“Self Reliance” vs “Survival”

I am taking a new approach on my interpretation and presentation on the term “self reliance”, specifically as it relates to “Survival”. Before I explain my thinking, I want to offer another thought for your interpretation of where all this is going.

Oftentimes you’ll hear an experience outdoors person say, “I’ve never been lost”, only to admittedly add, “but I’ve been temporarily disoriented!” We might smirk, but there is actually truth to that. One’s brain can be temporarily muddled as far as knowing where you are at the moment. Taking some time out to relax will often get everything back in order to help you re-construct your actions and movements to again access just where you are and what direction to take (forward OR backwards) to get where you want to go.

Well, the same thing is true for emergency situations. Maybe you are not in a survival mode yet, merely “Situationally Challenged”. Something’s gone wrong – you’ve lost a piece of vital equipment; you’ve over-extended your stay in a threatening environment or an injury has significantly changed your anticipated plans. Are these serious concerns? Absolutely! Are they automatically catapulted into survival mode status? Depends!

It depends upon your training; it depends upon what you’ve done prior to the reality of the situation (pre-preparation, acquired skills, etc.). You may be inconvenienced, knocked down a few notches on your comfort levels, but are you in a “survival” mode as we’ve all come to envision the circumstances we often relate with that term?

My point is that while taking extreme survival courses or heading out into the woods for a “let’s be a survivalist” weekend might let you play around with some primitive skills,  it most often doesn’t address the real-life experience you’ll have to deal with if a true emergency or challenging situation occurs for real.

Case in point. Yes, knowing how to start a fire with a bow drill apparatus is a macho thing to accomplish, but is it the most efficient, energy-saving method of creating fire? Likewise, ensnaring a rabbit is indeed impressive, what’s the real likelihood there actually are rabbits in the area (and, by the way, you ARE an experienced rabbit hunter, right; you know the signs, their behavior, where to hunt for them, right? Right!) Will you  know where to set your snares (assuming you can even build any that work); or how many  and how much time  and energy will you expend setting enough snares that the law of averages is in your favor?

How about those massive slabs of rocks gingerly positioned to trip and squash your dinner? How many of those will you need to build? Imagine all the nutrition you’ll get from the remains of one tiny vole you peel away from the underside of that weighty rock – that smashed scab of fur and bone-crushed, intestine-contaminated bloody wafer from the weighty rock that fell on it?

Here’s an idea for all you survivalist enthusiasts  –  go out and capture a vole or house mouse and secure it on top of the flat surface of a concrete block or stone. Now take a regular house brick or comparable flat stone.  Next, raise it up and slam it down squarely on the rodent – in one forceful, solid, gut-squishing, brain-crushing, blood-splattering, fur-flattening blow. Yummy!  You’ve secured dinner!, You’re a survivalist! Bon Appetite, Rambo!

Being self reliant means: 1) you learn a few basic skills to help you cope with a change of plans (anticipated or unexpected) while enjoying the outdoors; 2) all the while maintain ing a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) and; 3) you cope with making due with a variety of tasks and skill sets to preferably help you minimize being “situationally challenged”. You may still end up in a serious survival mode but like most things in life, prevention is always the better route than the cure.

PMA is your best tool, knowing WHY you are doing something will oftentimes help you improvise, create alternative ways to attain a goal (Why do you build a shelter? To keep dry and warm! Why? to prevent hypothermia! What else can I do to to accomplish that same ultimate goal?).  This approach may get you further than simply being told or shown what to do. Also, besides the main uses of a particular tool or piece of gear, always consider multiple uses for everything around you  or carried on you.

…and always remember the main tenet of “self reliance” and “survival”: 

If you don’t have it on you – you do not have it!

Be safe; Have fun out there!