Alone

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This past weekend I was lounging with my dogs in a run-down hotel after a sweltering day at a dog show.  The Border Collies were exhausted and lay quietly near me. I turned on cable TV and watched a few hours of a new series on the History channel called “Alone”.  The premise of the show was to find out which man out of ten could survive the longest in the wilds of Vancouver Island.  Who could survive alone, without help, without human conversation or intervention, without silly games, paramedics or cameramen nearby? None of the ten men could contact each other as they were each placed in a separate area.  They were not allowed to possess guns, but had whatever could fit in a backpack, including a ferro rod to start a fire.  All of the men, the show warned, had extreme survival skills, some having survived combat or were back woods savvy.  The location was also home to a huge population of bear, cougar and wolves.

As the show progressed hour after hour, from one episode to another, one by one the men discovered almost unanimously that this event was not what they had bargained for, it was much harder.  It was extremely dangerous.  It was real.

With no cameramen, each competitor had to film themselves and their daily attempts at survival.  Over the first five days the men discovered how necessary a gun was to survival.  Yet they weren’t allowed to have one.  This wasn’t a Disney movie set.  There were no directors nearby to cue the bear to move away.  Help only came when the men used their satellite phone for emergencies.  Even then it sometimes took paramedics and show staff a long time to locate each men, guided only by an emergency flair.

The show is fascinating not simply for the concept but to watch human psychology.  As one man alluded to, this was not the Survivor series, held in a warm, safe location.  This was real danger, trying to live in cold, wet, surroundings, and confronted by wild animals daily who viewed you as dinner.  But the prize for the last man standing, the carrot, was $500,000, whether it took a couple of days, a week or a month.

The question that each man found themselves asking was if the money was worth dying for, either from a painful animal attack, injury or illness.  Grown men were crying, missing their family, or for one man, seeing a cougar ten feet from the opening of his tent.  Men made mistakes either by drinking dirty water, losing their ferro rod, or losing confidence in themselves.  Yet some of the men hunkered down, caught food, and were very self-aware of themselves and the real danger.  These men were able to prioritize tasks.  They survived.  They were the men who fascinated me the most.

On my five hour drive home the next day I thought about the TV show.  What is more important to me?  If there was imminent danger to our country would I have what it takes to survive?  Furthermore if money is meaningless then what is important?  It appears that the answer to survival is surrounding yourself with friends, family, staying healthy, keeping a positive attitude, being able to adapt to whatever is thrown your way.  My thoughts made me realize in my own little world that I have become complacent about my health, a niggling problem is surfacing that could become debilitating.  I cannot and will not become a burden to myself and others.  It’s time to get back in shape, to survive my senior years.

At a time when the government wants to take away our guns and rifles there is no doubt that  guns may be crucial to kill game for food, as well as to keep danger at bay.  On the way to a recent dog show, on a remote road, someone tried to run me into a ditch.  Perhaps it’s time for me to have a concealed weapon again, for survival.

We are not, in real life, abandoned on an island.  We generally have others nearby to run to for help.  But that leads to complacency.  I am the first one to say that I’ve become soft, plus I hate camping, hate being forced to endure sitting out in the rain and cold in the name of fun, never mind for survival. But if I were forced to live off the land how long would I last, even were I with a community of others?  Do I have what it takes, without being a burden?

As the show continues I will be interested to learn what attributes the winner has to make it through the experience.  Did the time alone change him?  My guess, as I watch one man after another, “bug out”, is that the show was life changing for each of them, not only the winner.  For that reason the reality show above all others, prompted me to think about life and survival while I was driving in an air conditioned car towards a safe, comfortable home.

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