I remember well a Sunday evening routine during my high-school days. It consisted of simply two things: A bowl of cheesy nachos and two episodes of Bear Gryll’s survival show ‘Man vs. Wild’.
Like you said, it would not only be highly entertaining to see this charismatic Brit step up to nature in its rawest form. Even more, it would be fascinating to watch him take on these scenarios and wonder, if I would be equally creative and tough given such circumstances. Would I, too, have it in me to build a racket from branches and lianas to smash bats against a wall, as they are forced to escape from the cave I have smoked out with my torch? Or would it be 0:15 for mother nature? Would I win the game? Or not even a set and be hopelessly white-washed?
For the reasons you described, that got me thinking. Should I do push-ups in every commercial break from now on to be prepared? And have mum walk into the room leaning her head on one side? Hypothetically speaking of course. Ahem. Either way, I took great joy from this show every week because it addressed something that is still deeply engraved in many of us: The longing for simpler times.
Our world is overwhelmingly complex today. Just to think about how many airplanes, satellites, messages and phone-calls buzz through our earthly hive right now makes my head spin. It makes me want to log-out, sit on a Fairbanks City Transit System coach, eat beans from a can and have the wind blow through my hair while gazing to the horizon.
However, that only works for so long. Our whole civilization has worked since the dawn of time to exclude and outwit nature and today we are better at it than ever. We have become independent from the sun with electric lights and heating systems, can easily find shelter from any storm and cultivate and eat the food we love all-year round. Since you mentioned it: The lighter scene towards the end of ‘Cast Away’ shows this brilliantly. We control what used to control us.
Here is the thing though: We can’t help but look to the other side. It’s what had us break out of the Garden of Eden in the first place. And it’s what draws us back to it, once we’re out. That’s why in the eye of the technological hurricane, we nostalgically long for easier times: Take pirates. Cowboys. Knights. All still insanely present in popular culture. And super-fascinating for the pre-developed, plain minds of kids.
But again: We massively idealize, seeing in these times only the fun parts we lack today instead of all the hardship and horrors. Yo ho and a bottle of rum, bang bang and En garde! No scurvy, brown teeth, arbitrary murders and plunder, rape and omnipresent cruelty. None of that. Wild free heroes in shining armor, enchanting princesses waving with handkerchiefs from towers.
So here’s my take-away message: Look on the stuff that works. Today. Right here. In your life and mine. Take the good into account. Because it counts just as much. Now to do that, you don’t have to whistle Monty Python or anything. Just think for a sec.
In your article, you called it ‘the problem’ that we are not exposed to all-or-nothing showdowns with the forces of nature. But isn’t that rather a solution? Calling that a problem is the problem. That’s why we ride on the things we don’t have instead of appreciating our achievements.
Look at our police and law apparatus: Constantly hovering, making potential criminals think at least twice these days. Obeying and executing the principles the majority of us agreed on to live by. Hospitals catching and caring for people that would have fallen through the cracks in former times. The list could go on endlessly. Solutions rather than problems, on the price of complexity.
I am not saying to loose a sense for the beauty that lies in simplicity and nature. Just this: Before you go to bed tonight, think of one thing that simply went your way today. That bus you just caught, that person you ran into, that guy that let you into the lane. I guarantee you there is something.
For myself, I strolled to the daily work at the library here in warm sunshine with birds singing. The minute I entered that impressive, weather-proof glass building, the Scottish weather god named ‘Moody’ darkened the sky, raised fierce winds and shot buckets of rain straight like arrows against the window fronts. I stopped, took a breath and promised to consider just that the next time I get drenched out of the blue.
Don’t look over the fence too much. See the grass beneath your ass. It will take a sec, but I am sure you will find: It is green after all. And as I need a break now and am kind of starving, I’ll go get some cheesy nachos.
You see, you can’t have that in the wildernis.