Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In Search of Real Survival

[Nyerges is the author of 10 books, including “How to Survive Anywhere” and the newly-released all color “Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants.” He has led outdoor field trips since 1974, and does a weekly radio show. He can be reached at Box 41834, Los Angeles, CA 90041, or]

All of us who have devoted our lives to studying and applying skills of survival are well aware of the periodic events which beset us all:  wars, droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, economic collapses, etc.  Some are “acts of God,” and many are acts of man.

The practical skills of survival are direly needed by all of us. And yet, the media continues to serve up “reality” shows that provide little or no practical skills in our day to day living.

Shows like Survivor, Man vs. Wild, Survivorman, and their offspring can be amusing, but are designed more for entertainment value rather than providing anything of real value.  These shows which often depict buff individuals in  a wilderness setting often showcase the worst of human nature in order to keep us glued to our seats.

Though it amusing, and often nauseating, to see hungry men and women eating snakes, rats, and grubs, there seems to be little relevance to the millions of modern urban dwellers.

What then is real survival all about?

Our food-related survival skills necessitate our knowledge of urban food production, such as growing fruit trees, raising vegetables in limited space, raising chickens, making compost.

We need to educate ourselves to the what foods have great nutritional value, and which do not.  If we cannot grow at least some of our own food, we should support those farmers at local farmers markets who are providing local quality food.

Real survival in the modern world includes practical knowledge of economics.  How can you get more for less money by spending less and earning more. You can begin by separating need from want, and then you should re-evaluate everything in your life that is touched by money. Ask yourself, “How can I obtain this thing, or service, or skill, without money?”  Is it possible to trade or barter?

And then there is the ages-old good advice for how to soundly deal with material things:  why buy new if used will do?  Don’t discard if it can be made into something else, etc.

Economic collapse of a country’s currency has happened many times, usually due to the over-extension of the leaders who controlled the purse strings, and who considered themselves more deserving than the general populace.  A collapse of a country’s currency forces the people to deal with stark, basic, everyday needs and concerns in a harsh manner until something new is developed. 

While it is true that learning how to trap and eat a rat means you don’t have to worry about food from the store in the event of an economic collapse, it is far better to involve yourself in the practical and philosophical underpinnings of the society so that such a collapse doesn’t happen in the first place.

As our material abundance and technological advances continue, we become more and more dependent upon things which we cannot control.  We’re fast on the path to a “Blade Runner” or “THX1138” world.

If you’re worried about our future, the answer does not lie with a loin-clothed man with a spear, since a thriving meaningful culture requires vastly more than that.  Real survival must encompass a working knowledge of politics, economics, ecology, health, and so much more.

Our answers lie in making the time to educate ourselves to the things that really matter in life.  For that matter, in today’s information-glutted world, it’s a real challenge to discern between useful and useless information, between entertainment and education, between that which leads us to freedom and that which merely titilates. 

If we desire to be a part of the solution to the ails of modern civilization, then we must choose to not live our lives driven by fear and greed.  Yes, real survival means that we must change ourselves first. 

Sometimes, we have to realize that we’ve been hypnotized, and that we must fight our own ignorances.  Real survival means that we must become like children again, and realize that there is no dishonor in going back to Square One.  By reassessing everything that we think we know, and by asking questions anew, we may discover a new found joy in our very existence.

The pursuit of material survival is too often compassionless.  We need compassion for each other if we want to have a society that is worth living in. 

William Blake once summed up the essence of Real Survival when he stated, “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.”