Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Luxury versus Survival (Part 3)

Now look at some mental issues:


Two bare-bones modern mental tasks are reading and writing. Even in these two arenas, the path of least resistance tends to be taken. Instead of educational books and articles, the most popular reading materials have become daily and weekly publications profiling the scandalous lives of celebrities. This is an unhealthy practice that entertains purely for pleasure. Reading for nourishment is seen as boring and technical. Not only does reading filth rob one of time to read something more productive, but it also pollutes the mind. Reading trash is not neutral...it is NEGATIVE!! An opportunity to learn something that could help down the road has been wasted!! Even most self-help books are about "feeling good," not BEING good...another example of how society says it's okay to be mediocre. Why? Because it's too damn hard to be good.

The historic art of letter writing has deteriorated into sloppy emails and instant messaging. Educational television shows have taken a backseat to mindless reality shows focusing on the undignified lives of others. There is a consensus that educational, worthwhile television shows are boring and call for thought. They require the watcher to actually involve themselves into the show instead of merely being entertained. Oh my!

One survival skill losing the battle to technology is navigation. Whether called orienteering, compass-reading, or LandNav, the skill is fading into the shadows of GPS units. The technology of GPS is a wonder. It gives real-time feedback, course-plotting, and exacting pinpointing of position. However, it is so relied upon, motorists feel "lost" without it. A motorist or hiker no longer has to determine North, South, East, or West....that is until the batteries die out. Then panic sets in. The luxury has been taken away. And without the skills of a navigator, one finds himself truly LOST.

The above photo is of two Sloppy Hogs during a day-long adventure race. The photographer captured the pinpoint focus of the racer....chin up and looking ahead as if finding another waypoint in the distance (the embodiment of a great navigator...confidently resolved to his current position and concentrating on the horizon). Adventure racing demands participants be in peak endurance shape, but also be competent at orienteering skills. A team of Olympic-caliber athletes will crumble if they cannot navigate themselves through the unmarked course or find the hidden checkpoints. Conversely, a moderately physically fit team with elite compass and map skills can make up ground with little effort. Adventure racing is a great survival challenge because it demands MENTAL fortitude as well as physical fitness.

This is a skill is rarely taught outside Boy Scouts or the military. Not many outside the "survivalist" movement can read a topographical map, match terrain features, strike an azimuth, determine position by resection, or plot a course. With the mass availability of GPS, these skills are dying. This is a perfect example of how maintaining the mental skills of LandNav are critical to survival....not only in the back-country of Nowhere USA, but navigating through the urbanized cities of today. Folks who KNOW the ins and outs of the antiquated compass and map system understand the math and geometry behind it. It's hard to argue against having these all-to-neglected abilities. Are the skills necessary to modern life? If there was a randomly-chosen life challenge or hardship, who is more attractive to have as a partner? The navigator, or the guy who can't even fold the map?

Reliance on GPS can be lumped together with an over-dependence on calculators, palm computers, and spellcheckers. The technology is fast and convenient, but allows most users to forget the basic skills hidden inside the circuitry. What would one do without them? Could one solve the problem WITHOUT the technology?

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