Looking into survival techniques, self-defense, disaster preparedness… oftentimes has a bad ring to it. Expecting to get into trouble, doesn’t that mean that you have a negative attitude towards the world? Won’t facing the potential violence and brutality of other people just strengthen a grim outlook on how people are; and won’t preparing for disasters, facing the uncertainty of life, just make you unhappy and living on edge?
And so, denial is a major part of our attitude. There are so many grave problems we are facing, there are even more dire predictions about the future of the environment and society – and yet, things are not going nearly as badly as formerly predicted, and people tend to be decent enough. Besides, one person can’t really change all that much. Thus, shaking one’s head and ignoring it all seems quite a rational response.
Then, there’s Fukushima. There are tornadoes and there’s flooding. Extreme weather has been around, just like human violence. In this “Century of Disasters” we are likely living in, trouble will be all the more common.
Now, overdoing it would be a problem. When you believe that people are all bad, nature is all “red in tooth and claw” and out to get you, it’s at least as troubling as when you think that everybody is just good, and nature all cute and cuddly. Trouble is as much a fact of life as beauty and happiness.
Facing trouble is uncomfortable, but also liberating. It holds lessons we very much need, even for our happiness, if it is supposed to be truly better, not just a quick fix of pleasure. Thus, not avoiding potential problems and preparedness, but rather facing reality, is an excellent point from which to interpret development, and to grow oneself.
When you imagine a problem – your house is burning, a flood is coming – it’s easy to see that some of your most prized and/or necessary possessions should be kept handy, some things even in a Go-Bag, having prepared some emergency rations will give some peace of mind, but it’s your own skills and only, maybe, a few tools that support them, that count. The best survival tools won’t help without attitude and knowledge, and the vast majority of stuff is just going to end up as crap – and the more you have, the more you’ll lose.
You won’t necessarily know how you deal with a real crisis until you’re really in it, though (which is, itself, another lesson from just about any self-defense or survival manual). Anyways, as Anton Chekhov supposedly said, “Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.”
In everyday living, we still need to handle the daily small crises and disappointments, and not be brought down by them. More pertinent to the theme of living better: we can learn something for our happiness, quite literally, by preparing for the problems, enjoying the pleasure all the more, and letting the two guide us to the difficult balance that life needs.
Not least, straddling both makes it all the more apparent how much of a distraction a surfeit of possessions, a simple escape into distractions, can be from what really counts: life, loved ones, learning.
One of the things most conducive to a rich life is an attitude that fits into reality. Not everything can be bent to our individual will – and how should it, when there are so many individuals which will not all want the same – or will want to have the same things, but only for themselves…?
Learning to handle this resistance of the world, dealing with limits, and gaining the resilience to bounce back from the problems which will, of course, be encountered in life is among the most important things one can do.
Personally, developing the requisite flexible strength to deal with setbacks is easily the most important skill to learn while growing up. In thinking about society, resilience is one of the main guideposts for the future, too. After all, it’s easy to see just how brittle our current “normal” state of affairs is. It only takes a blackout lasting a few days, and modern societies start to unravel…
Working towards skills that nothing but serious disease or death could take from you, learning to protect your loved ones, becoming more rather than having more – including to face reality by trying out what you are capable of, whether it’s in terms of learning, training, or living differently – means really coming to be in this world, with all its beauty and its pain. It is the way to come alive, rather than waste away the limited time on Earth merely running your rounds in the rat race…