by Andrea Elizabeth
Alone is George’s and my new addiction. We’re 3 episodes into the survival show that put 10 guys about 10 miles apart in a cold, soggy, bear, wolf and cougar infested forest on Vancouver Island to see who could last the longest. Before one guy found fresh water he talked about how becoming upset elevates your heart rate and blood pressure, so he kept calm on purpose. It is interesting how one can somewhat regulate one’s bodily responses to stress. It takes a psychological toll though, which usually catches up with you. I’ll call it Pelagian Buddhism. It is manufactured peace without grace*. Graced peace is effortless. Perhaps manufactured peace can become a habit and be effortless too, but I wager it is not as good. We have a stress response on purpose. It enables us to flee or fight. To stay in a dangerous situation and basically ignore your impulses can be a Buddhist feat and impress people at parties, and can sometimes save your life, such as not gasping and gulping while still partially submerged under water, but there is a time to gasp and gulp, flee and fight.
Several people in the show obviously were letting themselves panic. They were not expecting the conditions to be as bad as they were. Expectation has a lot to do with peace. One needs to know what they’re in for to prepare themselves. I’m very interested to see who can cope with the isolation and imminent danger. I sympathize with the ones who have already “tapped out”, but they do seem a little babyish. They aren’t handling disappointment very well. They seem to feel betrayed by the show letting things be that bad.
Back to keeping calm on purpose. I don’t think this works very well if one is resenting their conditions. One needs to be convinced that they are in the right place to have genuine calm. I remember going to get my 5 year old vaccinations. I was hysterically fighting against them. I did not believe shots were necessary to sustain or improve my life. I felt betrayed by society and my family. I have learned since then to not fight or flee many situations I do not like. However, I’m not very easily convinced the situations are depriving me of necessary conditions for my life. Sometimes I just feel powerless and that it’s useless to fight or flee. Sometimes it’s blind faith that God will work it out in the end. It’s also a pretty stubborn belief that I don’t need a lot of what society tells me is necessary. I am pretty minimalistic about and question a lot of customs. I think it is better to learn to live only by grace from God instead of things we normally think of as necessary, like food, water, clothes, shelter, and certain types of community. But for the uninitiated to do without them cold turkey with a stoic attitude alone, that’s not going to last very long. The desert can destroy people. The ones it doesn’t know its secrets and have gradually conditioned their bodies to withstand deprivation.
You can tell the guy who cut down all those trees depleted himself too much too soon. He’s not in his right mind right now. I hope he eats some slugs, has some salt with his water, and rests for a while before calling it quits.
*I can’t say for sure Buddhistic peace is without grace. Maybe God doles it out based on intention. And maybe there is grace in being one with God’s naturally graced creation without acknowledging him.