Deep Survival

There’s a book titled Deep Survival by Laurence Goncales. The book describes in detail the physiological progression of surviving, or not, a life and death situation. Essentially who lives and who dies. Oddly it has far less to do with a set of learned skills; ability to make fire, a shelter, gather water, and more to do with your mental state. Would you laugh at your situation, make jokes, stay relatively calm, adjust your reality, take the time to notice a beautiful flower and treat a rescue as just another activity during the ordeal. If so, you'll probably live. There's a group of people who must demonstrate these characteristics as a prerequisite for their job. Astronauts. If you know me, you know I'm fascinated by space travel. The equipment, the lore, the process and the group of people who seem to embody the right stuff. In May 1963, Gordo Cooper launched into space his Faith-7 Mercury capsule and after 22 orbits, his re-entry guidance computer failed and the CO2 level was rising, after drawing a line on his small window he manually re-entered the atmosphere. A procedure requiring more precision than can be possibly imagined. His heart rate never climbed above 48 beats a minute. Think about that the next time you have to stop suddenly in a car, and feel how fast your heart races. Calm is an understatement. In his second book This Game of Ghosts Joe Simpson describes a theory of deep play, whereas the failure of an event far outweighs the benefit. What's the benefit of solo adventuring, rock climbing or in his case climbing mountains. The failure of such things can most certainly mean deep trouble. Yet we regularly pursue such activities. When you step too close to the edge you affirm what it means to be alive by seeing what it would be like to die. And that affirmation is a powerful thing.

Scott MansfieldComment