistakes, it does not serve them well to lay out all the answers for them.  Sure you are older and wiser but you had to learn those lessons the hard way and so do they. 

I figured out the patterns and the lessons that I know now sitting alone in the wilderness analyzing where I went wrong.  You will come up with answers to questions that you didn't even know you had.  Doing a 12 or 24 hour sit out is a great and ancient way to clear your head when life gets you bogged down.  Bring nothing for entertainment, just a blanket and some water,  sit on the blanket and observe nature and let your head settle down.  The problem with most people is that they never learned how to sit back and analyze when the shit gets to heavy to bear. I have a system for working this out and now so do you.

Some times you have to deal with assholes against your better judgement, fortunately it helps to learn the finer points of recognizing them in the future, all assholes smell the same. A wise old man named Ron Hood once told me "never trust a perfumed man in a stinky society" now that is some great advise but for that to work you gotta know what perfume smells like. Its all part of the pattern. I consider it the University of Life and the class is Survivology 101, you can't cheat because the answer key does not hold the answers.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The wisdom of the ancients

Today was another one of those days that was both uneventful and uninspiring so rather than leave the blog empty I have decided to revisit some ancient wisdom.  I have included a few different translations of the Hávamál.  The Hávamál is an ancient Norse text that contains 168 stanzas of simple truths.  These are guidelines for life and survival.  A lot of the things that I have found to be simple truths in the world are contained in this text.  Most of the time I didn't understand it until I had experienced it first hand.  So in the absence of being inspired I have a couple different translations of the first stanza.  In the future I will do the same with other stanzas when it seems appropriate.  The reason that I have included multiple translations is to give you a little taste of how the information can be interpreted differently by the translators but still keep the same theme and spirit. 

If you would like to read the entire document or other old Norse text I recommend:

They have a very nice library and a variety of text, to include about eight translations of Hávamál.

--Original in Old Norse (Author Unknown)
Gáttir allar
áðr gangi fram
um skoðask skyli
um skygnask skyli
því at óvíst
er at vita
hvar óvinir
sitja á fleti fyrir

--James Hujka Coulter
Keep your senses keen
When you enter the hall,
Take care and look around you-
You never know when you may
find and attacker hiding in wait.

--W.H.Auden and P.B. Taylor
The man who stands at a strange threshold,
Should be cautious before he cross it,
Glance this way and that:
Who knows beforehand what foes may sit
Awaiting him in the hall?

--Lee M. Hollander
Have they eyes about thee when thou enterest
be wary alway, be watchful alway,
for one never knoweth when need will be
to meet hidden foe in the hall.

--H.A. Bellows
Within the gates / ere a man shall go,
(Full warily let him watch,)
Full long let him look about him;
For little he knows / where a foe may lurk,
And sit in the seats within.

The gist of stanza 1 is to never let your guard down, there is no way for you to know if someone has a secret grudge against you.  Likewise you have no way of knowing if you have accidentally offended anyone within and they are just waiting for a good opportunity to get you.  Make yourself a hard target by staying alert and attentive.

Later stanzas in Hávamál give warnings against drinking too much or running your mouth in mixed company.  Those later stanzas compliment this one very well.  Ancient wisdom is timeless!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We gotta take the title back!

The new survivalist, the modern survivalist, bushcrafter, and prepper are just some of the terms used by SURVIVALISTS to explain the lifestyle that they live.  I use the word survivalist proudly even though that name has been preverted over the years.  The brand survivalist has often been reserved for one of two different types of people and neither is accurate.  The first mislabeled survivalist is the wacko in the fringe groups that lives alone or in some colony counting down the days until the end of the world.  His entire concept of survival is to simply continue breathing.  I just can't seem to figure out why a person would want to live separated from all the joys that are out there to be had. All to often they are full of hate and bigotry or irrational fear of the government, FEMA death camps, the Illuminati, aliens and mind control.  These people have also been referred to as "the tin foil hats" which is more accurate.  The other mislabeled survivalist is the outdoors man, hunter, backpacker or any other group that seeks recreation in the outdoors.  When occasionally one of these people gets caught unprepared and ends up in a survival situation.  We have all heard about the guy that wandered off the trail, fell off of a cliff, broke both legs and lived off eating ants and licking the dew off the grass for a week.  Maybe not that exact story but there are many tales of the untrained, unprepared outdoors man surviving against the odds.  While they do have a strong will to survive,  they are not survivalists either they are simply survivors. 

The true survivalist is the person that lives a full life and enjoys as much of it as they can.  They do not hide from daily conflicts nor do they welcome it.  They are smart and attentive to the world around them.  They recognize the dangers in everyday life and use their knowledge to navigate through the turbulence.  When they do get caught up they do the best that they can and learn from the experience to avoid having that happen to them again.  They analyze patterns leading up to events and learn where the similarities are in daily life.  Now here is the important part.  They train plan and prepare for likely problems and learn to recognise them early and deal with them.  They also understand that the knowledge and skill to prevail do not come cheap.  They take considerable time, energy, study, practice, and discipline to learn their craft.

A master of lithic arts is useless if he doesn't know how to hunt. A master hunter is useless if he cannot prepare game, A butcher is useless if he cannot sharpen a knife, A blade smith is useless if he cannot start a fire.  A chef is useless if he cannot acquire food. All these things are related and the ability to recognize and develop complementary skills is the key trait of the survivalist.  He does not seek mastery in many of these disciplines only competence although he is often a master of a few.  Competence in a hundred skill sets beats out mastery of one hands down.  As R.A. Heinlein put it "Specialization is for insects".  So the next time someone ask you "What are you? Some sort of survivalist or something?" tell them you are the only kind of survivalist.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The romance of survival

To the uninitiated it may seem romantic and sexy to be lost or isolated and have to survive on your whits and ingenuity.  Using only the knowledge and skills that you have acquired over years of practice and training to maintain health and move back to civilization.  The truth of the matter is that the true survivalist will have developed a mindset for predicting possible problems and make preparations to minimize the effects of a hazardous situation.  This is not to say that they cannot be caught off guard, no one is perfectly prepared all the time.  Even the most diligent prepper has an off day once in a while. 

The ideal of being dropped off in the desert with an empty canteen and a knife to test your skills is absurd.  The better way to approach that would be to go camping in the desert and practice those skills while you still have the means to back them up if they fail.  I myself spend allot of time alone in the forest but I have learned that as a sole provider of a family of seven I would be stupid to not bring a backup.  When I go out to the forest my pack always has too much stuff in it and I always carry a Spot II transmitter just in case I get into a situation that I cannot get out of without a helping hand.  The spot also gives my wife a little piece of mind at night when she gets that email and text saying that I'm alright. 

I have trained for survival in some pretty harsh environments around the world and I would not want to have to survive in any of them.  From the frozen forests of Norway to the mean streets of LA I have tested my skills.  In all cases I have prevailed but I have always had an emergency backup and a contingency plan.  If you plan to go train for survival be smart about it, make a plan and have a backup.  Running off to the wilderness with reckless abandon is not the way that professionals hone their craft.  It is how amatures get themselves killed.  So how then do you know when you are ready and able to survive?  You can never truly be ready or you would not be in that situation. If nothing else, remember this, you will know that you are ready when you know from experience that you do not want it to happen to you.