Thursday, February 10, 2011

On 'false gods'

I've been contemplating this post for quite a while. My thought process originally was prompted by a brochure for a winter-camping course, noting that fire is a "false god" in cold weather -- the human body, properly stoked with fuel (food), is its own furnace. With adequate clothing and shelter, the heat it produces can be conserved.

The Inuit have learned to do it, the brochure advised, and so can we.

Another angle came to me earlier this month via Kevin Estela of
WLC. In "The Training Modifier," which he posted on Forest & Stream, Estela describes how a broken metacarpal on his strong (right) hand forced him to rely more on his off (left) hand.

After weeks of using predominantly his left hand he "noticed improved dexterity, strength and function." He encourages us to actively seek ways to modify our training -- varied experience, he maintains, can yield better skills and more complete capabilities.

With that as background, then, I got to thinking about the false gods around me, including those in my own life.

Five days a week, for example, I pick up the younger spawn at school. Lately I've paid close attention to the students and their parents -- specifically, how their behavior exposes thoughtless presumptions.

On these bitter and snowy days it doesn't surprise me, really, to see most teenagers emerge from the building attired in hoodies, jeans, untied Nikes and no socks. (Mindless fashion and hormone-driven invincibility rule at that age, I guess.) When I see adults show up dressed for an August afternoon, however, it's a clue that they worship the everyday equivalent of fire.

Apparently these folks come straight from climate-controlled garages, relying on their vehicles' heaters to fend off the elements until they return to their residential cocoons. But even if their school-day errands are as short as my eight-mile trip, a mishap like running out of gas, a flat tire, a mechanical breakdown or a fender-bender could put them in a cold-weather survival situation -- unnecessarily.

I have my own false gods, of course, and in the front of my mind these days is my over-reliance on armed personal defense. Especially since acquiring a
concealed-carry permit last April, I've become comfortable with my ability to use a firearm to protect myself and my family -- way too comfortable, it occurs to me. Truth is, I've passed up opportunities to hone alternative means of defense -- backup, hand-to-hand, unarmed, less-lethal and so on.

In short, a loaded gun became a false god. Now here, off the cuff and in no particular order, are some others deserving of our wariness:
  • Coffee
  • Artificial light
  • A wireless phone
  • An Internet connection
  • Hot & cold running water
  • An electronic security system
  • A locked door
  • A "safe" neighborhood
  • A "survival" knife
  • Four-wheel drive
  • Mobility
  • Readily available gasoline
  • Readily available groceries
  • GPS
  • ATMs
  • ROI
Ridding ourselves of false gods begins and ends with mindset. The sound practice of "having three," for example, works best if it's built on a commitment to the principle of cultivating contingencies -- not just for worst-case scenarios but in all areas of our lives.

Learning to distinguish a convenience from a necessity helps, too.

The myriad things that we depend on day to day, whether tethered to technology or simply close at hand, may not always be there for us. We should get a firm grip on that and act accordingly.

That's not pessimism and, as I've said before, it's not paranoia -- it's just good old-fashioned common sense.

(So maybe you thought yesterday's post was the last you'd see of the Model 67 on KintlaLake Blog? Fat chance. The image above was clipped from a 1950 Winchester ad in Popular Mechanics, and the ad below appeared in the same magazine two years later. More, perhaps, as I discover others worth posting. It's what I do.)